The Day-Taylor House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.Description
The Day-Taylor House (also known as Eagle's Lodge) at 81 Wethersfield Avenue in Hartford, Connecticut is in the center of the Colt architectural legacy which graces both sides of Wethersfield Avenue for a distance of two blocks. It is directly across the street from Samuel Colt's own mansion, Armsmear, a national Historic Landmark. Also across Wethersfield Avenue is Colt Park, once the estate grounds for Armsmear.
Typical of the Italian Villa style of mid-19th century architecture, the red brick building has an asymmetrical facade whose elements are massed around a central focal point, the bracketed, flat-roofed cupola. Rising a full three stories in the front, the building displays floor-to-ceiling arched windows at every level, and a trio of tall, very narrow arched windows in the cupola, which rises one story higher. The brackets adorning the low-pitched roof and cupola are particularly ornate. The three-part veranda following the masses of the front facade is supported by elaborate Corinthian columns. The foundation and generous front steps are built of massive brownstone clocks. The unusual cast-iron balconies at the first and second floor windows are light and lacy in appearance despite the massiveness of the iron work.
The south side of the house shows the addition of a side door and porch whose brackets and Ionic columns are somewhat simpler than those of the front facade. Like the large bay windows added to the dining room on the first floor and at the second floor towards the back, this nineteenth century addition is tastefully integrated into the original style of the house. The second floor back extension, added over a generous back porch, is also visible, sided in Vermont slate. Also apparent on this facade is the break between the front and back portions of the third floor, divided where the building rises only two stories in its center section.
In the rear, we see all of Mrs. Munsill's addition, extending across the rear of the house and incorporating a very large porch under most of it at the first floor level. Rising three stories, the addition includes a stairway at the northwest corner of the building, which enabled the servants to reach their quarters on the third floor.
On this side we see an original bay window in the first floor center section of the house, once the library. Arched half-windows characterize the third floor front section and arched crenelations in the brickwork top off the two-story central section. On this side a fire escape has been added unobtrusively at one of the inner corners.
The front facade has remained unchanged since its construction. A back extension three stories high, well integrated into the original structure, was added by Mary Munsill, who owned and resided in the building from 1879 to 1893. Except for deterioration of some details, which can be repaired, the exterior has suffered no alteration or modernization since Mrs. Munsill added the rear extension. The interior of the building has been substantially stripped of its fine details and cannot be feasibly restored to the original.
Built in 1857, the same year as Samuel Colt's mansion Armsmear, across the street, the house is one of the purest examples in Connecticut of the vigorous Italian Villa style of architecture. While the name of the architect has not yet been uncovered, the building is very similar in feeling to the villas of Henry Austin, two of which have been restored in New Haven's Wooster Square, and one of which is a museum in Portland, Maine. The house is characterized by cast-iron lintels and balconies, the arched windows, and the generous verandas characteristic of the style.
81 Wethersfield Avenue has a distinguished history as a residence of prominent Hartford families. The house was built in 1857 by Hirim Bissell, an established Hartford builder who also built the State Capitol and the Memorial Arch in Bushnell Park. The first owner and householder was Albert F. Day, a descendant of Robert Day, one of the colonial proprietors of Hartford. Day was prominent in the dry goods business and was a partner in several enterprises which bore his name. From 1867 to 1873 Day's father, Albert Day, a former lieutenant governor of Connecticut, owned and lived in the house. In 1879 the house passed, into the hands of Mary J. Munsill, a daughter of Gail Borden of the Borden Milk Company. She and her husband lived in the house until 1893. In that year, Edwin Pemberton Taylor, president of the Taylor Lumber Company, purchased the house where he and his family lived for 35 years. In 1928 the house was bought by the Fraternal Order of Eagles who used it as a club and headquarters. In 1974 it was bought by the Hartford Redevelopment Agency.
A substantial masonry and timber building, the house has no serious structural defects. It is large (6,242 square feet), light and airy, and would lend itself to office, commercial or residential use, any of which might be suitable on this site. The three interior stairways and central hallway lend themselves to dividing of the building along the lines of its original floor plan.
A Short History of the Edwin Taylor Lumber Co., Hartford, 1923.
The Hartford Courant, May 6, 1858.
The Hartford Courant, November 13, 1876.
Interview with Caroline Taylor, West Hartford, CT, December, 1974.
Interview with Mrs. Paul Butterworth, West Hartford, CT, December, 1974.
Trumbull, J. Hammond, ed. The Memorial History of Hartford County, Connecticut 1633-1884, Boston, 1886, V.I., p.670.
† Clark J. Strickland, Connecticut Historical Commission, Day-Taylor House, Hartford, CT, nomination document, 1975, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.