Harts Corner Historic District
The Hart's Corner Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The Hart's Corner Historic District is located at the junction of Monce and Stafford roads in the southeast corner of Burlington, Connecticut. It consists of three rural historic properties dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which together contain seven contributing buildings and two non-contributing resources.
On the west side of Monce and Stafford roads is the oldest farming complex in the Hart's Corner Historic District, the Hart Place or Hollow Oak Farm, almost hidden from view by mature trees and shrubbery. It includes a one-and-one-half story Colonial Cape (ca.1794) (26'x28') with an extended ell (30'x 66'). The main block and the kitchen ell, which rest on a rubble stone foundation, have plank walls sided with clapboard. Most of the original twelve-over-twelve windows have been replaced by one-over-one sash. A Colonial Revival style porch was added to the south and east sides in 1911. The interior displays plain board trim and casings on the corner posts. The summer beam, which protrudes slightly from the plastered ceiling in the southeast parlor, was cut for the installation of a staircase in the 1920s, the only structural change to the original floor plan. The kitchen fireplace has a brick surround and a simple board mantel, with two cupboards above. Most of the doors opening out of this room are the board-and-batten type with their original thumb latches.
A working farm of 66 acres until about 1960, the Hart Place also includes an attached woodshed and grain room (to the rear of the ell), two barns, a garage, and a chicken house with incubator in the cellar. The horse barn (28'x40') with an open shed attached on the east side and the cow barn (30'x40') have cut sandstone foundations. The massive hewn beams of the barns are pegged together in a typical bent configuration. Both have vertical siding and cupolas. The sandstone foundation of a former, slaughterhouse, (25'x30') is located in the woods about 300 feet to the west of the complex of buildings. A nineteenth century icehouse, which was also part of this farm property, is no longer standing. The buildings of the Hart Place are surrounded by open land. Open meadows, swamp, and second growth timberland are located to the south and west. The timberline extends to within 200 feet of the complex of buildings.
Across the road to the northeast of the sharp intersection of Stafford Road with Monce Road is the Franklin Norton House, a Greek Revival style farmhouse (ca.1850). To the south, across Stafford Road, is the 1874 George Washington Hart House, a typical late-nineteenth century farmhouse influenced by the Italianate style. Although the Franklin Norton House has been aluminum-sided, it has retained its original one-and-one-half story ell with a porch on the west side of the gable-to-street main block. The full pediment contains a segmental-arch fixed sash common in the late Greek Revival period. A modern garage is located to the northeast of the house. The later Sylvester Hart House was built in a cross-gable configuration. The projecting pavilion on the facade (west elevation), with a bay window at the first story, is flanked by open porches elaborated with brackets and foliated spandrels. The porch on the south end extends into a modern deck.
Prior to about 1950, these three farmhouses with their associated outbuildings were the only buildings in the area. Although the Hart's Corner Historic District is still predominantly rural, and no other buildings are visible to the north and south, modern residential development has begun to encroach on this area, particularly along Stafford Road to the east. The widening and straightening of Monce and Stafford roads about 1980 drastically changed the appearance of this formerly scenic country road. The setback of the Hart Place was also reduced by approximately 15 feet at that time but the integrity of the complex has not been substantially affected. A large maple tree, more than 200 years old, in front of the house, cited in the property descriptions of the nineteenth century, was preserved. The preservation of the rural character of the Hart's Corner Historic District has been fostered by the owner of the Hart Place, who has donated most of her undeveloped land (60+ acres) as the "Ernest and Ruth Hart Nature Reserve" to the Heritage Land Preservation Trust of Torrington in memory of her parents, reserving for herself the six acres surrounding the complex.
The Hart's Corner Historic District, a microcosm of Connecticut agrarian history, provides a well-preserved tangible record of the life and fortunes of the Hart family, Burlington farmers for five generations. It contains three farmhouses and assorted outbuildings, including two well-preserved nineteenth-century barns, which illustrate the development of rural historic architecture from 1794 to 1873.
The Hart's Corner Historic District has been associated with one family for almost 180 years. Of the four or five farmhouses located here since the nineteenth-century, three owned or built by members of the Hart family are still standing. The oldest farm property in the Hart's Corner Historic District was built on 170 acres of land amassed by the Reverend Samuel Newell in the second tier of lots of the first division of Farmington (later Bristol, now Burlington). Newell, a Yale graduate (1781), served as a minister to New Cambridge, later Bristol, for a brief period. His extensive home farm elsewhere in Farmington's reserve was left to his surviving son, Samuel; his property in the historic district to his daughters, Mary Newell Hungerford and Anna (Amy) Hooker. The daughters sold the undeveloped property to Israel Barnes over a period of five years (1790-1795). One parcel of 56 acres sold to Barnes in 1790 was mortgaged by him with a dwelling house in 1794, establishing that the Colonial Cape-style house was built in that brief period. David Norton (1779-1847), the great-great-grandfather of the present owner, purchased the property from Barnes in 1807. Before Norton died, he willed his property to his second wife Dolly Botsford and his children, leaving the home farm to his wife and two sons, having sold his property across the street in 1846 to his eldest son Franklin, also a farmer. Franklin (the great uncle of the present owner of the Hart Farm) was responsible for building the Greek Revival style house now standing. The Monce Road property was sold to Sylvester Hart (1820-1877) in 1852, several years after he married David Norton's youngest daughter Peninah (1822-1902). Of the five children born to Sylvester and Peninah, two daughters died in infancy, and two daughters survived to adulthood. Sylvester's only son, George Washington Hart, was his sole heir.
Sylvester was a butcher by trade with his son, George W., under the name of S. C. Hart & Son. When he died in 1877, his inventory included butchering equipment of assorted kinds, barrels of beef and pork, and a "business wagon." The cellar of the ell of the eighteenth-century house has large wrought-iron hooks imbedded in the massive beams where carcasses were hung for curing. The value of the inventory, excluding the buildings apparently, was $911; accounts receivable exceeded $7,000 noted by the appraiser as "doubtful or worthless."
George Washington Hart (1849-1901) moved across the road to a new Italianate farmhouse, which was built about 1874, shortly after his marriage to Jennie Webster. Sylvester had purchased the land, described as "south of the new highway" (Stafford Road), in 1854 from Franklin Norton. George and Jennie had three children including Ernest, the father of the present owner.
By the end of the nineteenth century, George had several financial reverses, including the foreclosure of his mortgage on his house and 54 acres of land with the cow barn across the road in 1888. Peninah, who had retained ownership of her dower right in the old homestead (where she lived with George and Jennie) and 40 acres on the east side of the road, sold the properties to her daughter-in-law by 1895, who in turn conveyed them to her son Ernest in 1914. Earnest Hart (1878-1970) married Ruth Atwater (1882-1945). In 1917 he bought back the land with the cow barn and the George W. Hart House. The latter was sold in 1923 and he lived out his life as a successful poultry farmer at the original homestead. His daughter inherited the farm.
The three well-preserved farmhouses of the Hart's Corner Historic District are rural Connecticut archetypes. Not only do they represent three distinct stylistic periods, but these historic properties are also representative examples of construction methods and types built by the majority of Connecticut farming families in three different eras of the state's history.
The earliest, the 1794 Colonial Cape built by Israel Barnes, is a modest dwelling, typical of rural farmhouses built in central Connecticut from about 1740 to 1840. Noted for its simplicity and ease of construction, the Cape form was utilized by farmers of modest circumstances in outlying areas such as Hart's Corner. With no near neighbors, out-livers like Barnes had to be self-sufficient, quite often relying solely on their own labor. These restrictions often precluded the use of a larger two-story house with massive posts and girts. A minimal house, it required a kitchen ell from the beginning.
The associated barns, which have been well-maintained, almost overshadow the farmhouse, underscoring the importance of these buildings to the family's livelihood. It is readily apparent that great care was lavished in their construction, particularly in the use of cut stone in the foundation rather than the rubble used for the house. It is dry-laid with great precision, as is the foundation of the former slaughterhouse. These buildings are at least 100 years old. However, construction dates cannot be determined with any degree of certainty since this type of bent construction was used in Connecticut for at least 200 years. (Although the rough-quarried foundation stones display evidence of eighteenth-century quarrying methods, this fact cannot be considered definitive since the possibility of reuse always exists.)
The Greek Revival style farmhouse was almost universally popular around the middle of the nineteenth century in towns as well as rural areas. The urban form was often a simple rectangular block, but here, as in most farmhouses of this style, a one-and-one-half story integral kitchen wing with a porch was included, with a double plate for the half story to provide more headroom in the attic. Although the gable pediment windows varied in this style, often by region and over time, the full pediment and the side-hall main entrance were universally used. As found here, the rectangular form of gable window is an indication of the late Greek Revival style.
The taller, narrower configuration of the Sylvester Hart House across the road is characteristic of the late nineteenth-century farmhouse. The one-room deep main block and the one-bay wide pavilion add to this effect. From the simplicity of form, it is probable that post-and-beam, rather than balloon framing, was used, as was quite common in the rural areas through the nineteenth century. Often embellished with an elaborate porch, as this house is, it can be readily identified as belonging to a successful farmer, an impression confirmed by the family history. However, it was only briefly occupied by the Hart family until a reversal in their fortunes forced them to sell off part of their holdings and retreat to their first, much smaller house.
Andrews, Alfred. Genealogical History of Deacon Stephen Hart And His Descendants, 1632-1875. Hartford: Case Lockwood & Brainard Company Printers, 1875.
Bristol, Connecticut ("In the Olden Time New Cambridge") Which Includes Forestville, Hartford: City Printing Company, 1907.
Map of Burlington, 1855, 1869.
† Jan Cunningham, Cunningham Associated and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Hart's Corner Historic District, Burlington, CT, nomination document, 1986, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.