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.