History of the Orchard Street Neighborhood
In the national integration of arriving immigrants, all over America, New Haven received its share of newcomers, most of them settling in the vibrant Oak Street-Lafayette Street tenement sectors. As these early arrivals prospered, some turned their eyes westward, to the "refreshing suburbs" of upper Oak Street (renamed Legion Avenue in 1928). A few felt secure enough to rent or purchase homes as far west as Winthrop Avenue and the Boulevard.
(from 80 Distinguished Years, by Arthur Slutsky; research consultant: Herbert B. Croog)
"The highway replaced Oak Street (formerly Morocco Street) which had been a poor area since the days when leather workers congregated along West Creek." (from wikipedia).
During the Urban Renewal projects of the 1950s, New Haven built the "Oask Street Connector", Route 34. The Connector opened in 1959, destroying the neighborhood that had been home to many immigrant groups.
For more information see "Death of a Neighborhood" by Rob Gurwitt, published in September 2000 in Mother Jones.
History of the Orchard Street Shul
Final construction was celebrated at a colorful dedication in 1926. The architect for the handsome, yellow-brick, Colonial-revival style Beth Israel Synagogue, was Louis Abramowitz and the builder was C. Abbadessa. One of the principal advantages of the synagogue's location was its proximity to Legion Avenue. Families making an upgrade change of address liked the idea of being so close to shopping. Being near to a synagogue, at the same time, carried special appeal for many, aside from the improved residential atmosphere. By the late 1920s it was evident that the surrounding area was an ideal one to plan the congregation's future. And it didn't take long for the name Beth Israel to be superseded by the title "Orchard Street Shul". (from 80 Distinguished Years, by Arthur Slutsky; Research consultant: Herbert B. Croog)
More recent history can be found in the February 14, 1999 NY Times article "Keeping an Old Syngagogue Alive" by Andri Rierden.
Orchard Street Today
Orchard Street is once again a lively neighborhood. Residents still live in the two-family and three-family houses lining the neighborhood, and stores and restaurants are not far away on Chapel Street.
On the other side of the Connector is nearby Hill Regional Career High School, on Legion Avenue. Walking distance to the Hospital of Saint Raphael and near Yale New Haven Hospital, the Orchard Street Shul is also near the new Cancer Center under construction.