Farmington Historic District
The Farmington Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. 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 Farmington Historic District has many very distinguished structures. All of them deserve thorough study; a few of the more interesting ones, characteristic of the Farmington Historic District, are described below.
The Meeting House, 1771, the third built in the Village, was designed and built by Judah Woodruff, builder of many of the houses in the town. The earlier meeting houses were built in 1672 and 1708. The present structure retains the early form of entry and pulpit on the long sides, rather than at the ends. It was Charles Bulfinch who broke the tradition of the pulpit set lengthwise at the side, and began the practice of the long nave. The Farmington Church is the only original Congregational church in Connecticut with its entry at the side. The centered entry has three windows on each side and represents later work, for it is in Greek Revival style, with large columns supporting a heavy entablature. Decoration elsewhere is sparse as would be expected. At the north end is a bell tower, starting at the ground and extending above the roof line. Near the top is a clock, then a balustrade in the center of which is the bell stage. The arch of the bell section is repeated just above, though this is closed. Topping the whole tower is an unusually slender and graceful steeple which can be seen for miles.
This church represents an excellent example of its style and period. It was built as the focal point of the community and remains an important structure there.
The Union Hotel, c.1830, once served the passengers of the Farmington Canal. An ill-fated adventure, the Canal was begun in 1825 and ran from New Haven to Northampton, Massachusetts, planned eventually to be extended to Canada. The first boat was launched in 1828 amid much fanfare, but by 1848 the canal was no longer in use. The Union Hotel became part of Miss Porter's School, now serving as the administration building.
The old hotel is a striking brick building standing near the road. Its porch contains a frieze and dentils, and white columns in Greek Doric style. The front entry is unmistakably Greek, its door set off by four-pane sidelights and a four-pane over-door light. The windows have stone sills and lintels and proper six-over-six sash. The building is square with a low-hipped roof and four corner chimneys. The cupola rising from the center of the roof has Greek details; beneath the turned balusters is a frieze of triglyphs and metopes with modillions above. Corner pilasters matching those at front porch complete the detail here.
John Hart House, c.1740. This is an early house in the Farmington Historic District built by Judah Woodruff. Its characteristic 9-window facade contains a centered double-leaf entryway framed with decorative elements. The flat pediment contains a foliated motif suggested again at the capitals of the fluted pilasters at either side of the entry. This is the only ornamentation on the structure. Windows are plain, with proper twelve-over-twelve sash. The overhang at second story level in the gable ends is a carry-over from earlier times. The form is typical: a center chimney with rooms to the sides and, originally, at least, a kitchen across the rear.
Farmington was settled in 1640 and became a town five years later. In 1774 it was the tenth most populous town in the colonies after Boston, Newport, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, Salem, Baltimore, New Haven and Norwich, Connecticut. In that year its grand list was nearly 50% greater than the grand list of Hartford.
Farmington owed its eminence to the enterprise of its merchants whose ships came up the Connecticut River as far as Middletown, where their cargos of sugar, molasses, rum and indigo were carted to Farmington for distribution to the new settlements such as Litchfield to the west and Northampton to the north. Business flourished in Farmington Village with its tinsmiths and silversmiths, hat makers, linen makers, leather workers, and makers of muskets, buttons and carriages. A canal which is still partly in evidence was a vital part of this commerce.
Within the Farmington Historic District and contiguous areas are concentrated about 115 houses dated prior to 1835 all still in use mostly as residences. Some have been changed very little, others have been altered or added to meet the exigencies of daily living as time went on.
The Farmington Historic District is by no means a museum-type town, but rather a living community of fine homes and a nationally-known school for girls. The concentration of these buildings within a relatively small area is one of its distinguishing features. Another interesting feature that can be noted is that houses of four different centuries are harmoniously sited within short distances of one another, the oldest being the Stanley-Whitman House which is already included in the National Register of Historic Places.
Many of the old houses are still occupied by descendants of the early settlers. It is interesting to note that in 1962 at the tercentenary celebration of the founding of Farmington, descendants of each of the seven original founders of the church were still living in the town.
Farmington, Connecticut (The Village of Beautiful Houses). By Arthur Brandegee and Eddie Smith City Printing Company, Hartford, Connecticut, 1906.
Farmington, Connecticut. By Wesley Sherwood Bessell. The White Pine Monograph Series Vol, XII — No. 2, 1926.
Farmington House File. A file of historic data and photographs of houses in "Farmington Room" of the Village Library, Farmington, Connecticut. Compiled by the late Mrs. Wilmarth S. Lewis and Mrs. Mabel Hurlburt.
Short History of Farmington. By Lydia Hewes. Connecticut Printers, 1936.
Julius Gay Papers. A compilation of fourteen historical addresses delivered by Julius Gay before the Village Library Company of Farmington and the Connecticut Historical Society, the first address presented in 1890. Privately printed in 1929.
Early Connecticut Meetinghouses. By J. Frederick Kelly. Columbia University Press, 1948.
Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut. By J. Frederick Kelly. Yale University Press, 1924.
Farmington Church and Town. By Mabel S. Hurlburt. The Pequot Press. Stonington, Connecticut, 1957.
National Trust Quarterly Publication. Fourth Quarter 1971 featured an article on the old houses of Farmington.
† Richard D. Butterfield and James McA Thomson, Farmington Historic District Commission, Farmington Historic District, Farmington, CT, nomination document, 1971, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.