Redding Center Historic District
The Redding Center Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. 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 Redding Center Historic District encompasses approximately 55 acres near the geographic center of the Town of Redding, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, and includes the original Town Hall and the Congregational Church. The Redding Center Historic District is located at the crossroads of Redding's major historic and current routes: Lonetown Road (Route 107) runs north/south and Cross Highway runs east/west. Hill Road, running northeast from Cross Highway to Lonetown Road (Route 107), connects the two streets in a triangle.
The Redding Center Historic District is the center of earliest settlement in the community. Although comprising predominantly nineteenth-century architecture, the Redding Center Historic District also contains a number of eighteenth-century and early twentieth-century dwellings. Several of the eighteenth-century houses have retained their typical vernacular saltbox, center-chimney form. The most dominant architectural style is the Greek Revival. Four Greek Revival houses remain substantially unaltered. Five others are composite examples: some have been modified from their earlier Federal origins; and other Greek Revival houses were modified in the Italianate or Colonial Revival styles. The remainder of Redding Center's historic buildings are almost equally divided among the Colonial, Federal, Italianate, and Colonial Revival styles and are interspersed in a random pattern throughout this compact district.
The Redding Center Historic District consists of 46 resources, 39 of which contribute to the significance of the district. Seven resources are considered non-contributing. Of the 39 contributing resources, 19 are residences, one is a church, three are municipal buildings, nine are barns, two are garages, three are sheds, one is a carriage house, one is a greenhouse, and one is a cemetery. Of the seven non-contributing resources, three are residences, three are municipal buildings, and one is a nursery school building.
In general the Redding Center Historic District presents the appearance of an early farming community from the Colonial through the Greek Revival periods, with some turn-of-the-century Colonial Revival contributing infill. The Redding Center Historic District is now in rural, residential use, and streets are lined with mature deciduous trees. For the most part, the residences are spaced widely apart, and surrounded by substantial acreage which contributes to the rural, farm-like appearance of the district. A number of the properties feature barns, gates, and stone walls, relics of their use as farms. The Read Cemetery is centrally located in the district. Unlike its neighboring towns such as Fairfield, Redding has preserved its traditional rural qualities as a result of suburbanization.
Most of the buildings in the Redding Center Historic District are residences dating from the early to the middle of the nineteenth century. Many of these buildings, such as 9 Cross Highway, 19 Cross Highway, 4 Lonetown Road, 61 Hill Road, 85 Hill Road, and 118 Sanfordtown Road, exhibit the traditional two or two-and-one-half story, center-chimney, five-bay form that typified houses in Connecticut's inland farming communities. However, the Redding Center Historic District also includes one-and-one-half story and three-bay and four-bay variations of this form, such as 4 Cross Highway, 10 Cross Highway, and 24 Cross Highway. This plan is articulated in Georgian, Federal, and Greek Revival modes. The barn at 4 Cross Highway is one of nine that survive in the Redding Center Historic District.
Several of the buildings feature delicate Federal detailing, such as the Adamesque leaded glass entry fanlight and elliptical window in the gable end of 4 Cross Highway, and the blind elliptical fanlight at 25 Cross Highway. The Samuel Jarvis House, 25A Cross Highway, is an excellent Federal dwelling which was modernized with Greek Revival and Italianate modifications.
66 Hill Road (remodelled between 1825 and 1845) and 85 Hill Road (1840) both exhibit classical Greek Revival forms with gabled pedimented ends and full-height corner pilasters. The former has a portico and the latter a gabled portico, each sheltering an entry formed by sidelights and topped by a multi-light horizontal transom. A more modest execution of the style is found at 118 Sanfordtown Road, notable for its prominent Greek Revival entry with transom and sidelights. The Congregational Church, 25B Cross Highway, with its typical pedimented gable ends and portico and pilastered tower, is significant as a textbook example of the Greek Revival style.
With the exception of two Italianate style houses, 15 Cross Highway and 69 Hill Road, all of the buildings in the Redding Center Historic District date from before the second half of the nineteenth century or from the early twentieth century. Each of the aforementioned buildings is an excellent example of various interpretations of the Italianate style.
During the early decades of the twentieth century, Redding continued as a farming and summer residential community. The buildings dating from this period are Colonial Revival in style. In the Redding Center Historic District two well-detailed Colonial Revival houses exist: 65 Hill Road (1929), a Dutch Colonial Revival dwelling with a typical Doric portico, and 73 Hill Road (1920), a modest cross-gabled one-story cottage that also has a Doric porch. Additionally, a number of earlier houses have been renovated in the Colonial Revival mode. The Redding Town Hall (1882) is a clapboard building with Colonial Revival motifs such as a steep roof and multi-pane windows. 20 Cross Highway has undergone many historic alterations, the most significant of which was Colonial Revival in inspiration: double-height porticos with Palladian windows at the east and west elevations dramatically changed the appearance of the house in the early 20th century.
Another modest example of the Colonial Revival style is the property at 65B Hill Road (ca.1920). Although non-contributing properties, 72 Hill Road (1959) and the Redding Post Office, (1951), are designed in compatible Colonial Revival styles that do not detract from the integrity of the district. The Redding Center Historic District's substantial open space continues to maintain the area's original rural setting.
The Redding Center Historic District is significant because it embodies the distinctive architectural and cultural landscape characteristics of a rural Connecticut community from the late colonial period through the early twentieth century. The area is the crossroads of the historic center of Redding and consists of the most cohesive collection of architecturally significant properties in the community. The resources found in the Redding Center Historic District mirror the development and building patterns that occurred historically in the town. The spacious distribution of buildings, accompanied by many barns and large yards, maintains the appearance of a nineteenth century inland Connecticut farming community. The dominant building type in the Redding Center Historic District, the traditional center-chimney, center-entry, gable-roofed dwelling, is also characteristic of Connecticut farming communities of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Many of these were altered in the early nineteenth century and appear as excellent examples of Greek Revival style buildings. The few later properties in the district — the Italianate style dwellings of the late nineteenth-century and the Colonial Revival style houses of the early twentieth century — embody the distinctive characteristics of their respective styles and contribute to the Redding Center Historic District's significance as an example of a farming community that survived as such until the early part of this century. The Redding Center Historic District includes the Read Cemetery, which contributes to the significance of the district because of the quality of the grave stones.
The cultural landscape of the Redding Center Historic District retains a high degree of historical integrity. The subsequent use of this area as a summer residential community has helped to preserve the district's rural qualities. There have been only six buildings built in the last 50 years; the three residences are each built on large lots and do not impair the overall character of the district. The remaining three are municipal buildings all set back from the village green and executed in restrained Colonial Revival modes.
The historic and architectural character of the Redding Center Historic District is principally derived from its origins as an outlying farming community. One section of Redding, Georgetown, became a successful manufacturing center in the nineteenth century, but Redding Center Historic District remained rural and its economy was agriculturally based.
The Town of Redding was originally a part of the Town of Fairfield, which was founded in 1637. In 1668 Fairfield purchased another tract of land then called Northfield, which comprised what is now known as Redding.
Land grants in what is now the Town of Redding began in 1671, with a grant of eight acres to Richard Osborn for his services in the Pequot War, but the land had not yet been surveyed and Captain Osborn's survey was not authorized until 1693. In 1709 most of the surveys were completed by Fairfield's surveyor John Meredith. John Read, for whom Redding was named, and who was probably the town's earliest settler, purchased several of the early grants and was, according to his records, living at Lonetown, northwest of Redding Center, by 1711.
The Redding Center Historic District, located at the intersection of Cross Highway and Lonetown Road that connected Fairfield with Danbury and Bethel to the north and Newtown and Ridgefield to the east, became the community's religious and political focus. As in most Connecticut towns, the Congregational Church was the first religious body organized in the Town of Redding. In 1729 the Congregational Society obtained release from the mother town of Fairfield to assume parish privileges and three months later, in August, the Society of Redding voted 70 pounds and a house and wood for a minister. Construction of the first church was begun in 1732 to the west of the site of the present church, in the Redding Center Historic District.
As the location of the Congregational Meetinghouse, Redding Center served as the focus of religious and public life for the town. In 1834, the Old Town House was built to be "devoted to public purposes." The Congregational Church (burned in 1842) and the 1838 Methodist Church (now the Congregational Church) were located near each other on Cross Highway with the Redding Town House in between. Although little is known of the actual events that occurred in Redding Center, the area, with two churches and the Town House, must have served as the social center of this farming community. Virtually every resident in the town would have had to visit the area frequently either to attend church or the town's public meetings.
The remainder of buildings in Redding Center were primarily farmsteads, although Zalmon Read, the son of John Read, built and operated a carriage-making establishment at 24 Cross Highway in the early nineteenth century.
Although no substantial commercial activity occurred in Redding Center, the periods of prosperity and decline experienced by the overall community seem to be mirrored in Redding Center's development patterns. The tremendous manufacturing prosperity of the mid-century was reflected in the many ornately detailed examples of the Greek Revival found in Redding Center. In the nineteenth century, the Georgetown section of Redding, like many Connecticut towns, developed a thriving industrial base. The community's most prominent industry was the Gilbert and Bennet Wire Works, which operated from 1818 until a massive fire in 1899. The majority of the community, however, including Redding Center, remained agrarian.
With the decline of industry, after the turn of the century, the town's residents increasingly reverted to farming as their main source of income, probably a major factor in the preservation of Redding Center's rural appearance. Coupled with a return to farming, Redding in the early twentieth century also became a popular summer retreat. Most of the houses specifically built as summer residences were outside of the district. Some of the Redding Center houses may have been used as summer homes for wealthy city dwellers seeking a rural escape.
The Redding Center Historic District contains excellent examples of buildings in the Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Colonial Revival styles.
Many of the houses in the Redding Center Historic District typify the dwellings of Connecticut farmsteads from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They are in an excellent state of preservation and are good examples of their type.
The houses at 24A Cross Highway, 61 Hill Road, 66 Hill Road, 4 Lonetown Road, and 78 Hill Road all feature the braced-frame post-and-beam construction, center chimney, and five-bay fenestration that characterized the vernacular Connecticut dwelling of that period. 4 Cross Highway and 10 Cross Highway are four-bay variations on the type. Moreover, several examples, including 4 Cross Highway and 61 Hill Road, display the use of Georgian or Federal details in the characteristically limited fashion of rural communities. Ornamentation of these houses was rather simple or non-existent.
Greek Revival buildings dominate the Redding Center Historic District; they are the best designed architectural resources in Redding Center. Both institutional and residential in type, they are complemented by the earlier Colonial and Federal resources as well as by the later Italianate dwellings.
With the advent of Redding's relative wealth in the 1830s and 1840s, residents of Redding Center remodelled many of their houses in the then-popular Greek Revival mode. In a departure from the original treatment of their dwellings, many were now elaborately decorated, with ornamental friezes and elaborate entryways. Since most of the Greek Revival houses were renovations, relatively few followed the typical 'temple front' formula in which the end gable of the house faced the street. 66 Hill Road is one of the best examples of the Greek Revival in Redding and further research may uncover the sources for the decorative treatment of the exterior. 118 Sanfordtown Road and 4 Lonetown Road are more typical examples of the style. The Congregational Church is a textbook example of a rural Greek Revival style church.
Although Redding remained a prosperous town in the late nineteenth century, relatively few new houses were built in Redding Center. Those few that were built were Italianate in style. The examples in Redding Center, 15 Cross Highway and 69 Hill Road, are rather subdued. There seems to be little explanation for this. Perhaps the extensive Greek Revival style expansions were deemed adequate to last for several generations; in any event, these buildings contribute to the historic character of the district, maintaining the image of a 19th-century farming town in Connecticut.
The relative decline of Redding in the first half of this century limited the production of the then-overwhelmingly popular Colonial Revival style dwellings mostly to minor alterations of existing structures such as those that occurred at 20 Cross Highway. 65 Hill Road, however, is a good example of a typical Dutch Colonial Revival style house of the late 1920s, while 73 Hill Road should still be considered significant as typifying the taste of Redding's inhabitants during the first third of this century. Town Hall is an excellent example of the successful renovation of a building into the Colonial Revival style during the early twentieth century.
In summation, the Redding Center Historic District, traditionally and currently the focus of Redding's community life, is significant as a collection of well-preserved and well-designed examples of rural dwellings and public buildings dating from the late eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries.
Hurd, D. Hamilton, History of Fairfield County: Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men and Pioneers, J.W. Lewis and Co., Philadelphia, 1881.
Lucas, Nora, and Steven Bedford, Historic and Architectural Survey of Redding, Connecticut, Redding Historic Study Committee and Connecticut Historical Commission., Redding and Hartford, Ct, 1988.
McAlester, Virginia and Lee, A Field Guide To American Houses, Alfred A. Knoph, Inc., New York, 1984.
Todd, Charles Burr, The History of Redding Connecticut, Newburgh Journal Company, Newburgh, New York, 1906.
Redding Remembered, published by the Redding Oral History Project, John Read Middle School, 1979.
Redding Remembered II, published by the Redding Oral History Project, John Read Middle School, undated.
† Nora Lucas and Steve Bedford, Preservation Computer Services, Inc.; John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission; Redding Center Historic District, Redding, Fairfield County, Connecticut, nomination document, 1992, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.