The building at 138 Bank Street in New London was erected in 1840 as residence and has since been significantly remodeled for retail businesses. The Greek Revival-style house was built by Franklin Smith, a whaling captain. As related by Frances Manwaring Caulkins in the History of New London (1860), Capt. Franklin Smith
made the most successful series of voyages, to be found in the whaling annals of the port, and probably of the world! In seven voyages to the South Atlantic, in the employ of N. and W. W. Billings, and accomplished in seven successive years, from 1831 to 1837, inclusive—one in the Flora, one in the Julius Cesar, and five in the Tuscarora-—-he brought home 16,154 barrels of whale, 1,147 of sperm. This may be regarded as a brilliant exhibition of combined good fortune and skill. Two subsequent voyages made by him in the Chelsea, were also crowned with signal success. These nine voyages were accomplished between June, 1830, and August, 1841.
Capt. Smith was accompanied by his wife on four four of his voyages and his only daughter was named Chelsea after the ship on which she was born while at sea. In 1842 Smith became a partner in the whaling firm of Perkins & Smith.
Hilltop Farm, located between Mapleton Avenue and the Connecticut River, just south of the Massachusetts border in Suffield, was developed in the early twentieth century as a country estate and gentleman’s farm by George Hendee, the co-founder of the Indian Motocycle Corporation of Springfield, Mass. Hendee devoted the farm to raising prize dairy cows and poultry. He developed a prize herd of Guernsey cows known as Hilltop Butterfats. In 1913, Hendee began assembling the property for his farm, which by the 1920s had grown to nearly 500 acres. His large manor house, built in 1916, was torn down in 1961 to make way for the sprawling campus of St. Alphonsus College, later occupied by the Lincoln Culinary Institute. The largest and most impressive surviving building from the estate is a massive Dairy Barn (18,700 square feet), constructed by Hendee in 1914. The architect of the manor house, Max Westhoff, may also have designed the barn, which has been called a “Monster Barn” and “Connecticut’s Agricultural Cathedral.” A two-story, Colonial Revival-style building, it is a ground-level stanchion barn with a high drive entrance. Two cylindrical silos flank the entrance on either side.
Later owners subdivided the farm. The parcel containing the barn was part of the former farm that was acquired by Pinnacle Developers in 1999. After local protest about the developers’ plans to build an assisted living facility on the land, Pinnacle sold 127 acres, including the barn, to the Town of Suffield. In 2004, the town sold 7.9 acres, including the barn and other farm buildings, to Educational Properties LLC, which owned the neighboring culinary school (aka the Suffield Conference Center). Educational Properties provided a renewable 99-year lease on the barn to the Friends of Hilltop Farm, which eventually purchased the building in 2013. The organization is restoring the barn and leases 65 acres of adjacent open space owned by the Town of Suffield. The property is now dedicated to agricultural and educational purposes.
St. John’s Episcopal Church in New Hartford is located on Church Street across from Pine Meadow Green (also known as Chapin Park). The Carpenter Gothic edifice was built in 1861 on land donated by the Chapin family. The Chapins were tool manufacturers who developed Pine Meadow as a rural industrial village in the nineteenth century. The church replaced an earlier St. John’s, which was built in 1850 at the south end of Church Street. The church had held its first services in 1849 in Chapin Hall and Hermon Chapin, Sr. had donated the land for the building. The first St. John’s Church burned down in a fire sparked by a Christmas tree, that started late on the 23rd of December, 1859.
The former National Guard Armory at 511 Main Street in West Haven was built in 1932-1933 and remained an active military facility through the late 1970s. Designed by the architectural firm of Fletcher & Thompson, it is an Art Deco structure–the first armory building in Connecticut to break with the earlier castellated Military Gothic style. The armory was later converted into apartment units.
At 87 Post Road East (at the intersection of Church Lane) in Westport is a flatiron-type building built in 1924 to house the Westport Bank and Trust Company. The bank was founded in 1852 by Horace Staples (1801-1897) as the Saugatuck Bank. Soon renamed the First National Bank of Westport, it long occupied offices in National Hall in Westport, which it shared with the Westport Savings Bank, founded by Staples in 1863. The two banks merged in 1913 and eleven years later moved into the new building, designed by Charles E. Cutler (1881-1962), in the developing downtown east of the Saugatuck River. The building, later home to Hudson United Bank, has two large (10’x12′) murals that are reminiscent of works of the WPA-era. The murals were painted in 1965 by Robert L. Lambdin (1886-1981), a local artist, and depict scenes from Westport’s history. They are entitled Shipping on the Saugatuck and Hotel Square. In 2005 the building was restored as mixed-use retail space by David Adam Realty, which saved and refurbished the original exterior, terrazzo flooring, murals and four of the five bank vaults.
Thomas Fitch (1696-1774), a lawyer, was Governor of the Colony of Connecticut from 1754 to 1766. His house, built around 1740, once stood on Earls Hill on the east side of East Avenue in Norwalk. The house was partially burned in the British raid on Norwalk on July 11-12, 1779. Fitch descendants occupied the reconstructed house until 1945. The section of the house that had survived the British raid (part of the house’s kitchen wing) was moved to Mill Hill in 1956 when the rest of the building was demolished to make way for the construction of the Connecticut Turnpike (now I-95). In 1971 the building was restored as a museum to resemble a law office such as one that Governor Fitch might have used in the eighteenth century. The foundations and chimney of the Law Office were constructed using stones from the cellar walls of the original Fitch House. The Law Office is one of three buildings at Mill Hill Historic Park maintained by the Norwalk Historical Society and the Norwalk-Village Green Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
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 »