The Stony Creek section of Branford has a rich history. In the nineteenth century its shoreline and the Thimble Islands attracted wealthy industrialists and its quarries provided the pink granite used for the foundations of the Statute of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. The quarries brought new immigrant workers, including Italians who first worshiped at a hall on Leete’s Island Road built by quarry owner John Beattie. A chapel was later built on School Street and eventually, in 1927, a church was erected at 84 Thimble Island Road and dedicated in October, 1928. What had previously begun as St. Therese mission became a parish in 1947. A new St. Therese Church on Leete’s Island Road was dedicated in 1968. The old church building was sold to the town in 1974 and was then used as a community and recreation center. A fire station was added to the rear of the building in 1976. More recently the building was renovated and reopened in 2012 as the Stony Creek Museum, which chronicles the area’s history.
In 1741 John Lyman (1717-1763) purchased the first parcel of the land in Middlefield that his descendents would develop and that is part of Lyman Orchards today. John’s great-grandson, David Lyman II (1820-1871) was a prosperous farmer who did much to develop the Town of Middlefield. He co-founded the Metropolitan Washing Machine Company and brought the Air Line railroad to Middlefield. In 1859 David Lyman II added a rear wing to a c. 1785 house, built on the property by his grandfather, David Lyman I. In 1862 he removed the 1785 house and the following year began construction of a new home on the site, completed in 1864. Designed by New Haven architect Rufus G. Russell, the new Lyman Homestead maintained a Georgian-type form but elaborated with the stylistic elements of the Italianate country villa and Gothic Revival cottage. The house, at 5 Lyman Road in Middlefield, has continued to be owned by the Lyman family and since 2000 has been available to rent for events.
The house at 33 Main Street in North Stonington was built c. 1860. In the mid-nineteenth century it was lived in by Deacon John D. Wheeler and his wife. Wheeler had a small shop near the river bank in Milltown/North Stonington village where he made tools. Later in the nineteenth century, the house was occupied by William Horace Hillard, a farmer and teacher. In 1861 Hillard bought the general store (60 Main Street) from Charles N. Wheeler. Hillard also served as Clerk, Registrar and Treasurer of North Stonington and was a deacon of the Third Baptist Church and superintendent of the Sunday school. The house, which is Gothic Revival in style with Italianate features, was later the parsonage for the Third Baptist Church, located next door.
The First Methodist Society in Bridgeport was organized in 1817 and the first church building was opened in 1823. After this wood structure burned down in 1849 it was replaced by a brick one in 1850. After it was deemed unfit for continuing occupancy in the 1920s, a new edifice was built on Golden Hill, overlooking downtown Bridgeport. The new First Methodist Church and Parish House (333-47 Golden Hill Street/210 Elm Street) was constructed as a single structure in 1928-1929 (the church in the Gothic Revival style and the parish house in the Tudor Revival style) to plans by the architectural consortium of Southey, Allen, and Collens. In 1970, several other Methodist Churches merged with First Methodist Church and the church’s name was changed to Golden Hill United Methodist Church.
The Militia Act of 1903, also known as the Dick Act, was federal legislation that mandated greater oversight of National Guard units by the regular army. As part of the military reforms arising from the act, the federal government had provided the Connecticut National Guard with an artillery battery, subject to inspection by regular army officers to ensure both performance and proper care for government property. In 1909 the War Department was dissatisfied with a recent inspection and demanded that the state erect an armory to house the equipment. Following negotiations, in 1911 the state General Assembly approved a new armory to be built in Branford to house Battery A of the field artillery. Completed in 1913, the armory was designed by the architectural firm of Palmer and Townsend, which had just completed the Meriden Armory. Located at 87 Montowese Street, the armory has been updated at different times and housed various National Guard units over the years (the original field artillery moved out in the 1920s). Branford Armory & OMS is now also home to the 2nd Company Governor’s Foot Guard, which moved out of its New Haven armory in 2009. Controversy arose in 2011 when the Branford Armory Tank (actually a Marine armored personnel carrier), placed on the front lawn in the 1970s as a memorial by Korean War veterans, was removed by the Guard without warning as part of an effort to restore historical military equipment for display at Camp Niantic. Branford veterans and citizens successfully lobbied to have the tank returned. For more information about the Branford Armory, see Built to Serve: Connecticut’s National Guard Armories 1865-1940 (2003), by Geoffrey L. Rossano & Mary M. Donohue, pages 58-61.
Trinity Episcopal Church in Southport was built in 1862. Eight years later the parish began to consider plans to build an adjacent chapel that would serve as a Sunday school. The Parish School opened on September 23, 1872 in the new Carpenter Gothic-style Chapel, which features board-and-batten siding. Originally a free-standing structure, the Chapel, which now serves as a parish hall, has been connected to the church complex through twentieth-century additions.
On Cottage Green in Enfield is a row of four small Gothic Cottages (46, 50, 54, 58 Cottage Green). Possibly designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, they are the survivors of a group of cottages that were erected for factory workers around the now built-over Cottage Green, which was once a grassy square with a fountain or well in the center. This is a less commonly found arrangement for worker tenements designed to appeal to skilled workers imported from abroad. They were built c. 1848 to house employees of the Enfield Manufacturing Company, a hosiery factory founded in 1845 by H. G. Thompson that failed in 1873, after which its property was purchased by the Hartford Carpet Company. A brochure entitled “Historic Enfield,” alternately claims that the houses were built c. 1830 for Scottish weavers employed at the Bigelow carpet mill. Actually, according to the nomination for the Bigelow-Hartford Carpet Mills Historic District, they were built for English-born workers and the earlier cottages, built by Thompson’s father Orrin Thompson for imported Scottish weavers, do not survive today. This type of housing recalls the “Potsdam” Cottages (featured on this last week!) built in 1859 by Samuel Colt in Hartford for imported German workers at his willow ware factory. Pictured above is the house at 50 Cottage Green in Enfield, which is presently more in need of work than its neighbors.