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Home for a Chaplain

When the new university chaplain, Sharon Kugler, moves into the “Chaplain’s House” at 66 Wall Street next year, she will be the first female Yale official to reside in it. The 200-year-old house has been the official chaplain’s residence only since 1946, but its Yale connections go back all the way to its beginnings.


Wall Street was extended in 1812 from Temple to York Street.

The house at the southwest corner of Temple and Wall streets was constructed in 1806 for John H. Lynde, Class of 1796. The Yale historian Franklin B. Dexter described him as an active Federalist and an ardent Freemason, “noted for physical beauty, and a most generous and amiable disposition.” After graduating from Yale, Lynde served as rector of the Hopkins Grammar School for a year. He then studied law and began to practice in New Haven in 1800. Lynde, a respected lawyer, held appointments as clerk of the Probate Court and of the County and Superior courts; the house he built after he’d been in practice for a few years served him as both home and office.

In 1812, Lynde sold the house to the Reverend Nathaniel W. Taylor ’07, perhaps because Wall Street was extended at that time from Temple to York Street, placing the new street along the side of his house. Taylor had just been installed as pastor of the First Church in New Haven, now called Center Church. In 1822, Taylor was appointed Dwight Professor of Didactic Theology in the newly formed theological department—later to become the Yale Divinity School.

Taylor was a prominent religious leader, noted for broadening the Old Calvinism of Connecticut Congregationalism. A collaborator in his work was Lyman Beecher ’97, the father of Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Taylor wrote that the two of them aimed to “show that good, sound Calvinism, or, if you please, Beecherism and Taylorism, is but another name for the truth and reality of things as they exist in the nature of God and man.” They probably spent much time together in the Taylor house, and after Taylor died in 1858 and Beecher in 1863, the two close friends were buried in adjoining graves in the nearby Grove Street Cemetery.

Mrs. Taylor continued to live in the house until 1868. From 1870 to 1911 it served as the residence for pastors of Center Church. Edward Reed Whittemore ’98 owned it from 1913 until 1919, when it was purchased by Yale. The house was substantially remodeled in 1922, due in part to the destruction of the front porch by a runaway truck: the Temple Street entry was blocked in and a door installed on Wall Street.

The first Yale chaplain to live there was the Reverend Sidney Lovett ’13, though he wouldn’t move into the house until 1946. Lovett had been serving as pastor of a church in Boston in 1932 when Yale president James Rowland Angell called him to the chaplaincy. The much-loved Lovett was celebrated in a 1981 university-published book called Uncle Sid of Yale. In a 1979 tribute in the alumni magazine, Tom Bergin ’25, ’29PhD, wrote: “Sid was prevailed upon to take over a course in biblical literature, which he defines as ‘an academic first-aid station for students injured in other disciplines.’ Informal, relaxed, and pleasantly conversational, the course, sometimes irreverently called ‘Cokes and smokes,’ became enormously popular, only in part because (it is our duty to paint the warts) no one was ever known to flunk it.” Lovett continued to serve as chaplain until 1958, but upon his appointment as master of Pierson College in 1953, he moved to the Master’s House. The Chaplain’s House then became the Alumni House.


“The house enveloped us with its warmth,” says Rev. Streets.

The house reverted to Chaplain’s House in 1958, and with one hiatus has served the chaplaincy ever since. From 1958 to 1969 it was occupied by its most outspoken resident chaplain, the civil rights and antiwar advocate Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr. ’49, ’56BDiv. Coffin vacated the house in 1969, though he was still chaplain; the associate chaplain, Rev. J. Philip Zaeder, lived there until 1977, when University Chaplain John W. Vannorsdall moved in. Chaplain Harry Adams occupied it for only one year, in 1986, before moving to the Trumbull College Master’s House.

The next chaplain to live in the house was Rev. Frederick J. Streets ’75MDiv, who moved there in 1992 after the house underwent an extensive renovation. When Streets, who is completing his service as chaplain this summer, vacates the house, it will again be restored before the arrival of Sharon Kugler and her husband, Duane Isabella, with their two daughters.

Over the decades, the Chaplain’s House has hosted many late-night meetings, counseling sessions, and family dinners, along with Coffin’s informal piano concerts. “The house enveloped us with its warmth,” says Streets, “and though it challenged some of our movement within it because it leaned in places and some of its rooms are small, we were happy to live here. I always felt that the entire campus and its community was my parish—I could sense its people and places in my bones. I could not imagine this way of being a presence as university chaplain without living at 66 Wall Street.”  the end


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