The Jarvis-Hotchkiss House, at 138-140 Washington Street in Middletown, is a late Greek Revival building constructed around 1838. The house is also known as the Elijah Hubbard Roberts House. Roberts (1795-1871), who married Emily Matilda Pratt in 1823, became a successful merchant in New York and returned to live in Middletown in 1856. The house was acquired by Rev. William Jarvis, rector of Christ Church, in 1853. On June 6, 1856, the wedding reception of Elizabeth Jarvis and Samuel Colt took place here. The cast-iron railing above the porch was added to the house by Emily Stedman, who bought the property in 1861. The house is now used as a commercial building.
Built on Wethersfield Avenue in Hartford for the brother of Sam Colt, the Italianate-style James Colt House was built in 1856. Like the other Italianate houses along the same block, including Sam Colt’s own Armsmear, with which it shares many design features, the James Colt House has been attributed to the architect Octavius J. Jordan. In 1976, the house was the first in Hartford to be restored with a grant from the National Park Service and Federal tax incentives.
Over 25 years after designing the Church of the Good Shepherd in 1869, Elizabeth Colt persuaded Edward Tuckerman Potter to come out of retirement and design a Parish House for the church in 1896. The new structure was built as memorial to her son, Caldwell Hart Colt, an ardent yachtsman, who had died at sea in mysterious circumstances. Many of the decorative features of the building therefore have a nautical inspiration. Its High Victorian Gothic style, already well out of fashion when it was built, matches well stylistically with the neighboring church building.
The original Colt Armory was built in 1855 and was a central part of Samuel Colt‘s firearms-making empire. Based in the district of Hartford known as Coltsville, the armory was later joined by additional buildings, including housing for workers. The Colt mansion, Armsmear, was also built on a nearby hill, overlooking the factory complex. Three years after Colt’s death, the original armory was destroyed by fire in 1864. It was then rebuilt by Colt’s widow, Elizabeth Colt, using designs by the company’s general manager, General William B. Franklin. The new building was designed to be fireproof and also larger than its predecessor. It was also more decorative, with a design based on the styles of the Italian Renaissance.
The new Colt Armory also carried over the most dramatic feature of the original structure, the blue onion dome with gold stars, topped by a gold orb and a rampant colt, the original symbol of the Colt Manufacturing Company. Today, a gilded fiberglass replica is used, the gilded wood original now being displayed at the Museum of Connecticut History. As for Sam Colt‘s use of the famous onion dome, a distinctive feature easily noted by drivers on I-91, there are different theories concerning its origins, ranging from its being a tribute to his early Russian business contacts, to simply being a dramatic marketing statement which no one would forget. Coltsville is now undergoing plans for adaptive reuse and there is support for transforming the complex into a National Park.
Built in 1857 on Wethersfield Avenue in Hartford for Samuel Colt, Armsmear has been called “the grandest residence in the Hartford of its day.” Often attributed to the architect Octavius Jordan, it is an elaborate Italian Villa. It has been much altered from its original opulence, having lost such features as an ornate dome with an ogee shape, similar to that on the Colt Armory in Hartford. Also lost are the glass-domed conservatories, added in 1861-2 and inspired by London’s Crystal Palace. The mansion still features three towers, and Bill Hosley describes, in the Hog River Journal, convincing the director of the Wadsworth Atheneum to approve an exhibition on Colt’s Empire by showing him the view of Coltsville from the Armsmear’s main tower. Hosley describes the tower as “one of the most alluring historic spaces in Connecticut.”
After the death of Elizabeth Colt, the house was altered, according to her will, by Benjamin Wistar Morris to became a residence for the widows of Episcopalian ministers. 140 acres of the Colt estate were also given to the city of Hartford to create Colt Park. Today Armsmear is described as a “51 unit apartment complex for retired single women.”
The Colt Memorial, designed by Benjamin Wistar Morris, was constructed in 1906 as part of the Wadsworth Atheneum complex of buildings. It connects the original structure of 1844 to the Morgan Memorial. Like the Church of the Good Shepherd, it was donated by Elizabeth Colt to house the many art objects she had given to the museum. It is in a Gothic style and features diamond paned windows, which match the original Atheneum building’s Gothic Revival style, and a medieval-style oriel window. In front stands a statue of Nathan Hale. It was created by Enoch Woods Smith as a contest entry in the 1880s for a statue to be placed in the State Capitol. It was not selected, but James J. Goodwin, who had commissioned it, later donated it to the museum in 1892.
BTW, this blog is now two months old!
The history of Hartford is strongly connected to the activities of Sam Colt and the manufacturing of his famous firearms. Colt’s wife, Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt, was a philanthropist and patron of the arts. After the death of her husband in 1862, she commissioned the architect Frederick Clarke Withers, a partner of Calvert Vaux, to design an Episcopal church as a memorial to Sam Colt and four of their children, all of whom had died within a five-year period. The church would serve the Colt armory’s workers in the industrial district known as Coltsville. In 1866 she rejected Withers’s plans and instead turned to Edward Tuckerman Potter, the architect who would later design the Mark Twain House.
Completed in 1869, Potter’s polychromatic Church of the Good Shepherd is an excellent example of the High Victorian Gothic style. It has unique features, including crossed Colt pistols and revolver parts carved in sandstone around the south “Armorer’s Door.” It also has notable stained glass windows.