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Silliman College is a residential college at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, named for scientist and Yale professor Benjamin Silliman. It opened in September 1940 as the last of the original ten residential colleges, and contains buildings constructed as early as 1901.

Silliman College
Residential college at Yale University
Yale University
Coat of arms of Silliman College
Location505 College Street
Coordinates41°18′40″N 72°55′32″W / 41.31105°N 72.92544°W / 41.31105; -72.92544Coordinates: 41°18′40″N 72°55′32″W / 41.31105°N 72.92544°W / 41.31105; -72.92544
MottoNutrisco et extinguo (Latin)
Motto in EnglishI nourish and I extinguish
Named forBenjamin Silliman
ColorsRed, white, green, gold
Sister collegeDudley House, Pforzheimer House
HeadLaurie Santos
DeanLeanna Barlow
Undergraduates456 (2013-2014)

Silliman is Yale's largest residential college by its footprint, occupying most of a city block.[1] Due to its size, the college is able to house its freshmen in the college instead of on Yale's Old Campus. The college's architecture is eclectic: though architect Otto Eggers completed most of the college with Georgian buildings, the college also incorporates two early-20th century buildings in the French Renaissance and Gothic Revival styles.

The College has links to Harvard's Pforzheimer House and Dudley House, as well as Trinity College, Cambridge and Brasenose College, Oxford. Its rival college at Yale is Timothy Dwight College, located directly across Temple Street.



Byers Hall and Vanderbilt Hall, then part of the Sheffield Scientific School, now Silliman's main facade.

The oldest known settlement at the present-day site of the college was the farm of Robert Newman, whose barn hosted the meeting that incorporated the Colony of New Haven in 1639.[1] The tract later became one of the blocks of New Haven's original nine-square city plan. Yale's first buildings on the site were for the Sheffield Scientific School. Byers Hall, a three-story building of Indiana limestone, was built in 1903 and designed by Hiss and Weekes architects in the modified French Renaissance Style. The Vanderbilt-Sheffield dormitory, a five-story building of the same material, was built between 1903 and 1906 by architect Charles C. Haight in the Gothic Revival style.

The Noah Webster House, on the corner of Grove St and Temple St, before its removal

In 1936, the university demolished the block of university buildings and houses that stood at the site, retaining only Van-Sheff, Byers Hall, and the adjacent St. Anthony Hall society building. The New Haven home of Noah Webster, occupied by its namesake from 1822 to 1843, was one of the structures scheduled for demolition. During ensuing controversy over the home's preservation, Henry Ford purchased the building and had it disassembled and re-erected at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.[2] A plaque now marks the site of the Webster House on the college's northeast corner.[1]

House of the Silliman Master, a Georgian Revival design by Otto Eggers

The "Quadrangle Plan," primarily funded by Edward Harkness, opened nine residential colleges for Yale between 1933 and 1934. Eight colleges were intended for Yale College, and two further for the Scientific School, one of which would be funded by Frederick W. Vanderbilt. This tenth college was planned by 1931, when Charles Hyde Warren was appointed as a college master, and named for Benjamin Silliman in 1933. Warren, also Sterling Professor of Geology and Dean of the Sheffield Scientific School, wrote a biography of Silliman but only retained his appointment until 1938, two years before the college's opening. Otto Eggers of Eggers & Higgins, previously a draftsman for John Russell Pope's buildings at Yale, was selected as the college's architect.[1] Eggers' design preserved Van Sheff, reconstructed the interior of Byers Hall, and created a quadrangle of Georgian buildings to complete the college and harmonize it with the adjacent Timothy Dwight College, established six years earlier.

When the college opened in 1940, philosopher F. S. C. Northrop was appointed its master.

Shield and mascotEdit

Silliman College's shield has a white background, three curving red lines emerging from near the bottom of the shield (representing salamander tails), and a green crossing bar containing three acorns. In heraldic terms, the shield is described as "Arms: Argent, three piles wavy gules, on a fess vert three acorns or." The colors represent the four ancient elements: red for fire, white for air and water, and green for earth. The acorns are an element taken from the family arms of Frederick Vanderbilt, 1876, who funded the college's construction.

The college's mascot is the salamander. Students in the college refer to themselves as Sillimanders.


The college courtyard, which covers almost an entire city block, is the largest enclosed courtyard at Yale and is one of the glories of the old college. Students can be seen playing various sports or lounging in the sun. Because of the size of the courtyard, sports such as spikeball, wiffle ball, football, and frisbee are often enjoyed.

Special facilities within Silliman include Yale's only undergraduate art gallery, called Maya's Room (named for Maya Tanaka Hanway, '83), a big-screen movie theater (Silliflicks), a dance studio, a half-court basketball facility called the Sillidome, computing facilities, a student kitchen, multiple music practice rooms, and a state-of-the-art[3] sound recording studio. The college's library, located in the third floor of Byers Hall, is commonly referred to as the Sillibrary. The Buttery, a student-run eatery in the basement that serves greasy goodness on weekday nights, is designed in the style of the 50's and its surrounding area includes games such as ping pong, air hockey, and pool.


In August 2007, after three years of on-and-off renovations, students moved back into Silliman College. Students now enjoy a reconfigured dining hall and servery, a stadium-seating movie theater, and a large student activities space that includes a new art gallery, dance studio, gym, basketball court, weight room, buttery, game room, and television entertainment space. The Silliman College courtyard was also restored to its former glory, with new patio spaces, benches, and grass. The renovation cost some $100 million, by far the most spent on any residential college renovation at Yale.[4]

Because of the size of Silliman College, the renovation work on the college was completed in several phases instead of the 15-month renovation completed on other colleges:

  • In the summer of 2004, the roof and windows were replaced on the brick section of the college. Extra dormers were also added to the roofs so that student rooms could later be installed in the former attic spaces.
  • In the summer of 2005, the Silliman Tower underwent a complete interior renovation.
  • The entire college was shut down during the 2006-2007 school year for the rest of the renovation. All students from the college moved into either Swing Space (a new dormitory built especially to house students during college renovations), the Elm Street Annex or into independent off-campus housing until the renovations were completed.
  • In 2017, a coffee shop, The Acorn, was added into the fourth floor of the Silliman Tower.

Activities and traditionsEdit

Intramural sportsEdit

Silliman College has won the Tyng Cup (awarded for the best intramural record of Yale's 14 residential colleges) eight times, in 1941, 1943, 1968, 1969, 1972, 2006, 2007, and 2008.[5]

Silliman fameEdit

Silliman gained fame when the popular movie Mona Lisa Smile featuring Julia Roberts, Julia Stiles and Kirsten Dunst, was partly filmed in the Silliman College courtyard and common room. The Grove Street facade of Silliman was used to represent Harvard University, and the Wall Street Gate and the common room were used to represent Wellesley College.[citation needed]

Notable alumniEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Pinnell, Patrick (1999). The Campus Guide: Yale University. Princeton University Press. pp. 116–17. ISBN 9781568981673. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  2. ^ "Noah Webster House, New Haven, Connecticut" (pdf). Historical American Buildings Survey. Library of Congress. 1936. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-12-30. Retrieved 2005-10-17.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Yale Daily News - Expansion Projected at $600 Million Archived 2008-01-24 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Past Tyng Cup Champions by Year". Past Tyng Cup Champions. Retrieved 5 May 2018.

External linksEdit