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.
Constructed in 1868 as a grand new three-story commercial block with classical detailing, Bacon’s Marble Block is located at at 128 State Street in New London. It was built by Morris W. Bacon, manager of the Pequot & Ocean Transit Steamship Co., who ran a billiard hall in the building. The structure’s original cornice was replaced with a mansard roof before 1901. Beatrice Cuming, a painter, lived and worked on the building‘s upper floors in the 1930s and 1940s. In more recent years, the building sat derelict for twenty-five years, but was then restored with commercial space on the first floor and apartments above. Bacon’s Marble Block also features a faded Uneeda Biscuit sign. The building next door, at 140 State Street, was built in 1873.
The house at 72 Broad Street in Guilford was built c. 1847 for Edward Sherman Fowler, who was born in 1817 in the house at 66 Broad Street to Samuel and Sophie Fowler. He soon moved to New London where he worked as a railroad conductor. In 1855 the Guilford Institute acquired the house and sold it in 1868. A later owner was Alfred N. Wilcox, who served in the Civil War as a sergeant in Co. G, 14th Regt., Connecticut Volunteers. Yet another owner operated a blacksmith shop on the property until 1968. Around 1870, a French Second Empire Mansard roof was added to the house, which had previously had a flat Italianate-style roof. The current front porch was added in 2003.