Yesterday’s building was Renbrook, the home of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft co-founder Frederick Rentschler. Another of the company’s founders was George Jackson Mead (1891-1949), who designed the Wasp aircraft engine. In 1929 George J. Mead built a mansion in the foothills of Talcott Mountain in Bloomfield named Balbrae, Scottish for “house on a hill.” Aviation pioneers Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh and Igor Sikorsky were frequent guests at Balbrae. In the early 1980s the 100-acre former estate was transformed into a 154-unit condominium community by architect William Mead, George J. Mead’s son. The main house, called The Mansion, is now divided into four units.
Rev. Francis Goodwin (1839-1923) was one Hartford’s wealthiest and most important citizens. As Commissioner of Parks in the city he played the leading role in expanding Hartford’s Park system. For his father, James J. Goodwin, he designed c. 1893 a mansion on Woodland Street in Hartford. Familiarly known as the “Goodwin Castle,” the house was later torn down. Rev. Goodwin also designed c. 1880 a summer cottage for his family in the Borough of Fenwick in Old Saybrook. Rev. Goodwin led Sunday services in Fenwick in his own home until he designed and built a chapel on his property in 1883 that would be moved and enlarged in 1886 to become St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea. In 1910, Francis’ son Charles A. Bulkeley lost a bid for the governorship of Connecticut. The Goodwin family blamed the defeat on their Fenwick neighbor Morgan G. Bulkeley, who had used his influence against Goodwin. Because Bulkeley was a founder and leader of the Fenwick community, for the next thirty-five years the Goodwins rented out their cottage and vacationed elsewhere. Only after World War II did Charles Goodwin return to Fenwick. Located at 15 Pettipaug Avenue the Goodwin Cottage remained in the family until 1955, when it was purchased by Dr. Theodore Van Itallie and his wife Barbara Cox Van Itallie, who died at her Fenwick home in 2011 at the age of 91. You can read more about the cottage in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 115-120.
Now home to Teamsters Local #191, the house at 1139 Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport was built in 1892 for Thomas Cooke Wordin. The house, originally known as “The Pines,” was designed by the Bridgeport-based architect Joseph W. Northrop, who also designed such buildings as the Taylor Memorial Library in Milford (1895) and the Colin M. Ingersoll House in New Haven (1896). The Wordin House was illustrated in The American Architect and Building News, Vol. XLI, no. 921 (August 19, 1893)
Mark Twain had a complex and ultimately troubled relationship with Isabel Lyon (1863-1958), who served as his secretary in his later years. It eventually resulted in her dismissal in April 1909 and Twain’s writing of the infamous Ashcroft-Lyon Manuscript, a 429-page diatribe that attacked Lyon and her husband, Ralph Ashcroft, who with Lyon had for a time controlled all of the author’s business matters. Many years before Lyon would live near Mark Twain in Redding, Connecticut, she had resided with her mother, Georgiana Van Kleek Lyon (1838-1926), in Farmington. In the early 1890s, the widowed Georgiana lived with her children, Isabel, Louise and Charles, at Oldagate, an historic house at 148 Main Street in Farmington. Louise married Jesse Moore, a bond salesman with Richter & Co. in Hartford, who joined the Lyon household. The family engaged Henry H. Mason to build two houses across the street from Oldgate, which they moved into in 1893. The Moores and their new baby occupied 141 Main Street. Isabel built a house for herself and her mother, Georgiana, next door at 143 Main Street. Charles H. Lyon, Jr., Isabel’s brother, died in 1893, probably a suicide.
One of the most prolific builders in the West End of Hartford at the turn of the century was William H. Scoville (1869-1932) (his brother A. W. Scoville was also a builder). W. H. Scoville had a distinctive way of taking the basic American Foursquare form and applying elements of the Queen Anne/Shingle/Craftsman/Colonial Revival styles in an individualistic way. His many houses show great deal variety in the way he combined and exaggerated different architectural features in each one. The house at 55 Lorraine Street, built in 1900, is a particularly intriguing example of his work that seems to be almost Asian-inspired.
As described in the 1917 edition of the Encyclopedia of Connecticut Biography:
William Harris Scoville, architect and builder, was born in Elmwood, a suburb of Hartford, Connecticut, June 10, 1862. Shortly afterwards his parents moved to Hartford, where he received his education in the Wadsworth street school. He learned the carpenter’s trade with his father and became a skilled worker. At the age of nineteen, being ambitious, he began contracting and progressed rapidly as an architect and builder, employing the services of draftsmen. Now for over a quarter of a century Mr. Scoville has made a special study of the development of real estate and general building, one of his special ideas being to sell houses on the rent payment basis. He has for many years been active in public affairs, both political and educational.
The summer cottage at 6 Linden Point Road in the Stony Creek area of Branford was built in the 1870s or 1880s. The road to Flying Point was opened in 1870, opening the area to development. This was a period when Stony Creek was a popular summer colony. The cottage is an example of the Stick and Shingle styles. The house has been significantly remodeled/rebuilt in recent decades.
The summer cottage at 21 Pettipaug Avenue in the Borough of Fenwick in Old Saybrook was built c. 1880 for Dr. Joseph Wright Alsop III (1838-1891). The Alsops were a prominent family in Middletown: His grandfather, Captain Joseph Wright Alsop I (1772-1844), and his father, Joseph Wright Alsop II (1804-1878), were wealthy merchants; his son, Joseph Wright Alsop IV (1876-1953), married a niece of Theodore Roosevelt and was a politician and farmer in Avon; and his grandson, Joseph Wright Alsop V (1910-1989), was a journalist and top insider in Washington, DC politics. In later life Dr. Joseph W. Alsop III, a democrat, served in the state Senate and was involved in the political deadlock over the gubernatorial election of 1891. After giving an impassioned speech he collapsed at the rostrum and died of a heart attack. The cottage passed from the Alsop estate in 1903 and was acquired by Morgan B. Brainard of Hartford, whose former Fenwick cottage had been destroyed in the Hurricane of 1938. It was acquired in 1959 by his niece, Lucy Brainard Smith. You can read more about the cottage in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 122-128. Read the rest of this entry »