Revonah Manor Historic District
The Revonah Manor Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
Located approximately one mile north of the old Town Hall along the eastern side of Bedford Street (an extension of Atlantic Avenue), the Revonah Manor Historic District comprises a 3-block, 25-acre to the northeast of the intersections of Bedford and Fifth Streets. Bounded to the south by Fifth Street, to the west by Bedford Street, it includes all of Urban and Chester Streets, as well as Revonah Street north of Fifth Street. This slightly sloping area was, except for the northwestern side, laid out in 1909 in an orthogonal grid pattern. In that location Urban Street's curvature accommodates a large rock outcropping. Of the 50 residences in the Revonah Manor Historic District, all but 11, which were built after 1935, contribute to the district's significance as good examples of the Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Arts and Crafts, and Queen Anne styles. For the most part the non-contributing dwellings are Ranch-style or recent vintage Colonial Revival houses. There is a small park on the southwestern corner of Chester Street, and there are no other vacant lots.
Since most of the Revonah Manor Historic District was developed and built by Henneberger and Jevne, using Lawrence Barnard as their architect, there is a great uniformity of scale and style in this residential neighborhood. Houses are set back 50 feet along wide tree-lined streets. Four styles were used almost exclusively: Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Arts and Crafts, and Queen, Anne. Variety in the Revonah Manor Historic District was achieved in a de-facto manner, created by the different tastes of the original purchasers of the lots. Urban Street, the northernmost in the district, is, with the exception of one Tudor Revival house, composed primarily of Colonial Revival and Arts-and-Crafts style houses. Chester Street houses are predominantly Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival in appearance while Revonah Avenue, to the east, is composed of Arts and Crafts and Colonial Revival houses. Fifth Street, the most southerly in the Revonah Manor Historic District, continues the general distribution of the district, being an amalgam of Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, and Colonial Revival homes. Bedford Street contains only two buildings, one each of the Arts and Crafts and Queen Anne styles. Noncontributing buildings are scattered throughout the district.
The Arts and Crafts buildings in the Revonah Manor Historic District are among the most prominent and will be discussed first. The most distinctive are to be found on Urban Street and Revonah Avenue. 70 Urban Street (c.1910), built for a member of the Henneberger family, the developers, is set on a slight rise and is very severe in its detail, its architectural impact comes from its massing. Since its construction, its arcaded porch and porte-cochere have been enclosed. 81 Revonah Manor (1910), designed for the aunt of Jevne, one of the developers, is also one of the more impressive houses designed in this mode. It should be noted for its gambrel roof, oversized Doric columns, and subtle combinations of wood and stone. More typical Arts and Crafts homes can be found at 32 Urban Street (1914), where massing provides most of the effect, and in 26 Chester Street (c.1915), which contains a combination of Tudor and Craftsman elements. This combination of elements can also be found in the less successful 60 Urban Street (1915).
The Colonial Revival was an extremely popular style in Connecticut in the early 20th century and a large percentage of the buildings in the Revonah Manor Historic District were built in this mode. Excellent examples can be found throughout the district. Of note is 79 Urban Street (c.1925), with its late-Georgian entry. 57 Urban Street (1921) is a more staid, formal rendition of a double-pile house. 41 Chester Street (1925), with its Doric entry is typical of the massing of the Colonial Revival house in the area. 14 Chester Street (1928), with its overhang and ball finials, evokes an earlier Colonial Revival period. 38 Urban Street (1911) combines Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts elements to make a vaguely Colonial Revival building. On Fifth Street are found less pretentious Colonial Revival houses, while 57 Revonah Avenue (1920) makes creative use of Colonial Revival elements in its corbelled denticulated entry topped by a bay window.
The Tudor Revival style is not as greatly represented in the Revonah Manor Historic District, but one of the most distinctive houses in the area, the original home of Henry Jevne at 46 Chester Street (1909), was designed in that style. It dominates the entire streetscape. The asymmetrically shaped rubble-faced ground floor and stuccoed second floor contain decorations and details that are far superior to those of the building's neighbors. The other Tudor houses are more formulaic in design and include simple half-timbering and an occasional carved bargeboard or distressed lintel; i.e., 38 Chester Street (1915) and 69 Urban Street (1924).
Queen Anne homes were generally considered out of date by the time this district was built, and only one retardataire example does exist, a simply massed dwelling at 94 Fifth Street (1910).
The non-contributing structures in the Revonah Manor Historic District were all built after 1935 and are either Ranch houses, vaguely Colonial Revival in style, or vernacular variants on the those two styles. Although one was built in 1945 and one in 1986, the majority were constructed between 1955 and 1960.
Revonah Manor derives its significance from the fact that it is the best-preserved of one of Stamford's first residential developments. Laid out in 1909 by a well-known developer from Westchester County, New York, the development was planned to appeal to the wealthy families who sought the clean and convenient suburban life within an hour of Manhattan's congestion. Due to the exclusive nature of the development, by restrictive covenants, a large number of generously sized residences were constructed in four modes: Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, Arts-and-Crafts, and Colonial Revival. For the most part, the house designs were based on plans by Rye, New York architect, Lawrence Barnard. This derives its architectural significance from the cohesiveness created by the limitation of styles, the uniformity of building setback, and by the high quality of the house designs.
On January 5,1909, Herman Henneberger and his son-in-law, Henry Jevne, in one of Stamford's largest cash transactions, purchased approximately 180 acres from the heirs of Alfred Hoyt. This acreage was the last large real estate holding of the Hoyt family, well-known local bankers and entrepreneurs. Representing the culmination of an extensive search by the developers for a large tract of suitable land within an hour's commute from New York City, this purchase can be seen as the vanguard of developments that turned Stamford into a bedroom community for metropolitan New York.
Henneberger was originally a successful commission merchant and an officer in the New York National Guard. He began his real career in Mount Vernon, New York, where he built the highly successful Villa Park community. He then moved to New Rochelle, New York, where he owned extensive property. At the time of his purchase of the Stamford parcel, he also owned 150 acres in Pelham Bay in New York City, a parcel that, in 1909, was valued at $750,000.
The Hoyt property lent itself ideally to residential development, it was entirely surrounded by roads, and accessibility was no problem. Prior to the development of downtown Stamford, its elevation provided picturesque views, including a broad sweep of Long Island Sound. Its proximity to downtown Stamford, being less than a mile from the old Town Hall, also to prospective landowners. Furthermore, development in Stamford was moving inexorably northward, and by 1914, the streetcars were to come within a minute's walk of the property. Although advertised as having good drainage, this was not, in fact, the case. A local stream, Toilsome Brook, had to be channelized before construction could begin.
Jevne and Henneberger were in no rush to develop their property. Initially stating that their immediate intentions were to make over the Hoyt homestead (not in district) and to build a residence for Mr. Jevne, they also announced that they planned to dispose of the majority of the property in ten-acre lots for the construction of houses similar to those on adjacent Strawberry Hill. Jevne further declared a predilection for constructing his house in a French Chateauesque mode. If there was not sufficient demand for such upper-class housing, then the tract would be sold in smaller lots with the following stipulation as reported in the Stamford Advocate "... the entire tract will be restricted, and only first-class residences will be permitted to be built." It was anticipated that this would be Stamford's first elitist, large-scale residential development. It was meant to be an answer to Rockridge in Greenwich or Beechmont in New Rochelle. In actual fact, it became Stamford's first development for the upper-middle class.
The method of large lot development did not meet with success, and Henneberger and Jevne, in April, 1909, subdivided the southerly portion of their property into smaller lots, and focused on the sale of the area as an economically restricted upper-middle-class area. Minimum lot sizes of 100 by 150 feet were established, a 50 foot minimum setback was required, and no home was to be erected for a cost of less than $6500. This was the only area in northern Stamford whose residential use was guaranteed by restrictive covenant. Henneberger and Jevne arranged with Lawrence Barnard, a Rye architect with whom they had worked previously, to draw up five suggested plans for houses. Three streets were laid out: Urban, Chester, and Revonah, and the area was named Revonah after the Catskill retreat of a friend of Henneberger. In actual fact, Revonah is merely Hanover spelled backwards, the name being derived from the birthplace of Henneberger's friend. The street names, with the exception of Revonah, were the same as those used by Henneberger in his New York developments.
In supplying macadamized streets, brick gutters, concrete walks, city water, sewer, gas, electric lights; in restricting frontages to a minimum of 100 feet; and in protecting the residents from the influx of "undesirable persons," the developers appealed to those seeking a clean suburban setting away from the societal and sanitary ills of the city. The provision of uniform plans and excellent sanitary conditions echoed the national dissatisfaction with the fragmented planning and diverse architecture of the nation's existing suburbs.
Development of the area continued throughout the first three decades of this century, leaving very few unoccupied lots by 1935. The first houses, built on Urban and Chester Streets, were for members of the Henneberger and Jevne family. By 1912, 25 building sites had been purchased, and 8 homes had been completed. In 1913, 26 lots for 12 houses were sold to an Albert Flandreau of New York. Flandreau's scheme failed, and Henneberger and Jevne subsequently built the 12 houses. Following this transaction, the Daily Advocate, noting that relatively few lots remained for sale, wrote: "When these cottages are completed, the Manor will indeed be a perfect park and a show place of the city."
In several advertisements and commentaries on Revonah Manor, there were vague references to the City Beautiful Movement and sanitary reform, concerns which were echoed in every city of any size during this era, making this type of development typical for a city the size of Stamford. Although far from being a grand plan for suburban housing, Revonah Manor represents, at a very low level, an attempt to incorporate national concerns for controlled, beautiful, and sanitary development into a successful real estate venture. Clearly Revonah Manor Historic District is Stamford's first creation of a planned neighborhood that embodies national concerns for safe, clean and beautiful housing in a suburban setting.
As already noted above, the uniformity of style, i.e., Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, Arts and Crafts, and Colonial Revival, in this district was intentional, and thus, the district distinctive cohesiveness of style and material. Since Barnard designed most of the structures, and most were built by Henneberger and Jevne, the consistent architectural quality of the is no surprise. The choice of architectural styles by Barnard and his clients is consistent with American upper-middle-class taste in the first decades of this century, and stems from well-discussed concerns and sources. As one would expect, the majority of the homes are Colonial Revival, echoing their owners' chauvinistic urge to associate with a genteel, democratic, and pastoral era of American history.
The visual image created by this collection of uniform structures is quite remarkable, for it avoids becoming a boring enfilade of four-room Colonial boxes. 49 through 25 Chester Street provide an extremely cohesive Colonial Revival image each varying from the other in materials, yet all maintaining a strong degree of similarity through their respective massings. 41 Urban Street should be noted for its Doric entry and side porches. 57 Revonah Avenue's corbel-supported, denticulated gable entry is surmounted by a bay window that breaks the denticulated eave cornice, enlivening an otherwise excessively regular facade. 81 and 91 Revonah Avenue offer freer interpretations of the Colonial Revival, with some decidedly Arts and Crafts overtones in the simplicity of materials, and the exaggerated scale of the Tuscan porch columns. It is with these buildings that Barnard seems to have achieved his greatest success, creating rather lively architectural statements. In addition, the somewhat pluralistic, democratic, almost socialistic sources of the Arts and Crafts movement would have appealed to the generally self-made upper-middle-class residents in this area. 38 Urban Street was designed in the same spirit, while 70 Urban Street, with its stucco facade, complex hipped roofline deeply overhanging eaves, and horizontal massing could serve as a definition for an Arts and Crafts house.
The second most popular style in the Revonah Manor Historic District, the Tudor Revival, held dissimilar associations from the Arts and Crafts mode during the early 20th century. The style was meant to evoke the baronial calm and splendor of the Elizabethan era and, due to its English derivation, was considered more appropriate to American soil than Norman Revival, a style that Henry Jevne had announced that he preferred. That the developers chose this style for their family home could also be seen as an implication of seigneurial power over their neighbors.
46 Chester St, designed for a members of the Henneberger family, is the Revonah Manor Historic District's best example of the Tudor Revival style. Its rambling plan, stone ground floor, and stucco upper floors indicate Barnard's ability with the style. Most of the rest of the north side of Chester Street, as if in obedient concert, serve as Tudor background buildings supporting the Jevne House.
By 1909, the Queen Anne was generally considered retardataire, with its dark, dirty nooks and crannies and its ostentatious massing, but two anomalies exist in the Revonah Manor Historic District: 2043 Bedford Street and 94 Fifth Street. These two rather conservative examples serve as reminders of the occasionally conservative tastes that occurred even in planned communities.
Little is known of the architect of this community, Lawrence Barnard. Neither his obituary nor any personal papers have surfaced to permit judgment of his work at Revonah Manor in relation to the rest of his oeuvre. From the surviving drawings, and material related to Revonah Manor, it can be seen that he was a competent yet not highly inspired designer of domestic architecture.
In sum, Revonah Manor is significant due to the fact that it is Stamford's first planned neighborhood whose architectural totality projects a strongly cohesive image, and it also serves as an indicator of upper-middle-class taste in the first three decades of this century.
Kahn, Renee, comp. Stamford. Connecticut Historic Resources Inventory. Stamford. Connecticut: Stamford Community Development Program, 1978.
Stamford Directory. Stamford. Connecticut: Gillespie Brothers, 1883-1896; Price and Lee, 1897-1929.
Stamford, Town of. Land Records.
________Tax Assessor's Records.
Kornwolf, James. M.H. Baillie Scott and the Arts and Crafts Movement. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1972.
Naylor, Gillian. The Arts and Crafts Movement. Cambridge. Mass.: MIT Press, 1971.
Palliser, George, and Charles Palliser. Palliser's American Architecture. Bridgeport, Conn.,:Palliser & Co., 1888.
________ American Cottage Homes. Bridgeport: Palliser & Co., 1878.
________ Palliser's New Cottage Homes and Details. New York: Palliser, Palliser & Co. 1887.
Pfeiffer, Carl. Pfeiffer's American Mansions. Boston: Ticknor & Co., 1885.
Rhodes, William. The Colonial Revival In America, unpublished PHD dissertation. Princeton, 1977.
Wright, Gwendolyn. Moralism and the Model Home. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1980.
Maps and Views
Insurance Maps of Stamford. Fairfield County. Connecticut. New York: Sanborn Map Company, 1906.
†Steven Bedford, HNPP and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Revonah Manor Historic District, Stamford, CT, nomination document, 1986, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.