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Clay Hill Historic District


The Clay Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. A boundary addition addendum was added in 1984. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from original copies of the nomination documents. [† ‡] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Clay Hill Historic District occupies approximately 60 acres northwest of Hartford's downtown. Its two principal arteries are Main Street, running to the north, and Albany Avenue, running to the west, from their intersection at Tunnel Park. Tunnel Park is so named because a railroad runs underneath it; the railroad divides the Clay Hill Historic District[1] from downtown.

There are approximately 250 major structures in the Clay Hill Historic District, exclusive of outbuildings. All but 29 of them, which were built in the 20th century, are considered to contribute to the architectural and historical significance of the district. Of the 29, about half are mid-20th century commercial structures and the balance are 1982 frame houses. Of the 221 contributing structures, 58, generally the oldest, are frame and the balance are brick. Almost all of them are residential in character. There always has been little in the way of commerce and industry in the Clay Hill Historic District. A 19th century lumberyard still active at its location on the railroad west of Albany Avenue and two nearby factory buildings on Albany Avenue that have now been inactive for many years, comprise the contributing industrial buildings. Three modest churches and two parks round out the Clay Hill Historic District.

The contributing buildings were constructed from about the time of the Civil War to World War I, and provide examples of the popular styles of that era, with emphasis on Italianate, Queen Anne and Neo-Classical Revival. Their range of height and mass is limited; almost all are 2-1/2 to 3 stories tall, built for occupancy by two to six working-class and middle-class families. Some of the earliest houses built for one family, and several larger apartment houses, constructed after the turn of the century for multiple occupancy, are exceptions to the rule.

The Clay Hill Historic District's period of growth and economic health came to an end at about the time of the Great Depression. Since then, decline has proceeded until 1982. Decline was evidenced by lack of maintenance and abandonment of houses, leading to fires and demolition. There are now approximately 109 vacant lots in the Clay Hill Historic District, most of which probably had buildings standing on them at one time. Despite this important loss, the Clay Hill Historic District continues to be cohesive architecturally and to maintain its sense of time and place.

19th-century Buildings

The earliest remaining buildings in the Clay Hill Historic District are Greek Revival style, 1-family homes built in the 1850s with their gable roofs facing the street, characteristically forming pediments. Two frame examples, built in 1853 and 1854, stood until recent months at 47 and 51 Fairmount Street. The brick house at 15 Liberty Street, built about 1850, is in the same style, the pediment being defined by a cornice formed by bricks laid on the diagonal. Bargeboards and a frame porch were added at a later date. Another brick example is located at 62 Chestnut Street.

In the 1860s, the gable roof with pediment of these houses gave way to a low hipped roof with overhang, and the style became more Italianate than Greek Revival, helped along in this change by the use of brownstone blocks as lintels. Often in brick, the attic stories of these houses project one wythe, forming a characteristic string course. The house that stood at 14-16 Fairmount Street was typical of this group, of which about 30 are standing. Some, such as the four on the east side of Center Street between Fairmount and Seyms streets, were double houses, divided by a central bearing wall.

Soon after the Civil War, houses were built in a more fully developed Italianate style with brackets under the eaves, brownstone foundations and sills, polygonal bays, porches with posts, and, sometimes, curvilinear cast-iron lintels. While the general size and form continued from the Greek Revival, these houses are unmistakably Italianate. The house at 11-13 Liberty Street exhibits all of these features. The arcaded porch at 88-90 Chestnut Street is especially elaborate. It has its own roof overhang with brackets, recessed panels in the spandrels of the arches, multi-sided posts and pilasters, and raised moldings on the flat sides of the posts. The front doors are not original.)

Variations in details and mixture of elements from several architectural styles are common. With the advent of mechanical routing equipment, incised patterns, rather than carved or cast details, became more economical, in the spirit of the Neo-Grec style, as at 71 Williams Street. Peaked lintels on impost blocks, suggestive of the Neo-Grec style, are combined with cusped millwork and Gothic arches at 37 Chestnut Street (1875) in a building that, if it still had its probably original, wide, roof overhang, would be generally classed under the Italianate umbrella. The paired windows of this house are also forward looking, and add to the potpourri. Joining the bases of roof brackets with horizontal moldings, as at 30-32 Belden Street (1875), was a popular practice. In this same house, the impost blocks of the incised brownstone hood molds are joined by string courses of brick laid on the diagonal, a practice that was to carry over into many Neo-Classical Revival buildings at the turn of the century. About 20 buildings of this general type are dispersed throughout the Clay Hill Historic District.

The Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Romanesque Revival and High Victorian Gothic styles, four styles generally popular in the 19th century, are poorly represented in the Clay Hill Historic District. There is no Gothic Revival building, only Gothic touches as in the porch at 37 Chestnut Street, already mentioned, and in a stairway window at 37 Williams Street (1895). There is a well-preserved example of the Second Empire at 40 Liberty Street (1875). The mansard roof of imbricated, shaped slates identifies this house as Second Empire, but the roof brackets, front porch and curvilinear labels could just as well be part of an Italianate house. The commercial building at 270-274 Albany Avenue (1875) is unusual for its corner entrance with brownstone arches while 1890, brick, 1-family houses at 38 and 44 Belden Street round out the district's Second Empire examples.

The one structure in the Clay Hill Historic District that may be classified as Romanesque Revival stands at 37-39 Center Street (1890). It is dominated by its central round arch over porches between polygonal bays, the three parts together projecting as a pavilion. The segmental arches of recessed brickwork connected by string courses, corbeled parapet and diaper pattern over the central arch, give this building considerable distinction.

An important High Victorian Gothic building, the Seyms Street Jail, existed in the district until its demolition in 1978. Built in 1873 (later extended) to the design of George Keller, Hartford's leading 19th-century architect, the central brick building had a tower with high pyramidal roof and corner turrets, an entrance flanked by polished granite columns with foliate capitals and many other High Victorian features. Its site is now Lazedo Park. An equally good High Victorian Gothic house, with steep slate roof, colored brick courses and many gables, stands at 20 Belden Street. The architect for this house is unknown.

The Queen Anne style, on the other hand, is represented in the Clay Hill Historic District by 49 examples. Chief among them are the row of three frame houses at 7, 9 and 11 Florence Street, built in 1882-83 for developer George Mahl, as 1-family houses. The house at 11 Florence Street epitomizes the Queen Anne style with its asymmetrical massing, complex roof, imbricated shingles, truncated bay and gable-end frames. In all probability it was not originally painted white. The same design of gable over truncated bay with imbricated shingles is found across the street at 32 Florence Street, this time in a brick house. It has quarter sunbursts in the brackets under the gable. String courses of brick laid on the diagonal fit in at this Queen Anne house as they do elsewhere in Italianate and Classical Revival style structures. 17 and 19 Seyms Street (17 now demolished) of 1875 are further examples of brick Queen Anne houses. Their gable end and porch millwork in the Stick style closely resembles that of the frame house at 11 Florence Street, but their gable-roofed wings intersecting at right angles are quite different massing and the tower over the porch, with pyramidal roof, is distinctive. A later, Queen Anne brick house, 37 Williams Street (1895), incorporates more eclectic features including a small Gothic window and, in the attic, half-round, embellished pediments, one over a tripartite window, acknowledging the Neo-Classical Revival.

The street rhythm of similar houses plays an important part in the Clay Hill Historic District. On Seyms Street, south side, there is a row of eight 1890 brick houses of similar size and shape, each with a bow front or front bay. In this grouping, 31, 39 and 43 Seyms Street have the turned posts and knobs and curved brackets at every opportunity that distinguish the Eastlake style Another row of 1890 houses of the same shape and mass and in similar design, but constructed of wood, stands on Williams Street.

The years from 1875 to 1900 were the big building years in the district. There are 130 houses from this quarter century still standing, far more than from the preceding or following quarter centuries. By their presence in streetscape after streetscape they form the major cohesive element in the appearance of the Clay Hill Historic District.

20th-century Buildings

As the turn of the century approached, the classic revival in architectural taste that was sweeping across the country found expression in the Clay Hill Historic District in Neo-Classical Revival and Georgian Revival buildings. In addition to this change of style, there came a modest change in scale, as no more single and double houses were built; three-family, six-family and larger apartment houses became the order of the day. The use of brick, perhaps prompted by concern for fire prevention, became almost universal, although a few frame structures were built. Three 3-family, Georgian Revival, frame houses were built on the east side of Brook Street in 1897. Carefully composed with central pediment over central portico, the design provides recessed porches at the ends thereby giving each family a separate entrance. The three entrances relate to one another visually by their dentil courses.

In one building, the Georgian Revival was used in a second facade for an existing Italianate structure. About 1880, a substantial residential building with stores on the first floor had been built at 160-172 Albany Avenue. Then, in 1901, the owner, Mrs. Bridget Sullivan, commissioned J. J. McCarthy to design a new 42 x 40-foot, 3-story section fronting on Belden Street "to connect with the present building"[2] The new section, known as 59 Belden Street, exhibits the Neo-Georgian elements of round-arched windows and triglyphs, in brick, under its cornice.

In brick, 6-family structures, the Italianate blended into the Neo-Classical Revival style as details became simpler and roof overhangs gave way to visually heavy cornices that often were made of sheet metal. The row on the east side of Garden Street (1905, 1907) reflects the trend with round-arched entrances and imposing cornices, but still has the double bows (or bays) from the 19th century.

The tradition of fancy brickwork continued. The building constructed at 19-21 Brook Street in 1910 combined a round-arched entry with recessed brick, segmental lintels and a heavy, classical cornice. The rinceau panel in the fascia of the cornice was one of several in the district, all pressed in metal. A sophisticated articulation of chimneys as pilasters occurs at 101-103 Mather Street (c.1890), marked by panels, corbeling and half circles. There is similar treatment at 347-349 Albany Avenue (1894). In both cases, the corner locations give these side elevations good visibility.

A principal shift in emphasis that developed in the Clay Hill Historic District with the turn of the century was the construction of larger apartment houses, often designed by architects. J. J. McCarthy's work at 59 Belden Street is a case in point. The most prominent example, however, is "The Belden" (1898) at the corner of Main and Belden streets, designed by the firm of Bayley & Goodrich. The largest building in the Clay Hill Historic District, it is essentially two structures, one fronting on Main Street, the other fronting on Belden Street. It has pediments and broken pediments, rinceau cornice fascia, rusticated first story, cartouches and other details of the Neoclassical Revival. Half of the Main Street building has been destroyed by fire but is scheduled to be rebuilt in part. "The Belden" contained, from the first, 2-room living units, intended for adult occupancy. The good-sized building at 62 Albany Avenue (1898, G.W. Buckland) also has 2- and 3-room units. The two buildings are early examples of housing for singles.

In all, 24 20th-century Clay Hill structures, (many of them as small as 6-family apartment houses) are known to have been designed by architects. The architect who designed the most, six, was Burton A. Sellew. His work at 17 Belden Street (1910) incorporated many up-to-date features. Four stories high, it has a street elevation of pressed yellow brick rather than the traditional, 19th-century red brick, uses trim in concrete rather than brownstone and, uniquely with its near twin next door at 19 Belden Street (demolished), has 4-story, metal oriels in a 20th-century expression of the 19th-century bow fronts.

Perhaps the most complete expression of classical detail is found in the large apartment house at 57-63 Center Street, designed in 1914 by Fred C. Walz. There the fashionable yellow brick are highlighted in the facade by dark buff brick in the six colossal pilasters. The entrance porches have columns with capitals, the splayed lintels have key and end blocks in concrete, and the cornice displays triglyphs with guttae, all in the best practice of the times.

Non-residential buildings constructed in the Clay Hill Historic District between the Civil War and World War I are few in number. The oldest non-residential site is the lumber yard, still functioning, at 17 Albany Avenue. The complex includes two brick warehouses, c.1865 and c.1875, a brick office building dating from about 1890, and a large, frame, 19th-century storage shed. The proximity of the railroad was an important factor in the location of the lumber yard. Two light manufacturing buildings, now vacant, are at 47-51 and 61-73 Albany Avenue, the latter for many years serving as a good-sized bakery.

There are three ecclesiastical buildings in the Clay Hill Historic District. One, built as a residence about 1890 at 30 Florence Street, was remodelled with the addition of a new front in the 1920s for Congregation Ateres Israel. Its facade combines Georgian Revival elements of shaped pediment and fanlight transom with Romanesque round-arched windows and a round window whose mullions form the Star of David. The Shiloh Baptist Church (1911-1914), 350 Albany Avenue, was designed by Lewis D. Bayley in the Gothic Revival style, using brick and stone building materials. St. Monica's Episcopal Church (1906, William D. Johnson) at 31 Mather Street is brick, also in the Gothic Revival style, with brownstone and brick decorative trim.

The years 1981 and 1982 have brought evidence of a reversal in the long period of physical deterioration that has gripped the district since the Great Depression. Some houses already have been rehabilitated, including those at 46 and 50 Seyms Street and those along the east side of Garden Street. Rehabilitation is now [1983] scheduled for 25 more buildings ranging in age and size from Civil War-era Italianate double houses to "The Belden" and later apartment houses. In addition, the first 1- and 2-family houses to be built in the district in the 20th century are under construction. These frame structures, made possible by the Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 235 program, are being built on 12 vacant lots in the Clay Hill Historic District. In recognition of the historic context in which these new houses are being constructed, State and City funds have been made available to provide them with cedar clapboard siding and/or brick-faced street elevations, depending on the building materials of the historic houses adjoining them.

Significance

The buildings of the Clay Hill Historic District, constructed between the Civil War and World War I, display in microcosm the architectural styles of that era that were popular throughout the country. In the Clay Hill Historic District their significance is enhanced by the cohesive 19th-century streetscapes, the uniformity of size and scale of the buildings, and the contemporary craftsmanship that they exhibit.

The sequential change in the ethnic character of the residents of the district is illustrative of social history in Hartford. Original Yankee farmers were followed by Irish, German, Jewish, black and Hispanic peoples as immigrants found their place in the community and sought upward mobility, often in trying circumstances that now show some signs of improvement.

Origin and Development of Clay Hill

The development of the Clay Hill Historic District can be traced through examination of the city atlases. The 1869 atlas shows, in addition to Albany Avenue and Main Street, that Chestnut and Edwards streets were built up. There were also houses on Belden Street. It, too, was old, having been part of a turnpike that was deeded to the city in 1854 by the Talcott Mountain Turnpike Co.[3] Thomas Belden had been a large landowner north of Albany Avenue. Distribution of his estate starting in 1842 was instrumental in opening up the land. Most other streets had been laid out by 1867, although there were few buildings on them in that year. Exceptions, streets laid out after 1867, included Bedford Street, (1906), Brook Street (1875), Florence Street (1881) and Mather Street (1871).

The 1880 atlas shows Liberty Street built up and the jail in place at Seyms and Center streets, but nothing on Garden Street. In the 1896 atlas Bedford Street appears, and Brook Street is filled except for the three Georgian Revival frame houses on the east side. Finally, in 1909, there is scarcely a vacant lot left, with the most recent construction being on Garden and Bedford streets. In the color coding of structures, Brook and Williams streets stand out for having the largest concentration of frame construction.

Some of the streets were named for prominent citizens, e.g., Belden for Thomas Belden and Seyms for Robert and John Seyms, but no one man or group seems to have been the chief moving force in development of the district. Rather, the presence of one name on several structures, such as Martin Flynn, an Irishman, on four Bedford Street houses, suggests that a number of individual builders constructed houses a few at a time, as the market developed. George Mahl, a builder who immigrated from Germany, built several houses on Mather Street.

Architecture

The oldest surviving houses in the Clay Hill Historic District are the Greek Revival structures of the 1850s. With three windows facing the street under a gable-end pediment, they are typical of the genre. It is to be noted that even in these earliest houses some were brick rather than frame, as is more commonly found in Greek Revival examples. Brick had its place as a building material in the district from the first, gaining in usage to the 20th century when it became the exclusive building material until the advent of the 1982 frame houses.

Generally, when deterioration sets in there is a tendency for frame structures to suffer a faster rate of deterioration than brick. For this reason the present proportion of 26% of the contributing structures being frame probably understates the importance of frame houses in the earliest years of the district's development. Whatever the original proportion, frame structures, although soon outnumbered by brick, continued to be built throughout the 19th century. Queen Anne style houses have the largest representation in the array of frame structures, but vernacular and classic revival examples also survive.

Whether the building material was frame or brick and whatever the architectural style, Clay Hill structures maintained a uniformity of size and spacing that is striking. Close together and close to the street, the buildings carry the eye along in unbroken rhythm, with the various architectural styles serving to add variations to the same basic volume and mass. Even the larger 20th-century apartment houses are at most one story higher, and, usually, achieve their larger size through greater depth than width, thus maintaining the traditional streetscape. The largest building, "The Belden," that might otherwise have upset the proportions, is sited on a prominent corner on Main Street and thereby becomes the flagship building of the Clay Hill Historic District, instead of distorting it.

Always conservative in its tastes, it is not surprising that the district did not encourage the more extreme styles. Gothic Revival, High Victorian Gothic and Romanesque Revival are understandably represented in a most limited number of examples. Solid Italianate was far more popular. Similarly, the Queen Anne did not develop into extremes such as the Stick style in the district.

The vigor of the bricklayers' craft did have a marked impression on Clay Hill buildings of several styles. Bricks laid on the diagonal and bricks laid alternating flush and recessed were used as segmental lintels, string courses and decorative features of chimney pilasters. This craft tradition provided a continuing link through buildings of the Italianate, Queen Anne and Neo-Classical Revival styles. It is an important, cohesive influence in the Clay Hill Historic District that stems directly from craftsmanship rather than from academic interpretation of architecture.

The unknown builders of the 19th century presumably used pattern books for their plans or, even more likely, built structures like they had built before, without benefit of plans in the usual sense. None of the 19th-century buildings suggests the influence of a professional architect with the exception of those along the north side of Belden Street, particularly 20 Belden Street, but these architects, if any, are unknown.

From about 1895 it is possible to determine the names of architects because at that time the City began to require building permits on which the names of architects were recorded. Moreover, prior to that time Hartford architects did not exist in large number and customarily were engaged in designing more prepossessing structures than were being built in Clay Hill. At the turn of the century architects began to be active in designing a wider range of buildings, and from examining the building permits 24 buildings have been identified as being architect designed. No doubt this is an incomplete list as the building permit file is incomplete and the architect's name is not always recorded on the building permit. Enough is known, however, to realize that, as might be expected, it was the City's second tier of architects who were active in Clay Hill. The leading practitioners, George Keller, William C. Brocklesby, Hapgood & Hapgood and Brooks & Davis are not represented, except for Keller's jail, which was his first commission.

Most of the known architect-designed structures in Clay Hill are apartment houses. The men who designed them were doing similar apartment houses at the time in the South End, Frog Hollow and Little Hollywood areas, Berenson & Moses and Fred, C. Walz among them. Walz' Georgian Revival apartment house at 57-63 Center Street is perhaps the most text-book correct structure in the Clay Hill Historic District. He was architect as well for the apartment house, also Georgian Revival, at 57 Belden Street.

The most prolific architect in the Clay Hill Historic District, Burton A. Sellew (1878-1932), the son of a Hartford builder, grew up in the trade without known formal training in architecture. His principal works were apartment houses throughout the city, like those he designed for Clay Hill, the majority of them modest 6-family structures, all in the Neo-Classical Revival style.

The lumber yard and two factory buildings near the intersection of Albany Avenue and the railroad comprise an industrial component of the district. They were part of a larger group of commercial/industrial buildings that were located along the railroad outside the district and are now mostly demolished. The later buildings at the lumber yard and the O.K. Bakery at 73 Albany Avenue reflect the Italianate style as do many houses in the district. 61-63 Albany Avenue, dated visually by its stepped parapet, appears to be a turn-of-the-century structure and if so replaces an earlier carriage factory on the site.

The Clay Hill Historic District buildings show the sequential development of architectural styles for the late-19th/early-20th centuries in a most informative manner, executed in buildings of unchanging size, scale, orientation and materials, an unusual circumstance. Always stylistically conservative, the buildings reflect the development of the standard architectural styles as interpreted by this community from the time of the Civil War to World War I.

Social History

The mid-19th century development of the Clay Hill area from rural to urban conditions was caused by the strong industrial growth of the city of Hartford. As the city's factories rapidly grew more successful, the community at large was forced to keep up. In Clay Hill the changes took the form of converting the farm land of long time residents to city streets for new home owners. The initial building program, along Edwards and Chestnut streets south of Albany Avenue and along Seyms and Belden streets west of Main Street, produced 1-family homes for middle and upper-middle class families. As the end of the century approached, 3- and 6-family buildings became the norm and in the 20th century multi-family apartment houses were built. Thus the emphasis shifted to housing for middle-and working-class families.

Irish immigrants comprised a substantial portion of the working class in the fourth quarter of the 19th century. Upon arrival in Hartford, immigrants were likely to live in the East End, a section of downtown close to the river that eventually became a slum and was replaced after World War II by Constitution Plaza. When Irish immigrants were able to do so, they left the East End and moved, often to Clay Hill where such Irish names as Mrs. Bridget Sullivan were common. The 1896 city atlas shows for Clay Hill such names as Tracy, Murphy, McCormick, Mulcahy and McManus. Many men of Irish descent were active in the construction trades and the skills of those who became masons are reflected in the brick buildings of the district.

The Irish in Clay Hill were, in turn, joined, and to a degree displaced, by later immigrants who followed the same path. By the turn of the century German-Americans became an important ethnic group in Clay Hill. Many of them were Jewish; they founded Congregation Ateres Israel.

The names of architects active in the Clay Hill Historic District reflect its ethnic and social make-up. As personal contacts often are helpful to architects in securing commissions, it is not surprising that Mrs. Bridget Sullivan engaged the services of J. J. McCarthy. By the same token, it is possible to speculate that work was channeled to Berenson & Moses by the Jewish component of the community, while Fred C. Walz, who, in addition to being an architect, was business agent for the Carpenters' and Joiners' Union, and who designed the Labor Temple on Park Street (1927), had ties to the working class element of the neighborhood social structure.

While these residential developments occurred, in the industrial corner of the district the lumberyard continued to prosper, adding a planing mill that may have produced some of the millwork found in the district. The nearby carriage shop, operated by the Hart family, was active as late as 1896, but after the turn of the century was eclipsed by its neighbor, the O.K. Bakery.

During the 20th century mobility continued. By the third quarter of the 20th century the residents of Clay Hill were almost exclusively black and Hispanic people. The change that occurred in the make-up of the local population is shown by comparison of the listings of names and occupations of householders from the city directories for 1915 and 1977. In 1915 the names included Finkelstein, Freedman, Gruber, Ahern, Foley, McCorkle and Ginsberg and occupations included gents' furnishings, dry goods, upholsterer, peddler, musician and policeman. In 1977, when many of the names were Hispanic, the few occupations that were listed included secretary and construction worker.[4]

With the change in occupancy of the buildings came a change in the nature of their ownership. While the larger buildings presumably had always been investment properties, the smaller houses had been owner occupied.

By the third quarter of the 20th century almost all the structures were owned by absentee landlords. With unemployment in the neighborhood at high levels, the economics of the real estate became precarious, maintenance was curtailed, vacancies led to abandonments, and then fire followed by demolition became common. Hence the many empty parcels. In 1981 and 1982 welcome signs of reversal of this long decline have appeared. Several government low-income housing programs are supporting rehabilitation of older structures and construction of new homes in a marked turnaround from the long years of deterioration. These physical improvements are intended to give a sense of hope and self-respect to the residents and thereby encourage improvement in social health and well-being of the Clay Hill community.

Boundary Increase

8 Florence Street is a 4-story, Neo-Classical Revival, brick- and-brownstone apartment house, built in 1909. Its high brownstone foundations are quarry-faced ashlar. The first floor of the building's brick front wall is rusticated, and there are brick quoins at the building's front corners. Clustered columns support the central, wooden front porch, which has a projecting, molded cornice with modillions

The window composition above the porch is a distinctive feature of the front elevation. Three tripartite windows light the landings of the central stairway of the interior. Immediately above the porch, the window for the first landing has a molded wooden cornice. Above the cornice is a wall section of nine recessed, wooden panels. The second or middle landing window sill rests on the paneling. This window has a large, finished, brownstone block as lintel. In the space above the lintel, between the middle and top landing windows, there is a recessed brownstone plaque with the incised numerals "1909." The top landing window is Diocletian in shape. In all of these windows the upper sash have vertical lights with the muntins arranged to form diamond- shaped panes at the top.

The flanking windows on the front elevation are single and paired, some with 1-over-1 sash and some with 2-over-1 sash, under prominent flat arches made of brick laid vertically, with central and splayed key blocks.

At the roof line, the sheet metal cornice over plain architrave has molded cymatium supported by modillions. The cornice returns over the first bays of the sides of the building, and these bays have the rustication and window lintels of the front elevation. The balance of the building, however, is plain. On the rear are wooden, 4-story porches with a central, enclosed stairway.

On the interior, the central stairway rises in a small stair hall in a series of switch-back runs from floor to landing to floor. There are two apartments on each floor, laid out symmetrically. Against each exterior side wall there is a sequence, from the front, of living room, dining and bedroom. This series of rooms is separated by a central hall within the apartment from an air well, bathroom, closet and cupboard that run back from the stair hall along the central brick bearing wall that divides the building into its two halves. Within each apartment the central hall leads back to the kitchen at the rear of the building.

The interior door and window surrounds consist of channeled vertical and horizontal members with circle corner blocks. There are built-in cupboards in the dining rooms.

Significance

8 Florence Street is a good example of the apartment houses that were built for working class families in the Clay Hill Historic District after the turn of the century. Remarkably free of alterations on the exterior and interior, its integrity is greater than that of most other buildings in the Clay Hill Historic District.

The building materials of 8 Florence Street, red brick and brownstone, are those that were used extensively in the 19th century, and carried over into the first decade or so of the 20th century. The design of the front elevation, however, reflects contemporary classical revival trends. The clustered columns, rustication, quoins, tripartite and Diocletian windows in balanced symmetry all are in the idiom that became increasingly popular as the picturesque architectural styles of the second half of the 19th century gave way to renewed interest in classical and Neo-Classical precedents. 8 Florence Street is in the mainstream of development that dominated the American architectural, scene in the early decades of the 20th century.

The interior trim of the building continued 19th-century practice. The channeled vertical and horizontal members, with circle corner blocks, of the door and window surrounds are millwork that had been used through most of the 19th century in modest houses in the district. 8 Florence Street is unusual for leaving almost all the interior trim still intact, and for having very few changes in the floor plans. This building is unusual in the Clay Hill Historic District for the high degree of integrity of both the exterior and the interior.

The names and occupations of early residents of 8 Florence Street reflect the transitional Irish/German Jewish immigrant ethnic character of the neighborhood. Those who resided in the building in 1915[5] included Isaac L. Cohen, no occupation given, Francis F. Foley, salesman, Dominic A. LeRoy, partner in Schuman & LeRoy, proprietors of the OK Hotel, 12 Church Street, Frank W. Lynch, traveling salesman, Joseph Rosenbloom, insurance agent, and Jerome H. Sloan, stable worker. The building and its occupants were characteristic of their time in the Clay Hill Historic District.

Endnotes

  1. The origin of the name Clay Hill is not known. The authoritative source for such information, Connecticut Place Names, says simply that it is the "Local name for area around Albany Avenue and Main St. intersection." (See Arthur H. Hughes and Morse S. Allen, Connecticut Place Names, Hartford: The Connecticut Historical Society, 1976, p.236.) The name is not used in city atlases. The elevation of the area is approximately 50 to 70 feet, about the same as downtown.
  2. Hartford Building Permit #410, July 1, 1901.
  3. F. Perry Close, History of Hartford Streets, Hartford: The Connecticut Historical Society, 1969, p.11.
  4. Addresses examined were 15, 17, 19, 10, 12, 16, 20, 28 and 32 Belden Street and 47 and 49 Center Street.
  5. Geer's Hartford City Directory, Hartford: Elihu Geer Sons, 1915. Geer started publishing information on householders arranged geographically this year. 1915 is the first year for which such information is available.

References

Atlas of the City of Hartford, Springfield, Massachusetts: L.J. Richards & Co., 1896.

Atlas of the City of Hartford, Springfield, Massachusetts: L.J. Richards, 1909.

Atlas of Hartford City and County, Hartford: Baker & Tilden, 1869.

City Atlas of Hartford , Connecticut, Philadelphia: G.M. Hopkins, 1880.

Close, F. Perry, History of Hartford Streets, Hartford: The Connecticut Historical Society, 1969.

Hartford Building Permit No. 410, 1901.

Hartford City Directory, 1915, Hartford: Elihu Geer Sons, 1915.

Hartford Land Records, 175/574, 1183/125.

Kummer, Merle E., Hartford Architecture, Volume Three: North and West Neighborhoods, Hartford: Hartford Architecture Conservancy, 1980.

Hughes, Arthur H. and Morse S. Allen, Connecticut Place Names, Hartford: The Connecticut Historical Society, 1976.

Sellew, Burton A., obituary, Hartford Daily Courant, November 14, 1932, 6:8.

† Dale S. Plummer & David F. Ransom, Consultants, and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Clay Hill Historic District, Hartford, CT, nomination document, 1982, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

‡ David F. Ransom, Consultant, and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Clay Hill Historic District Boundary Increase, Hartford, CT, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Clay Hill Historic District Map

Street Names
Albany Avenue • Bedford Street • Belden Street • Brook Street • Center Street • Chestnut Street • East Street • Edwards Street • Fairmount Street • Florence Street • Garden Street • Green Street • Liberty Street • Main Street • Mather Street • Seyms Street • Walnut Street • Williams Street

**Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. You should independently verify any information you use for decision making.
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