In 1641, John Brockton established a farm on the plot of land that is now Calhoun College. After the Revolutionary War, an inn was constructed on the land, which would later become the meeting place for the Phi Beta Kappa Society.
From 1863 to 1874, the land became the site for Yale's Divinity School. In 1932, with the institution of the college system, the residential building at the corner of College and Elm Streets became Calhoun College, named for John C. Calhoun (B.A. 1804), alumnus, statesman, and orator. Like many of the other residential colleges at Yale, Calhoun College was named in honor of one of Eli's illustrious sons. Although there is no direct connection between the college and the man (he is neither founder nor patron), the name of the college is not without controversy.
In recent years there have been attempts to convince the university to rename the college or at least hyphenate it to reflect changing sensibilities about honoring advocates of slavery. One suggested alternative is to call the college Calhoun-Bouchet College, in memory of Calhoun and in honor of Edward Bouchet, the first African American to graduate from Yale College and the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in the United States, again from Yale.
Like all other residential colleges at their inception, Calhoun had a 24-hour guard service and the gates were never locked. Jacket and tie was the attire of choice in the dining hall and all meals were served at the table.
At first, Calhoun was considered an undesirable college because of its location at the corner of the College and Elm, where trolleys used to go screeching around the corner. This perception of Calhoun changed under Master Charles Schroeder, who once remarked that if the despicable trolley system were ever removed he would purchase a trolley car, put it in the courtyard, and hold a celebration to commemorate the event. The trolley system was indeed removed in 1949, and though a whole car proved unfeasible, Master Schroeder secured the fare collection machine from a trolley and made good on his promise to celebrate the event. Thus was born Trolley Night, a proud tradition of the college.
The coat of arms designed for Calhoun College combines the university arms, set atop the Cross of St. Andrew. The college colors are black, blue, and gold. For those wishing to display their college affiliation prominently, there is an official Calhoun scarf, one thick blue stripe atop a gold background. There are two Calhoun ties, one bearing the coat of arms on a dark blue background and one with thin gold stripes on a dark blue background.