Old Wethersfield Historic District
The Old Wethersfield Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. 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 Old Wethersfield Historic District comprises about 1,200 dwellings of all ages, nearly 100 being Colonial buildings. It is clearly defined by railroad tracks on the north and west, highway I-91 to the east and Wethersfield Cove also to the north.
Wethersfield's green is a slender diamond nearly a half-mile long, part shaded, part open. Along both sides are lined Colonial houses framed with those of later building. Around the corner from the green is the church. This is one of the few brick structures of its day (1761-4), a well-preserved building which after being painted and the paint sand blasted off, retains most of its original appearance.
There are many types of Colonial and Federal buildings in the Old Wethersfield Historic District. Some dwellings originated as one room structures, others were two story houses with two rooms on each floor. There are gambrel roofed structures, peaked roof houses with one, two, and four chimneys, brick houses of all types, and a few so changed that the original lines are indiscernible. Most of the wooden houses have new clapboarding, roofs, and the chimneys repointed, but they retain their original appearance, except in color; since although they are now white, they were originally colored with dull red, green, yellow and blue.
While most of the buildings are in a good state of repair, a few have undergone complete and painstaking restoration. The Antiquarian and Landmarks Society has restored the Buttolph-Williams House to its 1692 appearance; the Connecticut Chapter of Colonial Dames has preserved the Silas Deane House (1766), the Joseph Webb House (1752) and the Isaac Stevens House (1790). These are open to the public. The Town of Wethersfield owns the Solomon Welles House (1774) and the Henry Deming House (1790), which it uses for offices. The First School Society owns the Old Academy (1801) which is used by the Wethersfield Historical Society as a public museum. The Town of Wethersfield also owns a unique building, the Old Warehouse (c.1690). This is one of seven built at this site to handle goods brought up the river in sloops and schooners from coastal cities, the West Indies, and across the Atlantic. It is located in a town-owned park on the southeastern side of the cove. A majority of the eighteenth century houses in the town were built by sea captains. They are not elaborate but were comfortable homes, built mostly by ship carpenters, and in their original locations.
Old Wethersfield Historic District is a large district running from Hartford on the north to Rocky Hill on the South. It is clearly defined by the tracks of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad on the north and west, Highway I-91 to the east, and Wethersfield Cove, also on the north.
Wethersfield is one of the oldest areas of settlement in Connecticut. The first white men to acquire land there were a group of adventurers led by John Oldham from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A number of people from Wethersfield have contributed to state and national history. These include Silas Deane who arranged for supplies for the Revolutionary Army in France and served in the Congress of the United States, Colonel John Chester whose carefully drilled regiment saved the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the botanist Charles Wright, who was distinguished for his work in the southwest.
Wethersfield is noted for its military contributions to the colonies, and to the United States. During the Revolution a total of more than 550 men took up arms for at least part of the war. This was a remarkably large enlistment for a town of Wethersfield's population.
Wethersfield was one of the Connecticut towns joined together (Hartford and Windsor were the others) with the adoption of the "Fundamental Orders" in 1639. Some historians see this document as an important landmark in the evolution of democratic government — the first written constitution, the basis of the Constitution of Connecticut, and a model for the United States Constitution. Other important events in the town in the pre-revolutionary period were a voluntary tax collection to help Bostonians embargo English merchandise, the participation of the Company of Colonel John Chester in the "Lexington Alarm," and the confrontation and forced resignation of the Royal Stamp Master, Jared Ingersoll.
Joseph Webb's home in Wethersfield, now a National Historic Landmark was the scene of the Yorktown Conference," a dramatic event coordinating the Continental Army, the French Troops, and the French Fleet, in a campaign culminating in the victory at Yorktown, the final battle of the Revolutionary War.
From the earliest days of settlement the men of the town have used the Connecticut River and the Atlantic Ocean for their livelihood. More than half the able-bodied men were ship owners or sailors at least part of the time. Many ships were built here to engage in trade with Atlantic Coast cities, the West Indies and European ports. Wethersfield was until 1700 the head of transportation on the Connecticut River. Through warehouses, such as the one remaining on Wethersfield Cove, flowed the trade of the upper Connecticut Valley to and from the Atlantic coast cities and the West Indies. A unique and most important Wethersfield product was a flat red onion. This was marketed wherever Wethersfield ships sailed and was known as "Wethersfield Red." As many as a million and a half bunches were shipped in some years. The variety is still grown and seeds are sold throughout the world.
Historic American Buildings Survey (CONN-129, CONN-110, CONN-128, CONN-127.
Albert E. Van Dusen, Connecticut. New York: Random House, 1961.
Florence S. Marcy Crofut, Guide to the History and the Historic Sites of Connecticut. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937.
"Report of the Wethersfield Historic District Study Committee," December 13, 1961.
† Constance Luyster, Connecticut Historical Commission, Old Wethersfield Historic District, nomination document, 1970, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.