The building at 305 Main Street, at the corner of Peck Street, in Kensington, Berlin is currently home to the Berlin Historical Society. It was built in 1901-1902 as the permanent home of the Kensington Library Society. Founded in 1829, the Library Society had stored its books at various places around town before the building was constructed: first at the Kensington Congregational Church; from 1874 to 1877 at Hart’s Hall; next in a room in the Berlin Savings Bank; and in 1890 back at the church. In 1900, Susan A. Peck was a leader among those seeking to build a permanent home for the library. She convinced her cousin, Henry Hart Peck, to donate the funds for a new building, which was built on land donated by Miss Harriet Hotchkiss and Mrs. Fannie Hotchkiss Jones. The Library Society was incorporated in 1901 in order to receive the donation. The Peck Memorial Library building was dedicated on November 5, 1902. A modern addition to the library was built in 1963. In 1986 the Town of Berlin took over the library, thus making it a public institution. In 1989, the Berlin-Peck Memorial Library moved into a new building at 234 Kensington Road. The former building on Main Street then became the home of the Berlin Historical Society. The building was renamed the King-Peck Memorial in 1994 to honor Ron King, who was active in various civic groups in Berlin.
At 13, 17, 21, 23, 29, 33, 37, 41, 45 Curcombe Street in Hartford is a row of cottages. These were built in 1859 as part of Samuel Colt’s factory village of Coltsville. To protect his famous armory in Hartford from flooding, Samuel Colt constructed a dike along the Connecticut River. Willow trees flourished there and this inspired Colt to import workers from Potsdam, Germany, to produce furniture from the trees’ wood. Colt constructed ten “Swiss Cottages” (a style today referred to as “Carpenter Gothic”) to house his imported workers, nine of which survive today. These were built as two-family houses. Most have been greatly altered, but several still display original architectural features, including brick first floors with decorative half-timbering, board-and-batten siding on the second floor and prominent overhanging eaves. Similar in style to the cottages was the willowware factory itself that stood behind them on Warwarme Avenue. Built in 1859, the factory was destroyed by fire in 1873. Today the cottages are across from the park space used as Hartford’s old time baseball grounds. The cottage depicted above is No. 41 Curcombe Street, one of the better preserved examples. Read the rest of this entry »
The house at 1 Elizabeth Street in Hartford’s West End was built in 1928 for Curtis H. Veeder and his family. Born in Alleghany, Pennsylvania, in 1862, Veeder was an engineer who got his first patent at age eighteen. He founded the Veeder Manufacturing Company in Hartford in 1895. The company’s first product was one of Veeder’s inventions, a bicycle cyclometer. Promoted with the slogan “It’s Nice to Know How Far You Go,” the devices measured the distance a bike has traveled by counting the number of rotations made by the wheels. The company later merged with the Root Company of Bristol, Connecticut, to form Veeder-Root, which continues to produce counting and computing devices today. Veeder died in 1943 and in 1950 his widow, Louise Stutz Veeder, sold the house to the Connecticut Historical Society. Founded in 1825, the society had been based for almost a century in the Wadsworth Atheneum. CHS constructed two large additions to the Veeder House, originally designed by William F. Brooks, to house its collections and museum exhibition space.
Isidore Wise (1865-1956) was a leading merchant in Hartford and a prominent civic leader. The son of Leopold and Rosalie Wise, he was born in Hartford in 1865. At the age of eleven, he took his first job as a cash boy for $2.00 a week at Stern and Mandelbaum, a local dry goods store. At the age of twenty-one, with two partners, he opened a own store at the corner of Main and Kinsley Streets in Hartford, later buying out the Clark Company, located in the Cheney Building. Having run I. Wise & Company for several years, in 1897 he joined with Robert Smith and other partners to form Wise, Smith & Company, which opened on the opposite side of Main Street (You can read more about the growth of Wise, Smith in my book Vanished Downtown Hartford). Isidore Wise ran the store until 1948, resuming control in 1954, a month before it finally closed. Wise was a civic leader in Hartford, serving as a city councilman, alderman and police commissioner. He was also president of Congregation Beth Israel and the United Jewish Charities. In 1907, Isidore Wise and his first wife, Selma Stern Wise (1870-1931), moved into a Swiss Chalet/Craftsman-style residence at 810 Prospect Avenue in Hartford. Designed by Isaac A. Allen, Jr., the house has stylistic similarities to the nearby Charles E. Shepard House (1900), at 695 Prospect Avenue.
The 165-foot Heublein Tower, in Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury, is a very notable Connecticut landmark which provides spectacular views of Hartford and the Farmington River Valley. It was built as a residence for Gilbert Heublein, a food and drink magnate and manufacturer of A1 Steak Sauce, and was modeled on castles in his native Bavaria. In 1875, a young Heublein was hiking on the mountain with his fiancee and said, ”Someday Louise, I’m going to build you a castle on this mountain.” The Tower, constructed to withstand 100 MPH winds, was designed by Smith and Bassette and built by T. R. Fox and Son in 1914. The rest of the residence was added around 1925. The tower later opened to the public as part of the state park and many visitors hike up to visit it each year. There have been a number of restorations of the building, most recently through the efforts of the Friends of Heublein Tower.
Charles E. Shepard was a general agent for Aetna Life Insurance. The architect Edward T. Hapgood designed Shepard’s 1900 Craftsman style house, located on the West Hartford side of Prospect Avenue. The house also has elements of a Swiss Chalet, most notably in the third-floor balcony. An adjacent carriage house was built in 1914, designed by West Hartford resident Cortlandt F. Luce. The house was acquired by the Oxford School, now the Kingswood-Oxford School, in 1924 and was used for a middle school. Additional facilities were attached to the original house over the years, but these were removed and the house’s exterior was restored when the entire property was converted for use by the town of West Hartford for a new middle School. The house was converted to office, library and classroom space and attached to the new Bristow Middle School building, off Highland Street, which opened in 2005. This example of adaptive reuse and restoration earned the architectural firm of Tai Soo Kim Partners a 2006 Historic Preservation Award from the Town of West Hartford.