Granby Center Historic District
The Granby Center Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © The Gombach Group.
The Granby Center Historic District extends for two-thirds of a mile along Salmon Brook Street South, below the main intersection with North Granby Road and East Granby Road. While this area of the town was originally settled in the early 18th century, most existing structures date from the 19th century. The street is wide and lined with large shade trees. The houses are well set back from the road, and well spaced from one another. There is a green at the intersection, with a Civil War monument.
The Granby Center Historic District encompasses the cluster of historically and architecturally significant structures that constitutes the town center. The south boundary is drawn at the point where there is a break in the line of significant structures, marked by a modern firehouse on the west and houses less than 50 years old on the east. Occasional significant houses are found south of the south boundary, including the two houses of the Salmon Brook Historical Society at 208 Salmon Brook Street South, already individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The house at 200 Salmon Brook Street South, not included in the Granby Center Historic District, is thought to be the oldest building in Granby but is not on its original site and has been severely altered.
Running north along Salmon Brook Street South, the district is made up of all properties on the west side of the street, including two parcels of land only, for visual continuity, and all properties on the east side except those less than 50 years old. The east and west boundaries, generally, are the rear property lines of these properties. At the north, the Granby Center Historic District includes properties on East Granby Road and Park Place that face the green. The Granby Center Historic District does not continue on the streets running west, north and east of the green because the houses on these streets are, in general, less than 50 years old or have been severely altered and do not provide a continuous, significant streetscape.
The Granby Center Historic District of 85 acres is made up of 35 properties, 31 with single principal buildings, one with two principal buildings (the church and Community House), one with a Civil War monument and two parcels of land only. All properties are considered to contribute to the historical and architectural significance of the district.
Architecture and A History
In the Granby Center Historic District, the buildings and their setting provide good examples of architectural styles of the 19th and early 20th centuries in a relationship to one another that is undisturbed by intrusions. Because of their integrity, the structures and the streetscape form a significant case history of the architectural development of a Connecticut small town.
The first settlers of Granby, Connecticut, when the area was part of the Town of Windsor, came from Granby, Massachusetts, c.1664. In 1670 the land was transferred to the Town of Simsbury, and it was not until 1786 that Granby became a town in its own right. East Granby as a separate entity was taken in 1858, leaving the Town of Granby with 41.3 square miles. The principal neighborhoods in the Town of Granby are Granby Center, location of an important crossroads and the subject of this National Register listing, West Granby and North Granby.
The primary occupation of Granby settlers was farming. In accordance with usual practice in colonial settlements, home lots were laid out in the community center, with additional acreage for fields, pastures and wood lots in outlying areas. The Granby Center Historic District includes many of the original home lots along Salmon Brook Street South. The First Ecclesiastical Society built its first edifice in 1740 as part of this cluster, near the cemetery that adjoins the green to the northwest of the district. The Society relocated its church to North Granby in the 1790s.
As the land in the Granby Center Historic District is reasonably flat, early gristmills and sawmills were located nearby in the town where waterpower was available from tumbling streams. In mid-19th century, the railroad was built through East Granby, leaving Granby Center undisturbed as the hub of a farming community, residential in character with stores and hotels at the crossroads. A disastrous fire in 1876 destroyed a hotel, store and post office and other buildings at the crossroads. Those buildings were not rebuilt.
From the time of first settlement, c.1664, population growth was slow. By 1709 only 11 families lived in Granby. There was never a period of rapid growth. In 1870 the census was 1,517; in 1880 it had declined to 1,340. In the late 20th century, principal industry still is agriculture, primarily dairying and tobacco farming, which itself is declining.
The significance of the Granby Center Historic District arises from the group of buildings as a whole, which represent a series of architectural styles built over two centuries and which continue to stand in their original relationship to one another.
While the two 18th-century houses in the Granby Center Historic District pre-date the period of maximum building activity, they provide a valuable link with the early history of the street. 207 Salmon Brook Street South, a typical 1-1/2-story, 5-bay, Colonial house, appears today much as it did when built, c.1795.
The other 18th-century house, however, adds significance to the Granby Center Historic District not only for its great age but also for the fact that it exemplifies the common practice of making alterations to early houses from time to time after they were built. 235 Salmon Brook Street South, on the site of the 1752 first parsonage, is now a Queen Anne house with elaborate, pierced bargeboards. 254 Salmon Brook Street South, built at the end of the 18th century in the then newly fashionable Georgian style, later acquired an Italianate porch, and at the turn of the 20th century was fitted with Neo-Classical Revival 1-over-1 tripartite windows. These alterations were typical of the general practice of making changes to houses in the architectural styles in favor at the times the changes were made, rather than in the original architectural styles of the houses. The changes take on architectural significance in their own right.
The 19th century was the period of maximum building activity. Three early 19th-century houses facing the green are noteworthy. The large Georgian house at 4 East Granby Street is an excellent example of its style, especially impressive for its 2-story, columned porch and classical detailing. The prominent location of this house, on the green at the head of the street, is as striking now as at the time it was built, and perhaps is enhanced by the addition of the Civil War monument on the green.
The other two early 19th-century houses facing the green, 2 Park Place and 265 Salmon Brook South, to the east and west, exemplify another common 19th-century practice, that of moving houses or parts thereof rather than demolishing them. In the case of 2 Park Place a large section that served as a dining room when the house was a hotel was moved out of the district, while 265 Salmon Brook Street South was moved back from its original location close to the street to its present concrete block foundations. A fourth early 19th-century house at 239 Salmon Brook Street, elaborately detailed in the Federal style, retains both its architectural character and its spacious setting behind a long wooden fence, but its roof was raised at the end of the 19th century.
The Greek Revival and Italianate styles are well represented in the Granby Center Historic District by houses that have their gable ends facing the street, over 3-bay front elevations. These styles were widely popular after 1825, and 221, 226, 227 and 229 Salmon Brook Street South date from that period. The four properties further contribute significance to the Granby Center Historic District through their farm outbuildings, a barn with tin shingles at 221, an intact Italianate barn at 226, and 2-story barns with vertical siding at 227 and 229. The continued presence of the barns is a reminder that during its period of development Granby was a farming community.
Another Italianate house at 261 Salmon Brook Street South and two Second Empire style houses at 245 and 255 Salmon Brook Street South, built later in the 19th century with the common characteristic of bracketed cornices, are among the largest in the Granby Center Historic District and are good examples of their styles.. The mansard roofs of the two Second Empire houses, covered with fish-scale slate, and the great length of 261 Salmon Brook Street South, 145 feet, make them visually outstanding in the district.
While there are no houses in the Granby Center Historic District in the Gothic Revival style, that style nonetheless did make an important impact in the district in detailing. At 250 Salmon Brook Street South, an Italianate house, the porch frieze is pierced with trefoils, a Gothic motif, while at 251, which is a house basically in the Federal style, the attic window is in the shape of a trefoil, and quatrefoils embellish the gable-end of 252 Salmon Brook Street South, a Queen Anne-style house.
The Queen Anne style was chosen for six houses in the Granby Center Historic District, making it the second most popular style, exceeded only by the Colonial Revival style, which is represented by nine structures. In some of the houses where Colonial Revival features dominate, they are alterations or additions to earlier work. For example, 231 Salmon Brook Street South is classified as Colonial Revival because of its heavily molded eaves returns that form entablatures for the corner pilasters, but the house originally was built c.1830, long before the era of the Colonial Revival began toward the end of the century.
The most significant grouping of Colonial Revival structures is comprised of the four community buildings, constructed at 242, 246 rear and 248 Salmon Brook Street South in the second decade of the 20th century. These are the Georgian Revival Community House of South Congregational Church, the hexastyle church, the hipped-roof schoolhouse and the gambrel-roofed library. Development of the 4-building complex was a joint enterprise of town and church. The church sold the land for the school to the town. The Community House was available for use by groups not affiliated with the church. The development was cited at the time as an example of commendable, cooperative town planning.
The architectural history of the Granby Center Historic District, as read in the 34 structures along Salmon Brook Street South, encompasses most of the architectural styles that flourished from colonial days to World War I. The structures as they were built and as they were altered and expanded provide a valuable and cohesive record of the architectural development of the community center.
Atlas of Hartford City and County, Hartford: Baker & Tilden, 1869, plate 37.
Austin, Ethel Lindstrom, The Story of the Churches of Granby, privately printed, nd (late 1960s), copy at Salmon Brook Historical Society.
Case, W.S., "Granby," in Trumbull, J. Hammond, ed., The Memorial History of Hartford County, Conn, 1633-1884, 2 vols., Boston: 1886.
Hartford Daily Times, July 13, 1918.
The Heritage of Granby, Granby: Salmon Brook Historical Society, 1967.
Laun, Carol, "History of Salmon Brook Street," Part I and Part II, 1980, typescript at Salmon Brook Historical Society.
Hughes, Arthur E. and Morse S. Alien, Connecticut Place Names, Hartford: Connecticut Historical Society, 1976.
†† David F. Ransom, Consultant and John F. A. Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Granby Center Historic District, nomination document, 1985, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.