April 12, 2021
But the heads embedded in the entrance archway were not mentioned as part of that initial scandal. So we did some digging in the Beinecke Library’s archives and found a typewritten account by one of the workmen involved in the planning of the building, Wesley Needham.
Needham was quite a character. He served as an adviser in Tibetan literature at the Yale University Library and had no training in architecture except “through the study of books on architecture borrowed from the New Haven Public Library.” Nonetheless, he served as a draftsman in the construction of 320 York Street as one of what he estimated as about eighty-five draftsmen serving under the chief architect, James Gamble Rogers. These people drew up plans and created drawings of proposed carvings, which they submitted, in the case of the Hall of Graduate Studies, to the architect John Donald Tuttle for approval. Needham recalled working on a “series of snails” to be molded over the windows in the lounge: “Tuttle didn’t mention what they symbolized (possibly the slow pace of graduate students on their way to a higher degree),” a surprisingly painstaking project that went through a number of drafts. Needham dryly comments, “Now when I look at them, I wonder if they were worth so much effort.”