Brookfield Center Historic District
The Brookfield Center Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Brookfield Center Historic District runs in a north-south direction along a rocky ridge in the geographic center of the Town of Brookfield, northeast of the City of Danbury, Connecticut. The Brookfield Center Historic District looks down on the Still River which lies in a parallel north-south valley to the west. The center of the district, which has almost the same boundaries as the local historic district, occurs at the intersection of Whisconier Road with Obtuse Hill Road, Junction Road, and Silvermine Road. Here are located two churches, town hall, early school, and the village store. The balance of the Brookfield Center Historic District is essentially a spine of residential properties running north and south from the center.
Since the area was settled as early as c.1700, there are several 18th-century houses in the Brookfield Center Historic District. One of the oldest is 150 Whisconier Road, a 1-1/2-story saltbox with the distinctive feature of small horizontal windows at the second floor. Another example is 169 Whisconier Road, which has twin chimneys and central hall, an early configuration for its c.1740 date. It is a large house with a high roof.
The Federal style is represented in the Brookfield Center Historic District by vernacular buildings with Federal details, rather than by completely developed buildings. For example, 167 Whisconier Road has a Federal doorway surrounded by reeded pilasters and lintel, and a fret molding under the raking cornices and along the eaves of the side elevations. Semi-elliptical attic windows are found in 140 Whisconier Road.
The Greek Revival, on the other hand, is fully articulated in several houses. The example at 9 Winding Road, with temple-form-pediment facing the street, displays chaste simplicity in its Doric portico (the fluted columns have no bases) and unusual glazing in its transom and attic windows.
At 148 Whisconier Road the side and transom lights and attic window are glazed in the more conventional paired-muntin-fret pattern, but protection is afforded the front entrance by the less conventional shed-roofed hood. A Greek Revival addition to an older house at 6 Long Meadow Hill Road forms an imposing portico.
The mid-19th century brought construction of the present edifice of the Congregational Church (1854) at 160 Whisconier Road. While its general form is late Greek Revival, the arched sections connecting the tops of the pilasters and the sawn foliate cresting over the front entrance (perhaps added) foretell the end of the century. Diagonally across the street the first Town House, built in 1796, was replaced in 1875 with the present Italianate edifice which is distinguished by the chamfered posts and flared pyramidal roof of its entrance tower. The next year, in 1876, Center School was erected directly across the street from the Town House. In the 1950s, when a brick wing to the north was added, the original building was faced with brick, but its distinctive small central tower with low pyramidal roof remains.
The Gothic Revival style is represented by one house, St. Paul's Rectory, 9 Long Meadow Hill Road. The pointed-arch window at the top of its central projecting tower and the pierced trefoils of its porch brackets are characteristic of the style.
The Italianate style was most fully developed in the Brookfield Center Historic District at 164 Whisconier Road (1875), whose repetitive segmental shapes and heavy brackets with pendants qualify it as the High Victorian Italianate. A more restrained expression of the Italianate is given by St. Paul's School at 3 Long Meadow Hill Road.
After the Civil War, little building took place in the Brookfield Center Historic District for the balance of the century. Consequently, some late-19th century styles are not represented in the district. The Queen Anne, however, is present, but, as in the case of the Federal style, only in details and alterations. A case in point is the added projecting Queen Anne 2-story bay with cutaway corners at 155 Whisconier Road.
In the early-20th century, Curtis School built a gymnasium (1907), 184 Whisconier Road (rear, in the Rustic style fashionable at the time. The rubble-stone hipped-roof building is easily identified as a product of the years (1905-1920) when the Rustic mode, associated with the Arts-and-Crafts movement, was in vogue. As the century progressed, little in the way of Colonial Revival architecture was built until 1930, when the stone-and-clapboard house at 149 Whisconier Road took its place in the district with pleasant proportions and classically derived trim (tripartite bay window, semi-elliptical attic window) typical of the Colonial Revival. St. Paul's Church, 174 Whisconier Road, the last of the contributing buildings in the Brookfield Center Historic District (1937), in a sense turned the clock back by its design with pointed-arch openings and castellated tower, patterned after a Dorset, England, model.
The newest [in 1991] building in the Brookfield Center Historic District is on-going construction on the vacant corner of the main intersection. It is to be St. Joseph's Church, and will be sited at the diagonal with the tower and front entrance facing the corner.
Scattered along Whisconier Road, several surviving 19th century barns add to the rural sense of the Brookfield Center Historic District. The 3-story bank barns at 149 Whisconier Road and 155 Whisconier Road are among the largest.
The Brookfield Center Historic District is significant architecturally because it consists of a group of residential, religious, and municipal buildings which are good examples of many styles of the 18th-20th centuries with a concentration from the 19th century, pre-1875. The buildings exist in their original relationship to one another in a good state of preservation, free of intrusions, giving an accurate sense of how the village developed over time.
After settlement, c.1700, the nominated area first gained local identity in 1754 by the establishment of the Parish of Newbury, named for the neighboring towns of New Milford, Newtown, and Danbury. The same three municipalities each yielded some land, in 1788, to form the Town of Brookfield, named after the Reverend Thomas Brooks, the first Congregational minister, who served from 1755 to 1796. Population reached its 19th-century peak of 1,445 in 1840 when, in addition to farming, there was modest industrial activity of gristmills, sawmills, manufacturing of combs and hats, and an iron forge at the village of Brookfield Iron Works (now Brookfield) north, of the Center.
The center of religious and political life was at the crossroads of Brookfield Center, where the first church was built, the town hall, Center School, and tavern. In addition to the present store, there was a second across the street north of 169 Whisconier Road and a third, with a tailor shop, south of 164 Whisconier Road. An early animal pound was located south of 140 Whisconier Road where a cabinet repair shop was conducted which expanded into a carriage manufactory. The Grange at 145 Whisconier Road and several ministers' residences filled out the list of public and religious buildings.
Toward the end of the 19th century, an unusually large number of private schools were conducted in the Brookfield Center Historic District. Three were of some size and longevity. The first was St. Paul's School, which was built by the Reverend Henry D. Noble in 1858, subsequent to his term as rector of St. Paul's Church, 1844-1858. A boarding school, St. Paul's accommodated 16 scholars at a cost of $300 per year, continuing to 1869. There were morning and evening prayers, and the students attended St. Paul's Church. St. Paul's two buildings were the schoolhouse, 3 Longmeadow Hill Road, and the headmaster's house next door. Both, retain their distinctive features, the schoolhouse its cupola and the residence its stepped rear roof line.
Professor Frederick S. Curtis and Ida J. Curtis moved the Curtis School from Bethlehem to Brookfield Center in 1882, and to its long-term site at the location now occupied by the Brookfield Public Library, 182 Whisconier Road, in 1886. Buildings for the 30 pupils and five instructors included a dormitory, residence, schoolhouse, gymnasium, and caretaker's cottage on 50 acres. The boys attended the Congregational Church. Subsequent to the school's closing in the late 1930s, all buildings have disappeared except the gymnasium, 184 Whisconier Road (rear).
In 1900, when Professor H. W. Greene (1851-1924) of New York City bought 153 Whisconier Road as a summer home, his students followed him. The group soon evolved into the Brookfield Summer School of Singing, holding sessions each summer until Greene's death. The curriculum consisted of voice, opera, sight singing, elementary piano, and elements of music. In addition to Greene's home, seven other buildings in the neighborhood used for dormitory, dining hall, instruction, practice rooms, and reading rooms included the barn at 149 Whisconier Road, 150 Whisconier Road, 152 Whisconier Road, and 155 Whisconier Road. Operas were presented in the lower floor of Hill Crest Hall to an audience of 250. All of these Greene School of Music buildings are still standing.
More than a dozen buildings extant in the Brookfield Center Historic District relate to its educational history. Three are churches, two were town halls, and five are church-related residences. The presence of these buildings in the district demonstrates that historically the Brookfield Center Historic District was the center of the religious, educational, and political life of the Town of Brookfield.
The Brookfield Center Historic District presents a good example of a wide range of architectural styles in a compact area. Most of the buildings are well preserved and, since the area is relatively free of intrusions, give a good sense of their historic relationship to one another and of the sequence of building and development in the district.
Among individual buildings of outstanding architectural significance there are several 18th-century houses. 150 Whisconier Road is different, from the others because of its small longitudinal second-floor windows. The high roofs of 169 Whisconier Road and 6 Long Meadow Hill Road set them apart.
Nineteenth-century houses worthy of special mention are in both the Greek. Revival and Italianate styles. The chaste simplicity and restraint in the Greek Revival design of 9 Winding Hill Road and the unusual glazing make it a classic of its type, while the imposing portico of 6 Long Meadow Hill Road is all the more of interest because it is an addition to an older house.
In the Italianate style, three buildings are outstanding. St. Paul's School retains its original shape and mass. 172 Whisconier Road, little altered, displays the characteristic features of three bays, floor-to-ceiling height 4-over-4 windows at the first floor, eyebrow windows in the frieze, and low hipped roof, while 164 Whisconier Road is of major interest because its Italianate features are executed in sufficient baroque extreme to qualify as the High Victorian Italianate, making the house, which is unique in the district, a major example of the style.
In the 20th century before 1940, building activity was slow; only three distinctive examples of the period were erected. They are the only three buildings in the Brookfield Center Historic District using stone as a material. The Curtis School Gymnasium with its rubble walls and bracketed roof overhang is the district's example of the Rustic style, while 149 Whisconier Road, using stone at the first floor, is a well-designed Colonial Revival home, with typical fenestration. St. Paul's Church is a scholarly exercise in Gothic Revival studied after an English pattern, notable for the fact that the exterior and interior are cohesive and equally integral components of the whole. The fact that the edifice was constructed of material salvaged from stone walls in the neighboring fields adds to the church's relevance to the community.
Beers, F.W. Atlas of New York and Vicinity. New York: F.W. Beers, 1867.
"A Brief History of St. Paul's Church, Brookfield, Connecticut." Brookfield: St. Paul's Church, 1985.
Hawley, Emily C. Annals of Brookfield, Fairfield County, Connecticut. Brookfield, 1929.
Pierce, A.C. "Days of Old" Remembered [sic]. 1980 reprint Bridgeport: Gould & Stiles, 1876.
Report of the Historic District Study Committee. Brookfield Center, Connecticut, November 1972.
"St. Paul's School, Brookfield, Conn." Flier, 1865.
Sherman, Samuel. "Historical Sketch of the Town of Brookfield," read before Grange No.141, December 2, 1896.
Szen, David S. "The Bride's House, 164 Whisconier Road, Brookfield Center, Connecticut." c.1988.
Tuck, Al. Historian of St. Paul's Church. Interview, 24 November 1990.
Whittlesley, Marilyn. A Look Back, Brookfield, Connecticut. Brookfield: Heritage Committee, 1988.