The first Baptist church in Connecticut was established in Groton in 1705. Families west of the Thames River, who did not want to have to travel across the river every Sunday, established their own Baptist church, only the second in Connecticut, in 1710 in what would later be the Town of Waterford. Meeting in private homes and, for a time, sharing a meeting house with the Waterford Seventh Day Baptists, they eventually built a church on Mullen Hill Road around 1796. It was here that the first meeting of the Town of Waterford was held in 1801. The town continued to meet at the church for a century until a town hall was built. The current Greek Revival meeting house of the First Baptist Church of Waterford was constructed in 1848 at 105 Rope Ferry Road. Construction of the church stimulated the development of its immediate vicinity as a residential community, an area known as Jordan Village.
Harkness Memorial State Park, located on Long Island Sound in Waterford, was once the estate of Edward Harkness (1874-1940) and his wife Mary Harkness. Harkness, one of the richest men in America, inherited great wealth from his father, Stephen V. Harkness, who had been a silent partner of John D. Rockefeller in the Standard Oil Corporation. Used by Harkness as a summer estate, it was called Eolia, named for the island home of Aeolus, Greek God of the winds. The mansion, designed by Lord & Hewlett of New York, was built in 1906 for Jessie and William Taylor, Mary Harkness’s sister and brother-in-law, who sold it the following year. Edward and Mary Harkness then hired their favorite architect James Gamble Rogers to do interior renovations and add a pergola to the property. The estate’s gardens were designed by landscape architect Beatrix Farrand. Mary Harkness left the estate to the State of Connecticut in 1950. The mansion and grounds were restored in the 1990s by lead architect Roger Clarke, with contributions by architect Peter Clarke and consultant on historic gardens Rob Camp Fuoco. Today Eolia is a popular location for weddings (pdf about weddings). Read the rest of this entry »
The building now known as the Jordan Park House was originally built in 1928 as the Waterford Public Library. A gift of Mrs. Edward C. Hammond, it was located on Great Neck Road in Waterford, but was moved in 1961 to make way for a new railroad overpass. A new library on Rope Ferry Road opened in 1966. The old library building was transferred to Jordan Park, where it would soon be joined by other relocated historic structures: the 1740 Jordan Schoolhouse and the 1838 Beebe-Phillips House. The Jordan Park House was home to the offices of the Waterford Recreation and Parks Department until 1984 and since then to the Waterford Historical Society.
Atypical for Connecticut, the house at 75 Rope Ferry Road in Waterford (pdf) was constructed of granite ashlar blocks. The stone was quarried in Waterford. Known as the Stone House and the Powers-Allyn-Rosenthal House, it was built in 1877 (date on the cornerstone), although the wing may be earlier. A later resident of the house was Beatrice Holt Rosenthal (1900-1981). Active in support of women’s rights, Rosenthal was a delegate to Democratic National Convention from Connecticut in 1956 and 1960 and a Democratic National Committeewoman in 1963.
One of the historic structures on Jordan Green in Waterford is the 1740 Jordan Schoolhouse, the oldest surviving public building in Waterford. The earliest mention of a schoolhouse in Jordan actually dates to 1737. The present schoolhouse building was converted into a private home in the mid-nineteenth century for the widow Eliza Gallup and her three children. The building’s granite front steps came originally from the nineteenth-century West Neck Schoolhouse. The Jordan Schoolhouse was moved to Jordan Green in 1972 and is now a museum run by the Waterford Historical Society.
The Beebe-Phillips House is an 1838 farmhouse, located in Waterford. The house was moved to Historic Jordan Green in 1974 and is one of several historic buildings on the Green which constitute a museum operated by the Waterford Historical Society.