West End South Historic District
The West End South 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 © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The West End South Historic District, comprising approximately 46 acres, lies directly south of Farmington Avenue, a major east-west thoroughfare, in Hartford and West Hartford, Connecticut, adjacent to the Hartford-West Hartford border of Prospect Avenue. The West End South Historic District is fairly level, with a gentle descent from north to south.
There are approximately 184 major buildings in the West End South Historic District, not including outbuildings, of which 177 contribute to its historic and architectural significance. The contributing buildings date from about 1855 to 1925, and they represent most of the architectural styles in use during that period, ranging from Greek Revival to Tudor Revival. The 7 non-contributing buildings consist of houses that are either inappropriately altered or are less than 50 years old. All but two of the contributing structures were built for residential use; of these, most are single-family (124 of 169) and two are apartment buildings. With few exceptions, these buildings are still in residential use. Four houses on Prospect Avenue, now a busy thoroughfare, currently are used at least in part for professional offices. The multi-family residences are concentrated mostly on Tremont Street. The two originally non-residential buildings, a firehouse and a church, are located on Prospect Avenue and contribute to the district. 157 of the 177 contributing structures are frame, 8 are brick, 8 combine the two, and 4 are stucco.
The West End South Historic District streets are laid out in a grid pattern, with long, rectangular blocks. Large trees and ample foliage, for the most part well-maintained, frame the district buildings. Virtually all the houses are set back the same distance from the street on moderately-sized lots and are nearly uniform in scale and general proportion (2-1/2-stories high and 3 or 4 bays wide). Another common feature, no matter what the architectural style, is a front porch, varying in size from a 1-bay wide entrance porch to a broad, wraparound verandah. Beyond these similarities, the houses are very different from one another in their massing, texture and detail. Since there are no vacant lots in the West End South Historic District, the total effect is one of density, structural variety and much visual interest.
The architectural styles in the West End South Historic District range, chronologically, from the Greek Revival to the Tudor Revival. Most of the buildings combine elements of more than one style and might best be classified as "eclectic." The styles most in evidence here are the Queen Anne, the Shingle style and the Colonial Revival.
The earliest surviving building, at 83 Oxford Street, is a c.1855, 2-story, 3-bay wide Greek Revival house. Despite its present sheathing in non-original synthetic siding, and a later rear addition, the building exhibits many distinctively Greek Revival features: corner pilasters, a wide entablature (echoed in the front porch), fluted Doric columns in the front porch, and a front door flanked by pilasters and sidelights. The low hipped roof suggests an Italianate influence. This is the only Greek Revival building in the West End South Historic District.
The few examples of other mid-19th century styles in the West End South Historic District show an easy mixing of styles and relative simplicity in detail. 200 Beacon Street (c.1875), a 1-1/2-story, L-plan frame house, has the steeply pitched cross gables, overhanging eaves, hood molds and sawn brackets and porch braces characteristic of the Gothic Revival style. The jerkin head dormers, restrained detailing of the gable and dormer bargeboards, and the gable cross braces with pendants, all suggest the transition to the Stick style. 56-58 Oxford Street, a 2-story frame house of 1890, combines Gothic Revival details, particularly evident in its cross gables and the small trefoils in the pierced gable screens and porch braces, with a central hipped roof that is more Victorian Gothic. 172 Beacon Street (c.1875), an Italianate 2-story, 3-bay wide frame house, is even more restrained in its Gothic Revival allusions, which consist of small cross gables and a pierced front porch railing. The plainness of 188 Beacon Street, also built around 1875, almost defies classification, although its rather simple porch frieze with quatrefoils is Gothic Revival inspired and its pyramidal roof anticipates the Colonial Revival. 543-545 Prospect Avenue (c.1855), a 2-story, shingle and stucco L-plan house with cross gables, has a front entrance porch, projecting gable peaks with stickwork and asymmetrical massing that are characteristic of the Stick style; however, its fish-scale slate roof, shingle and stucco wall siding, sawn brackets at cutaway corners, and semicircular windows, are typically Queen Anne and, given the construction date, may be later changes.
Two 1-story, Second Empire houses on Tremont Street date from about 1875 and are nearly identical in their massing: centered, front and rear projecting pavilions, mansard cross roofs with concave sides and dormers, and side porches. 38 Tremont Street has clapboard siding, tall, paired front windows and picturesque porch detailing composed of turned posts and sawn braces. #64 is simpler, with stucco walls, paired, square posts on its porch, and a single, large front window with a stained glass transom.
Several houses in the West End South Historic District are Queen Anne in style. Typically, they are two stories in height, with either hipped or pitched roofs (gable ends facing the street) and cross gables, and gable peaks projecting over 3-sided, cutaway bays with brackets. Corner towers and combinations of various kinds of sheathing are common; builders typically used clapboards and wood shingles in decorative patterns. Stained glass appears in these houses, although not to any great extent. Most buildings have wide front porches, often wrap-around (or polygonal around projecting bays), and smaller, second-floor porches are also common. A richly textured example is the 2-story frame house at 66 Oxford Street (c.1897), with its hipped roof, two cross gables on the front, decorative bands of wood shingles, clustered and fluted porch columns and small, projecting gable peaks supported by small brackets. An entirely different and, for this district, singular Queen Anne house is the one at 125 Warrenton Avenue. Built in 1900, this 2-story, brick and frame residence, L-plan with cross gables, has window surrounds of robust, brick quoins that are unique in the West End South Historic District, and a fine, applied floral-pattern panel in its front porch pediment. The owner has recently restored the front porch posts and railing in an appropriate manner. The 2-story, 2-family frame house at 75-77 Tremont Street (c.1903) is noteworthy for its coursed ashlar front porch pedestals and chimney stacks. Other stylistic influences are the Shingle style (wood shingle siding) and Colonial Revival (Adamesque plaster decoration in the front porch pediment and third-floor Palladian window); the combination of these elements presents a complex, asymmetrical and highly textured example of the stylistic transition then underway from the Queen Anne to the Shingle style and Colonial Revival.
Most of the buildings in the West End South Historic District date from 1895-1910, and they reflect how easily pattern books of the time and local builders mixed elements of the Queen Anne, Shingle style and Colonial Revival styles. Massing and texture in these houses varied greatly, but they gradually became simpler as the Colonial Revival influence began to predominate. Asymmetrical compositions became more regular, corner towers began to grow smaller and then disappear, and sheathings ranged from being entirely wood shingles, to a combination of wood shingles and clapboards, and then only clapboards. Most of these houses have some Colonial Revival detailing, such as in their porch balustrades. Leaded, upper window sashes with glazing in decorative patterns, such as narrow, vertical lights combined with diamond lights at the top, are very common.
A number of houses from this period are entirely wood shingled and have the simplified, asymmetrical massing that is usually labeled Shingle style. These buildings typically are 1-story, with gambrel roofs that flare in front and project over a first-floor front porch, corner towers and polygonal dormers. 210 Beacon Street, built in 1900, is an example of this style. 544 Prospect Avenue, dating from 1896, has another polygonal front dormer instead of a corner tower. 488 Prospect Avenue, also 1896, is a full two stories in height and has cross gambrel gables and a wrap-around porch; this Shingle style example is expansive and bold.
An even more common occurrence during this transitional period was the combination of clapboards on the first floor of a house and wood shingles above. In these cases, the extent of asymmetry ranged from subdued to almost nonexistent. 105 Beacon Street (1899) has a hipped roof and corner tower characteristic of the Queen Anne style, but its otherwise limited surface texture and its front porch, tripartite second floor window and entablature are Colonial Revival in feeling. The 2-story, 2-family house at 160-162 Beacon Street, built in 1911, likewise has a pitched roof and cross gables, but except for the molded braces at its cutaway corners, its flatness and details are Colonial Revival.
A few houses are distinguished for their juxtaposition of strong, asymmetrical, Queen Anne-like massing and equally forceful Colonial Revival ornament. In 153-155 Warrenton Avenue (1899), a 2-story, 2-family, shingled house, this juxtaposition is particularly attractive, and is highlighted by its flared, cross gable roofline with heavy, shingled brackets, Adamesque laurel wreaths and garlands in both the pediment of the front porch and the transoms above the second-floor oriel, and the third-floor Palladian window. The apsidal, 2-story side porch at the front corner, with the projecting pediment on the front side, is unusual. 161 Beacon Street, dating from 1900, is a 2-story house that is particularly interesting because its plan is quintessentially Queen Anne (hipped roof with cresting; lower, front cross gable; corner tower; and wrap-around porch), while its extensive detailing is very typically Colonial Revival (garlands in the tower frieze; arched window; and elongated side stairwell window with flanking pilasters and wood fanlight). An even more extravagant combination of styles is the 2-story, 2-family house at 213-215 Beacon Street (1895).
A row of 2-story, 2-family brick houses that dates from this period is important both for its architecture and for its dominance of the west side of Tremont Street. These houses were all built in 1907 and are nearly identical; they have pitched roofs (gable ends toward the street) and cross gables, exposed rafters, pierced gable peak screens in floral designs, and first and second-floor front porches. The effect of these Queen Anne elements is offset in part by their restrained, Colonial Revival porch detailing and third-floor Palladian windows (47-49 to 59-61 Tremont Street).
William H. Scoville (1869-1932), prominent Hartford architect-builder, was responsible for quite a number of houses in the West End South Historic District, particularly on Tremont Street, and his creative combination of the Shingle and Colonial Revival styles is distinctive and readily identifiable. 150 Warrenton Avenue (1900) typifies his work, with its flared, hipped roof and deep soffits; large, front dormer gable with an unusual, 2-sided, diagonal window that has its own small, flared roof; and large, shingled brackets. His adjoining rows on Tremont Street of seven single-family houses (#68-80), all built in 1906, and nine 2-family houses (#2-4 to 14-16, #40-42, #44-46, #52-54 to #60, and #52-54), built in 1906 and 1908, are equally distinctive. Using the same basic, plan for each differently sized house, Scoville varied their exterior appearances widely to achieve a streetscape of much texture and diversity. For example, while each single-family house has a front porch, its appearance differs greatly from its neighbor: #68 has a pitched roof porch with partial cornice returns and paired, square posts; #70, on the other hand, has a porch with a flat roof, brackets, and arched, square posts with paneled spandrels. Other characteristic features of Scoville's houses are first-floor oriel windows, paneling between the front, second-floor windows, and flared, projecting roofs, whether pitched, hipped, or gambrel. Perhaps his most unusual architectural features are the oversized front dormer gable at #74 that projects over a third-floor Palladian window, and the third-floor oriel window at #72 with its small, overhanging polygonal roof at the peak of the front gable of the gambrel roof. His adjacent row of 2-family houses demonstrates a somewhat lesser degree of originality.
The Colonial Revival is the last major architectural style found to any extent in the West End South Historic District, and its use coincided with the end of the district's residential development. Houses of this style are recognized by their Colonial Revival detailing: Palladian or arched windows, entablatures with modillions or dentils, and front porch balustrades. Roofs are hipped or gambrel (often with gables facing the street), and plans are usually rectangular and often almost square. As with the Queen Anne style buildings in the West End South Historic District, virtually all of these houses have wide front porches, and many have decoratively-glazed upper sashes. There are a number of fine examples, such as 206 Beacon Street (c.1900), with its tan brick first floor and wood shingled second, corbeled and paneled chimney stack, and stained glass side window with flanking pilasters and wood fanlight. This house and several others have hipped roofs with large, flat center sections that are almost mansard in style. 74 Oxford. Street (1902) has a wraparound porch with a rounded corner, paired, second-floor oriel windows, and a front dormer with a Palladian window, elements that are found in several houses. Its next-door neighbor at 72 Oxford Street, also built in 1902, has a second-floor oriel window at its front corner that is found in only one other house in the district. Gambrel roofs, often with cross gambrel gables, are also typical of Colonial Revival houses in the West End South Historic District; 139 Warrenton Avenue, built in 1903, is a most attractive example, and its tripartite, arched window is unique. 91 Warrenton Avenue (1915) is one of two relatively late 1-story Colonial Revival houses with long gambrel roofs, brick facing on their first floors, and clapboards in their side gables. This house, the more elaborate of the two, has a wide front porch under the flared, projecting front roof slope; the porch has paired, square posts on a low brick wall with a parapet. Its front, shed dormer with pediments at either end, is rare in the district, as are the exposed chimney pots. Other interesting Colonial Revival features found elsewhere in the district include a narrow, gabled, projecting front pavilion at 7 Regent Street that is almost Jacobean and a projecting, 3-sided, 2-story front bay with a bit of modified crenellation at 5 Regent Street.
Two buildings also show the influence of the Tudor Revival style. 145 Warrenton Avenue, a 2-story, shingled house dating from 1902, combines Shingle style and Stick style features with half-timbered gables and a front, highly textured, chimney stack, both of which are characteristic of the Tudor Revival. The Town of West Hartford's firehouse at 563 Prospect Avenue, built in 1915, may loosely be classified as Tudor Revival because of its stucco walls and half-timbered dormer gable peaks, although its hipped roof with flared eaves is not necessarily of that style.
The buildings in the West End South Historic District are generally in very good repair. Over the years, synthetic siding has been applied to many houses, and a sizable number of front porches have been enclosed.
The West End South Historic District is significant architecturally because it is a cohesive and virtually intact neighborhood of middle class, 19th and early-20th century residences that are fine examples of the styles popular in Hartford during that period of time. The predominant styles are Queen Anne, Shingle style and Colonial Revival; the West End South Historic District contains many houses that exhibit more than one of these styles. The sense of time and place found in this neighborhood is striking. The West End South Historic District also possesses considerable historic importance because of its association with the commercial and industrial expansion of Hartford toward the end of the 19th century and into the 20th. The residential development of the West End South Historic District occurred largely in response to the housing needs of the expanding middle and upper middle classes, and the neighborhood was one of the area's most desirable addresses.
The degree of cohesion found in this historic district is remarkable. Very few of the houses built between 1850 and 1925, the period of the West End South Historic District's greatest historic and architectural significance, are gone. Farmington Avenue to the north and the streets just to the east of the district have succumbed to the commercial and more intensive housing pressures of this century; this fact, to a great extent, has determined the district's boundaries. These same developmental pressures do not appear to threaten the district to any great extent in the foreseeable future. To an unusual and pervasive extent, therefore, it retains virtually all of the characteristics of a well-to-do, turn-of-the-century neighborhood.
The West End South Historic District, as an entity, is very appealing because of its associations with the past and its architectural and aesthetic qualities. The unbroken rows of original houses, situated on lots of almost uniform size, are highly regular in their facade lines, building size, scale, general proportion, and materials. Within this framework, the individual houses exhibit a great degree of variety in their features and textures. The trees and landscaping lining the streets and surrounding the houses are large and well-developed, conveying a strong feeling of age and stability. The resulting rhythm of facades and natural borders is complex and attractive. This quality is most apparent on the east side of Tremont Street, with its rows of single- and two-family houses, all built within a three year period (1906-1908) by William H. Scoville. The two-family houses in the district, both on Tremont Street and elsewhere, are architecturally quite compatible with the predominant single-family dwellings because of their similar proportions and materials, and only slightly large scale.
The breadth of 19th- and early 20th-century architectural styles found in the district is impressive, and the concentration of houses constructed around the turn of the century is especially noteworthy. One can find in this neighborhood attractive, probably pattern book-derived, examples of the Greek Revival (83 Oxford Street), Gothic Revival (200 Beacon Street and 56-58 Oxford Street) and Second Empire styles (38 Tremont Street). Fine examples of the Queen Anne, Shingle style and Colonial Revival styles are also readily identifiable (66 Oxford Street; 210 Beacon Street; and 91 Warrenton Avenue).
An important architectural feature of the district is its wealth of houses that mix elements of the Queen Anne, Shingle style and Colonial Revival styles. The turn of the century was a period of transition from complexity and asymmetry in architecture, as epitomized by the Queen Anne style, to respect for older, more historical forms and greater symmetry. Builders and architects in Hartford, as was perhaps the case in many parts of the country, followed this trend while not yielding entirely to it, at least for a number of years. Since those years of transition were the ones of the most construction in the district, the architecture here reflects this predilection, which resulted in houses that are neither strictly one style or another, but that rather attractively combine styles The most common element among these houses is their wood shingle sheathing, either entirely or in part; porches, too, are an almost universal feature. Beyond that, the houses of the time are a diverse and interesting juxtaposition of details and forms. 153-155 Warrenton Avenue and 161 Beacon Street are relatively elaborate examples of this trend.
The 30 houses built by William H. Scoville, which date from 1898 to 1908, are particularly interesting because of their sophistication and originality, and because of their number and concentration on a few streets. Working primarily in the Shingle style and Colonial Revival style, Scoville mixed stylistic elements with dexterity and produced buildings that are eclectic and highly individualistic. Scoville took typical architectural features and exaggerated them; he put structural details in new places; and he invented, or at least utilized, architectural features that appear in no other houses in the West End South Historic District. 150 Warrenton Avenue, built in 1900, illustrates his architectural designs in its projecting and dramatically flared eaves; its first floor oriel; and its unusually large front dormer with a projecting, 2-sided, diagonal window. Scoville's rows of single-family and two-family houses on Tremont Street are extremely good representations of his creativity: while their scales and proportions are basically all alike, each of the houses is unique and demonstrates the breadth of details and forms with which Scoville experimented.
William Scoville and his brother Albert, who built, two houses in the West End South Historic District, had no formal architectural training. They parlayed their backgrounds in carpentry and woodworking into prosperous separate careers as architects/builders. They built houses for their own investment purposes and also for others. It appears from city atlases of that time, for example, that William Scoville owned at least some of the Tremont Street lots on which he constructed houses. William Scoville was also a prominent member of the community, which lends added significance to his involvement in the district. He headed the building committees for the extensive expansion of the Hartford Public High School and for the construction of Hartford's Weaver High School. He was also active politically as a Hartford City Council member for several terms. His standing in the community led to his inclusion in the 1917 Encyclopedia of Connecticut Biography, an honor enjoyed at that time by few men of his profession.
Until the 1870s, this westernmost section of Hartford and the west side of Prospect Avenue in West Hartford remained open farmland, well apart from the continuing expansion of Hartford's commerce and population. Sylvanus Cone farmed land on both sides of Farmington Avenue in this vicinity. William B. Smith, a well-known merchant tailor and breeder of horses and cattle, owned a large tract between "Smith Street" (now South Whitney Street, one street east of Tremont Street) and "Prospect Hill Road" (now Prospect Avenue), according to the 1869 Baker and Tilden atlas of Hartford County. Smith apparently lived in the c.1855 Greek Revival house at 83 Oxford Street while he established a horse farm, built a 1/2-mile track and bred "Thomas Jefferson," a horse locally called one of the greatest of its day.
Responding to the post-Civil War industrial and population growth in Hartford, real estate developer Burdett Loomis and surveyor Joseph Woodruff in 1872 platted and subdivided this neighborhood from Farmington Avenue on the north to Warrenton Avenue (then called Hawthorn Street) on the south, and from Tremont Street on the east to Prospect Avenue on the west. They opened Beacon Street for the sale of property in 1872. Their plat, still in the Hartford Land Records, formed the basis for all subsequent development in the district. Loomis, a prominent citizen and scion of an old Hartford family, was instrumental in developing large portions of the west end of Hartford and the east end of West Hartford. Loomis also built the race track that formed the centerpiece of Charter Oak Park, the area's most famous and popular amusement park during the last half of the 19th century and well into the 20th. He also served as one of Hartford's 12-member delegation to the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
As the Hartford Daily Courant stated in Loomis' 1919 obituary, "his ideas have always been somewhat ahead of his time," and his plans for this neighborhood proved no exception. The Panic of 1873 considerably slowed growth; by 1875, only 6 houses were built. The Panic of 1877 did more: Burdett Loomis lost most of his money and abandoned his plans. Not until 1890 was another house put up.
Hartford was booming again by 1895. After years of stagnation, its grand list grew by 7% in one year, and by 1900 it rose 30%. These greatly improved economic conditions fueled a strong demand for new housing, particularly for the ever expanding and emerging middle class. In 1889, the extension of trolley lines along Farmington Avenue, westward from the center of Hartford to West Hartford, made the West End area attractive for growth. The district developed thereafter with remarkable speed, led by developers such as William and Albert Scoville, Frederick Rockwell, J.W. Eldridge and others. The 1896 Hartford city directory not surprisingly lists a number of men in "real estate" as either owners of land in the district or as residents. Middle-class families of varying means bought homes in the neighborhood. Horace W. Fox, president of the Capitol City Lumber Company, owned a large house on Warrenton Avenue; probate judge Harrison Freeman lived on Prospect Avenue; Gerald H. Brown, a clerk, owned the house at 56-58 Oxford Street; and Lucy A. Barbour, whose father was the first owner of the c.1875 house at 172 Beacon Street, operated "Miss Barbour's School for Girls" at that same address in 1896. Oxford and Beacon Streets by then were almost completely built up, as were Farmington and Prospect Avenues. The number of lots still owned by banks, such as the Mechanics Savings Bank, attested to the foreclosures that had plagued the district in earlier years.
The district continued to develop rapidly thereafter, and it also reflected in its residents the growing ethnic diversity of the city, especially of its middle class. By 1909, few open lots remained. Prominent residents at that time included Moses Fox, one of Hartford's leading retailers and president of the G. Fox & Company, the city's largest department store, who lived at 534 Prospect Avenue. The bulk of the residents were solidly middle class; for example, Harris Burr, the owner/occupant of 49-51 Tremont Street in 1909, was a credit manager at Pope Manufacturing Company. A few Irish families lived in the district in 1909, and by 1920 men such as Leon Greenberg, a wine importer; John Pappas, a candy retailer; and Antonio DeLorenzo, owner of several theaters, were residents.
Despite many changes during this century, the West End South Historic District is virtually intact. By the late 1960s, the age of these houses and deferred maintenance began to take their toll. A number of buildings fell into disrepair and some were converted to multiple-units. In the past 5 to 10 years, however, the West End South Historic District has begun to turn around and its appearance has improved.
Atlas of the City of Hartford/ Springfield, Massachusetts: L.J. Richards & Company, 1896.
Atlas of the City of Hartford, Springfield, Massachusetts: L.J. Richards & Company, 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's Streets, Hartford: The Connecticut Historical Society, 1969.
Encyclopedia of Connecticut Biography, New York: The American Historical Society, 1917, vol.4, p.177 (biography of William H. Scoville).
Geer's Hartford City Directories, Hartford: Elihu Geer, 1869, and The Hartford Printing Company, 1886-1905 and 1920.
The Hartford Daily Courant, July 9, 1896, 8:5 (obituary of William B. Smith), and July 20, 1919, 15:4 (obituary of Burdett Loomis).
Insurance Maps of Hartford, Connecticut, New York Sanborn Map Co., 1920
Kummer, Merle E., Hartford Architecture, volume 3: North and West Neighborhoods, The Hartford Architecture Conservancy, 1978.
McAlester, Virginia and Lee, A Field Guide to American Houses, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1984.
Ransom, David F., "The Scovilles, Hartford's Master Builders of the 1890s," manuscript dated August 30, 1981 and on file at the Stowe-Day Foundation Library, Hartford, Connecticut.
Weaver, Glenn, Hartford — An Illustrated History of Connecticut's Capital, Woodland Hills, California: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1982
† Gregory Andrews &l David Ransom, The Hartford Architecture Conservancy and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, West End South Historic District, Hartford, CT, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.