At 98 Fair Street in Guilford is a mansard-roofed house built c. 1869-1870 in the French Second Empire style. It was built by Edwin Alonzo Leete (1822-1870), a cabinetmaker and undertaker. Behind the house is a building (1090 Boston Post Road) he used as his workshop and display room. Leete had previously lived in an octagon house on Fair Street. A veteran of the Civil War, Leete served six months in Co I, 14th CT Regiment and fought at the Battle of Antietam. After his death, his son Edward and grandson Earle continued the undertaking business and also developed an interest in antique furniture. As related in Vol. II of A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County (1918):
Edward Morris Leete acquired his education in the schools of Guilford, Connecticut, and there learned the furniture business with his father and also mastered the undertaking business. He continued in the furniture trade in Guilford until 1912. His wife [Eva Bishop] from 1885 had been dealing in New England antique furniture and the business grew so extensive that in 1912 the E. B. Leete Company was incorporated and the modern furniture business of Mr. Leete was discontinued in order that he might concentrate his entire attention upon the antique furniture trade which had been developed.
[. . .] The parents and second son [Earl Bishop Leete] are all interested in the antique furniture business which is carried on under the name of Mrs. Leete as the E. B. Leete Company, for the trade was developed and built up by Mrs. Leete, whose fame as a dealer in colonial and antique furniture is very wide. She is the president of the company and has been dealing in this line of goods for thirty years. She is probably the best authority in New England on colonial furniture and is the largest dealer in and collector of New England antique furniture. She has four old houses in Guilford completely filled with this furniture on display and exhibition and she also has two large storehouses filled with it. Her collection of antique furniture is the largest in New England and many pieces in her possession are more than two hundred and fifty years old. She loaned the antique furniture for and furnished completely the Connecticut House at the Jamestown Exposition at Jamestown, Virginia, and through the Society of Colonial Dames furnished the Connecticut houses at the St. Louis and Chicago fairs. Her patronage is very extensive and gratifying and she has among her patrons many of America’s best known families. She has made a very close and discriminating study of the subject and her comprehensive knowledge of furniture, its value, its methods of manufacture and the period at which it was made enables her at all times to speak with authority upon the subject. Moreover, she displays a most enterprising and progressive spirit in the conduct of the business, possessing marked executive ability. She is also one of the organizers and a charter member of the Dorothy Whitfield Historical Society.
The house at 34-36 Woodbridge Street in Manchester was built c. 1873. It is an unusual example of a Second Empire-style two-family house in the residential area that was built up between 1860 and 1890 in the area just east of Depot Square in North Manchester. Read the rest of this entry »
Ponemah Mills in Norwich once boasted the largest textile mill in the world under one roof. The mill buildings were constructed near a dam along the west bank of the Shetucket River. The investors who founded the company were led by Edward and Cyrus Taft of Providence, Rhode Island and the manufacturing village of Taftville was built next to the mill to house and serve the mill workers. The earliest workers were Irish immigrants. After a strike in 1875, the Irish were replaced with French-Canadian workers. The first Ponemah Mill building was constructed between 1866 and 1871. A massive mansard-roofed structure, it features two tall stair towers with roofs that have classical detailing, dormers, cupolas and turrets. In the twentieth century the mill converted to the production of synthetic fabrics. It finally closed in 1972. Later occupied by various small manufacturers, it then became the home of the Helikon Furniture Co., makers of high-end office furniture. More recently, Helikon moved out of the building and the mill is being restored to contain apartments under the name the Lofts at Ponemah Mills.
Built in 1868 along Long Island Sound in Niantic, the Morton House Hotel (215 Main Street) has been in continuous operation for over a century. Also known as the Old Morton House, the building contains 38 guest rooms and a restaurant. Read the rest of this entry »
Happy New Year from Historic Buildings of Connecticut! One of Connecticut’s grandest houses is the Lockwood–Mathews Mansion in Norwalk. A 62-room Second Empire-style country house, it was built by LeGrand Lockwood, a New York City businessman and financier, who named the estate Elm Park. Construction of the mansion, designed by Detlef Lienau, begun in 1864 and took four years. Lockwood lavishly furnished his house and displayed art by Hudson River School painters, including the monumental Domes of the Yosemite by Albert Bierstadt. The depreciation of gold in 1869 was a series financial blow for Lockwood, who died in 1872. His heirs lost the estate through foreclosure in 1874. Charles D. Mathews bought the property in 1876 and it remained a residence of the Mathews family until the death of his daughter, Florence Mathews, in 1938. Sold to the City of Norwalk in 1941, the estate became a public park. After the city announced plans to demolish the mansion in 1959, preservationists formed a Common Interest Group and after a prolonged legal struggle were able to save it. The Junior League of Stamford-Norwalk arranged to lease the building from the city and formed the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum of Norwalk, Inc. to restore and operate the mansion as a public museum. The mansion is now undergoing a new renovation, begun in 2007.
The Isaac C. Lewis Cottage (although it’s much bigger than what people think of as a cottage!) is located at 255 Thimble Islands Road in the Stony Creek section of Branford. It is an impressive eclectic Victorian house with an outstanding variety of detail that features elements of the Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Eastlake, and Stick styles. It was built as a seaside cottage for Isaac Chauncey Lewis (1812-1893), president of the Meriden Britannia Company and one of Connecticut’s leading industrialists. The cottage was designed by the architect Henry Martin Jones (1828-1908), who had also designed Lewis’s much larger house in Meriden. The cottage was shifted about a hundred feet east, from one side of its lot to the other, in 1917. Read the rest of this entry »
The house at 136-138 Collins Street in Hartford was built in 1870. An impressive mansard-roofed Second Empire-style house, it was once owned by Isaac Frisbie. He was superintendent of the Hartford Alms House, which once stood on a property to the rear of his house. The Alms House and adjacent Town Farm were abolished in the 1890s when Hartford’s town government was consolidated with its city government. Today the house on Collins Street is used as a halfway house for federal and state inmates who are transitioning back to freedom. The house once had a one-story veranda–traces of its roofline can be seen along the facade of the western half of the house.