Glastonbury Historic District
The South Glastonbury Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. 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 Glastonbury Historic District of 128 acres encompasses approximately 100 principal structures lining the Main Street of the Town of Glastonbury, across the Connecticut River southeast of Hartford. Most of these structures are frame houses, three of them built in the 17th century and 23 in the 18th century. Forty structures from the 19th century and 33 from the 20th century in the district include several town-owned and commercial buildings. The Glastonbury Historic District includes a large, old cemetery and a small, modern park.
In all, 81 structures are frame, while 14 are brick or brick faced, one stone, four are stucco and one is concrete block. The classification of the buildings by architectural style is as follows: Colonial 17; Georgian 6; Federal 4; Greek Revival 10; Gothic Revival 1; Italianate 1; Second Empire 1; Queen Anne 12; Neo-Classical Revival 3; American Foursquare 10; Bungalow 3; Colonial Revival 6; Georgian Revival 4; Modern Architecture 3; other 19th century 7; other 20th century 12.
The 19 "other" houses include "Cape" and "Ranch" types less than 50 years old and older houses that now have non-original synthetic siding. At the time such siding is added, architectural details that establish style often are lost. An important difference between Glastonbury and most other early Connecticut towns is the absence of an old Congregational Church structure. In Glastonbury, the present Congregational Church was built in 1940 after a hurricane destroyed its predecessor. While the present Greek Revival style edifice visually fulfills the traditional role of the Congregational Church in the town's streetscape, it is less than 50 years old and was built with original synthetic siding to resemble clapboards, so is designated Non-Contributing.
Twenty structures are considered not to contribute to the historic and architectural significance of the district. All are less than 50 years old.
The primary objective in drawing the Glastonbury Historic District boundary was to encompass in the district the 17th and 18th century houses along Main Street that are the core of historic Glastonbury. In so doing it was necessary and desirable to include the 19th and early-20th century structures that complement the earlier buildings and show the development of the district from the time of its settlement to the present day.
There are many 18th century houses in Glastonbury located elsewhere than on Main Street, but Main Street has the heaviest concentration of those structures and therefore is a logical location for an historic district.
Glastonbury's Main Street initially was an Indian trail running from East Hartford south along the east bank of the Connecticut River, eventually leading to the mouth of the Thames River on Long Island Sound. It was adopted as a town street in the last decade of the 17th century and has been maintained for three centuries. Its layout has not been compromised; the wide thoroughfare is flanked by grassy strips and sidewalks from which the houses are comfortably set back. Large shade trees between the street and the sidewalks continue their important presence.
Most of the early structures were built as farmhouses by settlers who were attracted to the town by the attractive prospects for farming. An exception was 1808 Main Street, c.1695, which was built by the town for the first minister. This house has a gambrel roof, as do seven other of the early houses.
As the 18th century developed, gable-roofed houses became common, as may be seen in many examples such as 2015 Main Street. These were conventional, sturdy farmhouses constructed in the usual post-and-beam, mortise-and-tenon manner around a central chimney, with little exterior decorative trim. The Glastonbury Historic District does not have elaborate "Connecticut River" doorways with broken-scroll pediments as are found in such communities as South Windsor and Deerfield. The interiors, on the other hand, often have fine raised paneling, especially in the fireplace walls of the front rooms and corner cupboards. The Glastonbury Historic District has no flared, Dutch roofs and no early shingled siding. In roof framing, ridge pole commonly was not used, the rafters being framed into one another at the peak. The rafters are notched into purlins that in turn are supported by posts. Clapboards typically are fastened over vertical oak planks, as at 1803 Main Street. Several houses have, or did have, interior sliding shutters, as at 1780 and 1815 Main Street.
Toward the end of the 18th century, the Georgian plan of twin chimneys with central hall came into fashion. 2027 Main Street is a fine example of this style, and is one of the relatively small number of 14 brick structures in the district. This house is one of the more elegant in the Glastonbury Historic District with a carefully detailed portico and eaves cornice with pseudo dentil course, incised bed molding and modillion blocks. To the extent that there is a distinctive Glastonbury decorative feature of 18th-century houses, it is found in such elaborate treatment of eaves cornices. Other examples are the two-tiered dentil course at 2015 Main Street, the embellished corona of the Gideon Welles House, 17 Hebron Avenue, formed by a course of vertical recesses and similar treatments at 1805, 2027, 2041 and 2049 Main Street.
The other house in the Glastonbury Historic District notable for its pretensions to elegance, 2200 Main Street, is also brick, but in the Federal style, c.1828. It has carved brownstone lintels, Ionic portico and semi-elliptical fanlight. On the interior, mantels are carved in the Adamesque manner of Samuel McIntyre, the great New England Baroque wood carver and architect.
The more sedate Greek Revival of the early 19th century has valuable representation in the district by the 1835 brick Town Hall at 1944 Main Street, built after the Connecticut constitution of 1818 disestablished the Congregational Church and brought an end to the prior practice of using one meetinghouse for both church and government. The 1835 Town Hall is distinctive for the salmon color of its brick, for its tall double paneled front door and tall, 16-over-16 windows. A frame Greek Revival commercial building, 2281-2289 Main Street, is located at the northern edge of the district.
The romantic revival styles of the later 19th century are found in the Glastonbury Historic District in examples of the Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne and Second Empire modes. Two houses are of chief interest: the 1851 stone Gothic Revival structure at 2190 Main Street and the large, frame Second Empire mansion at 2016 Main Street.
As the turn of the century approached, classical precedent once more was in vogue. In 1906 the Town built a Neo-Classical Revival school at 2252 Main Street of brick and brownstone with Ionic portico. Its hipped roof is one of the 13 hipped roofs in the Glastonbury Historic District. Ten houses along the street are designed in the peculiarly American interpretation of the Neo-Classical Revival known as the American Foursquare style. 2044 Main Street, a square house, combines classically inspired hipped roof, paired porch columns and Palladian derived windows with a Colonial Revival gambrel gable and Queen Anne oriel, the whole encased under the influence of the Shingle style with red shingle siding and red shingles on the roof.
The Town of Glastonbury in the 20th century turned to Colonial Revival and Georgian Revival styles for its public buildings. The Academy School complex at 2155 Main Street has three versions of the red-brick-with-white trim treatment associated with these styles, and a section in Modern Architecture, built from 1915 onward.
Popularity of the Colonial Revival in the 20th century fostered changes to work that had been done in earlier times, including the use of white paint on buildings of all styles in an effort to re-colonialize them. This program was a matter of conscious policy at the time in Connecticut towns, and included reversing changes made in the 19th century to 17th and 18th century structures.
In the Glastonbury Historic District, for instance, a long side porch with turned posts and sawn brackets on the west elevation of 1808 Main Street was removed, the 8x34-foot front porch of 2169 Main Street was removed and many Italianate hoods were replaced by more "correct" porticos or none, as at 1796 and 2015 Main Street. The Italianate hood remains at 2068 Main Street as do several 19th century bays added to 17th and 18th century houses as at 2169 and 2213 Main Street. The Welles-Chapman Tavern at 2400 Main Street, however, lost its big roof dormers, its front door hood and bays to become austere and severe and white, perhaps more so than ever was originally intended. At 2015 Main Street the 2-over-2 windows have been replaced with 12-over-12, while the entrance porch with spindle valence has been removed.
The Glastonbury Historic District is significant for the large number of well-preserved 17th and 18th century houses that stand along its Main Street, and for the good examples of later architectural styles that also are represented. Many of the 17th-century founders of Glastonbury and town leaders of later years resided in the district. The houses have historic significance because of their association with these men.
The land now occupied by the Town of Glastonbury, on the east side of the Connecticut River, originally was part of the Town of Wethersfield, settled in 1634, whose center was on the west side of the river. The meadows of the east bank were attractive for farming from the first, and families were living there by the 1650s. Toward the end of the century these people petitioned the General Court of Connecticut to be set apart as a separate town on the plea that traveling to Wethersfield for church meetings was an undue hardship. Their petition was granted, conditional on finding a minister to take up residence, until which time they continued paying taxes to Wethersfield. Accordingly, one of the first acts of Glastonbury as a town was to build the house at 1808 Main Street which was used to attract the Reverend Timothy Stevens in 1695 to come and minister to the community. Glastonbury was one of the first towns in the state to be split off from an already established town. The procedure was to be followed many times over during the next century and a half, often on the same plea initiated by Glastonbury, that traveling to the established meeting house was an undue hardship.
The initial division of land in Glastonbury was in narrow strips running three miles eastward from the river. The idea was to give each owner an assortment of the several qualities of land, rather than to favor a few with the best land. The pattern of long, narrow strips is still reflected to some extent in land holdings as they exist today.
The first houses were built by people who came to farm the land. Inevitably, a community soon grew up. Sawmills and gristmills were essential on streams located outside the district. From the first there were two centers, now known as Glastonbury and South Glastonbury (both in the Town of Glastonbury). The first house was in South Glastonbury, the first meeting house in Glastonbury. Shops and taverns were needed; conventional houses often were adapted to such uses. By the time of the Revolutionary War shipbuilding was important, saltpeter was produced for gunpowder, tobacco was being grown and shipped. The district became built up with homes of men who engaged in diverse activities, as contrasted to the initial vocation of farming. Land holdings along Main Street became smaller; house lots were split off from farms.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, while farming continued to be important, manufacturing enterprises of modest size grew up in Glastonbury, outside the district, including textiles, silver plate, tanneries and toiletries. Such activities enhanced the residential value of houses along Main Street in the district. The railroad never came to Glastonbury. After shipbuilding went into decline, and was not replaced by the railroad, Glastonbury's commercial and manufacturing importance diminished. Today, Glastonbury is regarded as a suburb of Hartford and is primarily a residential community. The integrity of the district to a large degree is a function of this history. The failure of the railroad and large manufacturing enterprises to come to Glastonbury fostered conditions that permitted continuity in use and freedom from intrusions in the structures along Main Street that constitute the district. The maintenance of the structures in an above average state of repair has been supported by the circumstance that ownership often descended in the same family, thereby encouraging a sense of ancestral pride in the houses.
The panorama of American architectural styles displayed by the Glastonbury Historic District ranges over the three centuries of the towns history. An exceptionally large portion of the structures, 23 out of 100, date from the 17th and 18th centuries. While individually of good quality, it is the presence of so many of these gambrel- and gable-roofed Colonial and Georgian houses, in the aggregate, that constitutes an unusually valuable resource in Connecticut's architectural heritage from the centuries when Connecticut was a British colony. Their continued location on original sites permits an appreciation of their relationship to one another and to the community as it existed at the time. The well-preserved physical condition of many of the houses enhances the value of the group.
The significant features of 17th- and 18th-century domestic architecture that are displayed by the district's houses make them important artifacts because of their architectural merit alone. When consideration is added of associated documentation and events of community importance, the structures take on even more interest and significance. The parsonage at 1818 Main Street (1695), for example, is valuable for its gambrel roof and double doors and also for the fact that its construction for the first minister was an essential step toward establishing the community as a separate political entity. The architectural interest of the fine double overhang of 1790 Main Street is joined by the remarkable fact that the house remained in the same (Moseley) family for 200 years.
The thorough description of the interior of 1846 Main Street (1740) is an example of extensive, carefully-collected documentation at the Historical Society of Glastonbury that adds an important dimension to the district. At the Gideon Welles House, the association with Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy shares importance with the house's elaborate cornice, notable for its unusual course of vertical recesses. Elaborate cornices are a feature of several houses in the district including, among others, 1803 Main Street (1718) with its courses of dentils and small, closely-spaced brackets and the brick Georgian house at 2027 Main Street (1789) with exquisitely proportioned dentil course and modillion blocks.
The panoply of subsequent architectural styles from the 19th and early 20th centuries unfolds in the district around the early structures. Again, it is not only the excellence of individual structures but also the wide range of styles over time that establishes the significance of the district in architectural history.
From early in the 19th century, the brick Federal style house at 2200 Main Street (1828), a later parsonage, is outstanding for its millwork and carving, both inside and out, in the Adamesque manner of Samuel McIntyre of Salem. From a later era, the number of stone, Gothic Revival houses in Central Connecticut is very small; 2190 Main Street (1851) is one of them and the only one of its type, understandably, in the district. 2016 Main Street (1875) is as elaborate and complete an example of the French Second Empire style is likely to be found in central Connecticut, and again is the only one of its style in the district.
Not to be overlooked are the striking period pieces, peculiarly American, built later in the 19th century and at the turn of the 20th century. One of these is the transitional Queen Anne/Neo-Classical Revival frame house at 2247 Main Street (1880) in which is found a combination of brick foundations, shingled siding, hipped and gable roofs, a pent roof of hexagonal slate and a shed-roofed oriel with a stained-glass window. The American Foursquare style is represented by several houses in the district, often with diamond-paned sash. 1828 Main Street (1902) is such a house, with the typical high pyramidal roof and hipped roof dormer. Another more complex example is 2044 Main Street (1901) which combines the Queen Anne and Shingle styles with the American Foursquare in a red, shingled envelope with Palladian-inspired windows and a flared roof to make a distinctive statement of American eclecticism of the period.
Association with Lives of Persons Significant in the Past
The house at 1808 Main Street was built for Rev. Timothy Stevens, the first minister. As his arrival was essential to the launching of the town, the house and its association with Rev. Stevens are of direct and demonstrable importance to the early history of Glastonbury.
Many of the families whose names appear on the petition to the General Court to set off the new town resided in the district. For example, Edward Benton was one of the petitioners; his son, Josiah, built the house at 2213 Main Street. William Miller, another petitioner, built 1855 Main Street.
Among the old Glastonbury names associated with the district are Welles and Hale. Thomas Welles was forth governor of Connecticut (1655, 1658). Other members of his family were prominent in the shipbuilding industry in Glastonbury. Joseph Welles was the first postmaster and operated the tavern now at 2400 Main Street. Oswin Welles was a pioneer in packing and marketing Connecticut seed leaf tobacco. Gideon Welles, a founder of the Republican Party and Secretary of the Navy in Lincoln's cabinet, was born in the house named for him at 17 Hebron Avenue.
The Hale family is associated with several houses in the Glastonbury Historic District. Thomas, a petitioner, built 2169 Main Street. Timothy Hale built the elaborate Georgian structure at 2027 Main Street. Starting in 1866, the brothers John and George Hale created a new concept in the marketing of peaches with the well-known variety named after them. At one time they grew peaches on 2,000 acres in Connecticut and 1,000 acres in Georgia. Frary Hale, who lived at 2195 Main Street, founded the Eagle Manufacturing Co., manufacturers of knitted goods, a leading employer in the town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Ebenezer Plummer, at 2094 Main Street, was a merchant, treasurer of the town, member of the Committee of Correspondence at the time of the Revolution and manufacturer of potash for gunpowder. William Goslee, Town Clerk from 1871 to 1891, had his law office in the building that is now a shop at 2213 Main Street. He wrote the town history that appears in Trumbull.
In the 20th century, Dr. Lee J. Whittles, who built the 2-story pavilion on 2205 Main Street in 1936, was town physician for 40 years. He organized medical care after the disasters of the 1936 flood and the 1938 hurricane, and was a founder of the Historical Society of Glastonbury. Everett Hurlburt, 2044 Main Street, was an executive of the J. B. Williams Co., manufacturer of toiletries and the town's largest employer fox the first half of the 20th century.
Over the 300 years of its existence, residents of the Glastonbury Historic District have been prominent and influential in the affairs of the town. Through their efforts the houses were built and the streetscape maintained from the establishment of the town to the present day.
Colonial Dames of America in Connecticut series, volumes on Timothy Hale, Sr., House, Hale-Rankin-Tracey House, (Gideon) Welles House.
Goslee, William S., pp.205-228 in J. Hammond Trumbull, ed., The Memorial History of Hartford County, Connecticut, 1633-1884, Boston: Edward L. Osgood, 1886, v.2.
Historic American Buildings Survey, Gideon Welles House.
Historic District Study Committee of Glastonbury, Connecticut, Report of the, 1983.
Historical Society of Glastonbury, files, including photographs, measured drawings, reminiscences, genealogical research and searches of the land records, as well as inventory forms.
Kelly, J. Frederick, Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1963, reprint of original Yale University Press edition, 1924.
McNulty, Marjorie, Glastonbury from Settlement to Suburb, Glastonbury: The Women's Club of Glastonbury, 1970.
Report of the Historic District Study Committee of Glastonbury, Connecticut, 1983. At Connecticut Historical Commission.
† David F. Ranson, consultant, and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Glastonbury Historic District, Glastonbury, CT, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.