Commons (tour)


virtual tour

A magnificent dining hall and multi-use venue.

Cross section of YSC with Commons highlighted in orange
Cross section of Yale Schwarzman Center with Commons highlighted in orange

Commons is a magnificent dining hall and, like most YSC spaces, can be transformed into a multi-use venue. It's a central destination for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students as well as faculty, staff, and hungry passersby. Serving the freshest contemporary cuisines prepared in open kitchens, Commons offers a multiplicity of chef-tested culinary selections. In addition to dining, Commons will offer year-round arts and events programming.

Commons is the culmination of a centuries long struggle for dining on Yale’s campus. When Yale College was erected on the corner of College and Chapel Streets in 1718, the building failed to provide quality dining, leading to student complaints over the poor quality of food. The Buttery, the namesake of today’s residential college butteries, emerged later but was abolished in 1817. Commons predecessors popped up over the years: “In 1782, it was the site of what is now McClellan Hall, a copy of Connecticut Hall built in 1925 to serve as a freshman dorm; the second Commons occupied the first floor of the Philosophical Building, the Cabinet, in 1820; and, contemporaneously, the site of Chittenden Hall in 1827, where a library was eventually constructed in 1889.” Students engaged in food riots and boycotts of these serveries, ending with the “Bread and Butter Rebellion” of 1828 which included smashing dishes, greasing stairs with butter, and striking against Commons. 1842 marked the abandoning of a Commons entirely, but the construction of the Bicentennial Buildings changed that. When Yale College and the Sheffield Scientific School merged in 1922, first year students were required to dine at Commons. Students were required to wear a jacket and tie at meals until 1969, when women were admitted to the College. Further complaints about Commons included the noise level during events and the humid heat that plagued the building.

Though no longer existing at the crossroads of the College and the Scientific School, Commons at YSC remains at the figurative and literal crossroads of New Haven and Yale. Prior to renovations, mostly first-year students dined at Commons. Now, Commons is open not just to undergraduates, but to all members of the community. Graduate and professional students even have their own dedicated lounge in the West Balcony. As part of the YSC renovation, the servery was moved outside of the dining hall itself and into the lower level of the Annex, an extension on the Grove Street side of the building, to enlarge the venue’s seating capacity. Ultimately, the splendor of Yale blends with the friendliness of Yalies as people from all over campus come together for dining and the arts.

Alumni speak fondly of nightly dinners with friends and student organizations. Many recall annual traditions like Yale Medal dinners, class reunions, holiday dinners, themed dances, and one-off events like Lady Bird Johnson’s 1967 address to the Yale Political Union. Today, artists, presenters, and public will find a fully-transformed, technology-enabled platform. Additionally, the new climate control technology ensures that guests will enjoy their visit no matter the weather outside. More than just a dining hall, Commons has always been a community, a transient space with unmatched energy. Break bread and break boundaries with every visit here.

Sights & Sounds

Click here  for a 360-degree photo of Commons.

Jeremiah Quinlan ’03, Dean, Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions
John Yi ’12+1, Associate Director, Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions
Weili Cheng ’77, Executive Director, Yale Alumni Association
Jennifer Harrison Newman DRA ’11, Associate Artistic Director, Yale Schwarzman Center

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Next stop:  Annex

Now let's head up to the second floor. Take the stairs or the elevator to Level 2 with Laurie.

Continue to the next stop, Annex.

Return to the Virtual Tour start.
Featured image: Yale Commons, as seen from the West Balcony. Photo by Francis Dzikowski.