Palisado Avenue Historic District
The Palisado Avenue Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
Palisado Avenue Historic District extends north from the Farmington River in the town of Windsor, starting several hundred yards upstream from where the Farmington joins the Connecticut River. Palisado Avenue runs along the top of a ledge outcrop, Palisado Ridge, which is the first high ground above the meadows that mark the western bank of the Connecticut. The Palisado Avenue Historic District consists of buildings arrayed in a generally linear pattern along Palisado Avenue. Near its southern end, the Palisado Avenue Historic District extends west along Pierson Lane to include one house, and east along North Meadow Road to take in seven houses. The area has been primarily residential in use since Anglo-European people settled in Windsor, and continues in this use. There has always been some institutional use too, evident today in the religious buildings and schools included in the district. The buildings are widely spaced apart and stand on deep lots. Abundant foliage and trees appear along the streets throughout the Palisado Avenue Historic District, so that from any single point no more than four or five buildings are visible.
There are 79 properties in the Palisado Avenue Historic District: 65 houses, four barns or carriage houses, three buildings of religious use, two schools, one small office building, one cemetery, one site (Palisado Green), one monument, and one bridge. Fifty-seven of the properties, or 72 percent, contribute to the significance of the Palisado Avenue Historic District: 48 houses, three barns or carriage houses, one church, one school, the Green, the cemetery, the monument, and the bridge. Twenty-two of the properties (17 houses, one barn, one parish house, one synagogue, one office, and one school) were deemed non-contributing because of alterations or age less than 50 years. The buildings are all of one or two stories (many with attics), and wooden construction predominates, both timber-framing and balloon-framing. There is a significant minority of brick houses, with at least one example for most of the styles represented, including Georgian, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, and Colonial Revival.
The largest group of contributing buildings dates from the 18th century, and is evenly divided between simple structures designated as "vernacular" in the inventory, and buildings with some architectural elaboration, such as a pedimented entry or a mutulary cornice, which are designated as Georgian; many examples from each type feature early-20th century Colonial Revival alterations, usually congruent with the original building. The Federal style (3) and Greek Revival (3) buildings are distinguished from the Georgian by age (19th versus 18th century origin) and by a more formal Classicism than is evident in the Georgian buildings. The variety of Victorian styles includes Italianate (4), Victorian vernacular (3), and one each of Eastlake, Queen Anne, and Second Empire. Colonial Revival (9) is the most numerous 20th century style, and there are single examples of the Bungalow, the Tudor Revival, and the Foursquare.
Despite the preponderance of pre-1800 buildings, the character of the Palisado Avenue Historic District is as much Colonial Revival as colonial. Besides the large sample of Colonial Revival houses, this influence is evident in early-20th century remodeling of most of the colonial buildings. The most common alteration was the installation of a new entry treatment. Some of these changes are evident from structural details, such as a newer portico obscuring an earlier treatment, or a squarely plumb portico applied over an unevenly settled facade. Others can be discerned from incongruous stylistic details, such as the lack of a vaulted ceiling behind an open pediment, or a broken pediment on a Greek Revival house. These Colonial Revival alterations do not detract from the architectural integrity of the district: a principal theme is domestic and institutional architecture from the early 18th century to the 1930s, including the Colonial Revival.
Thus the Palisado Avenue Historic District retains a high degree of integrity in its architecture and its streetscapes. Only two houses and one barn were deemed non-contributing because of alterations. The other non-contributors were all built in the last 50 years. These later buildings have continued the earlier settlement pattern of the area: linear distribution along Palisado Avenue, generous spacing between houses, and minimal setback from the street. They are built on a scale similar to the earlier buildings: one-family houses of one or two stories. The materials of the new houses are also generally consistent with those of the earlier ones. Several houses have been moved, either from another nearby location or from another place on the same lot.
Palisado Avenue Historic District is significant because it embodies the distinctive characteristics of architectural styles from the early 18th century through the early 20th century. The buildings include distinguished and for the most part well-preserved examples of several architectural styles: 18th century vernacular, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Victorian vernacular, Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, and Colonial Revival. The architecture is distinctive for the high concentration (for Connecticut) of brick construction from the 18th and 19th centuries. The Palisado Avenue Historic District also has significance in the history of Windsor. The first English settlers in Windsor (and in the Connecticut Valley) lived on either side of the Farmington River along Palisado Avenue, and Palisado Green remained the center of the town's civic and ecclesiastic affairs until the church was relocated south of the Farmington River in the 1750s. After that, Palisado served a series of diverse and sometimes overlapping roles in the larger community of Windsor, all of which illuminate the town's unique history.
In the early 1630s three separate groups of English people settled on the banks of the Farmington River near its confluence with the Connecticut. The area atop the ridge just north of the Farmington (today's Palisado Green) was the center of the community, largely because it was protected from flooding. Its role as the focus of community life was reinforced in 1637 during the Pequot War, when all the settlers set up quarters near Palisado Green, and erected a stockade, or palisado, for protection against hostile natives. During this crisis the residents named their settlement Windsor. After the Pequots were defeated, the Windsor people erected their first meetinghouse on the present site of Palisado Green. Militia drills and the limited exchange of goods that occurred took place on the land around the meetinghouse. Palisado Green remained the center of civic and religious life, until in 1757 the growing population south of the Farmington River succeeded in their demand to relocate the church nearer their homes, on what is today Broad Street Green; the Palisado people obtained permission to form a separate society. Thus began the concentration of Windsor's religious and institutional life in the Broad Street area, away from the Palisado neighborhood. The Palisado area then entered a period of local commercial prominence. Merchants like James Hooker, who ran his business in his house at 118 Palisado Avenue, exported agricultural and forest products to the Caribbean, and imported sugar and molasses. The volume of trade and the anchorage in the mouth of the Farmington made Palisado an important port of entry in the late 18th century. Palisado also served more purely local commerce in the 18th century, when the common was frequently stacked high with produce and other goods brought to market. The post office and the service businesses of the agricultural economy, such as blacksmithing, also were located around Palisado Green.
After the Revolution, the religious societies to the north and south of the Farmington decided to reunify, placing the new school south of the river and the new church to the north (the present First Church). The townspeople also agreed to pay for a bridge across the Farmington, the earliest predecessor of the present bridge; the bridge thus symbolizes the ongoing commitment of the separate areas to stand together as a town. The Broad Street area gained commercial pre-eminence in 1844, when the Hartford, New Haven and Springfield Railroad located its depot on Central Street. At that same time, the Palisado church was being rebuilt, and it was rededicated as "First Church in Windsor," to distinguish it from other churches in the town that could not trace their origins to the 1630s. This episode marked the beginning of Palisado's commemorative function, one that it continues to serve.
Convenient to the commercial center of Broad Street, yet comfortably removed from its bustle, Palisado began to fulfill another role in the second half of the 19th century: select residential neighborhood. The town's population tripled between 1850 and 1900, the increase composed largely of working people employed in Windsor's brickyards and mills. The factory neighborhoods included numerous immigrants from Ireland, and later from other European countries. Palisado retained an exclusive aspect, based more strictly on money than on ethnicity: at least one Irishman, Patrick Murphy, lived on Palisado Avenue, in the spacious Italianate house at #345. New construction continued to follow the colonial pattern of large house lots, which complemented the neighborhood's social position. The commemorative role of the Palisado neighborhood also began to assume greater importance. In the late-19th and early-20th centuries, one expression of antipathy toward the new European immigrants was the heightened interest of Yankees in their colonial forebears. Genealogical societies flourished, and tracing one's antecedents to Yankee stock was required for admission to certain organizations. The descendants of two early settlers placed the Grant Family Monument on the site of their ancestors' house, near what is today 160 Palisado Avenue. And the Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims built the monument on Palisado Green: once the location of their ancestors' church, the Green became a shrine to their ancestors.
The Palisado Avenue Historic District's buildings reflect the Palisado area's changing role in Windsor, and embody the distinctive characteristics of several periods and styles of architecture. The Fyler House, so extensively altered that it has scant original 17th century fabric, nonetheless retains the scale of that period. Its small rooms and low ceilings suggest the economy of scarcity that characterized the first two generations of English settlement. The center chimney houses of the 18th century also feature locally available materials (timber framing, fieldstone or brick foundations and chimneys, clapboards), but their size, typically 5-bay and 2-and-1/2 stories, indicates a less marginal existence. Windsor's extensive clay beds suitable for brick-making began to influence local architecture, evident in the brick-walled ground floors of two 18th century houses on North Meadow Road, and the all-brick, 1764 house. Extra-regional trade and Windsor's good agricultural land brought prosperity to some residents, and contact with more cosmopolitan port cities brought growing sophistication in the houses of the well-to-do. The Georgian dwellings of the 18th century are less tradition bound than their predecessors, displaying conscious Classicism beyond the late-medieval Jacobean influence carried across the Atlantic by the early English settlers. The Elijah Mather, Sr. House uses Classical forms such as the pilaster-and-lintel entry with entablature. Yet it also features folk motifs, such as the carved rosettes and the bell-arched lights and panels, which represent the persistence of traditional designs in the mid-18th century, and identify the Mather House and comparable examples as the products of mid-18th century Connecticut.
By the early 19th century, the formal architecture of the Palisado area (and Connecticut as a whole) had turned fully to the Classical inspiration. The Federal style house of Eliakrin Olcott evoked Classical form in its gable-front siting; adopted Classical motifs in its arched entry and attic light; and imitated Classical materials in its flush-boarding, which was thought to make a wooden wall resemble masonry. The Classical influence was still filtered through English practice: the delicately scaled mutulary cornice reflects the architecture of England's Robert Adam. Following the Federal style closely in time, the Greek Revival utilized many of the same precepts while hewing more closely to the heavier scale of ornament evident in the masonry buildings of ancient Greece. Thus the cornice of the 1852 parsonage is of plain boards rather than finely scaled moldings, and the pilasters and portico added to the James Hooker House in the 1840s are more massive than similar features on the Olcott House. The historical, romantic impulse that helped popularize the Greek Revival style found more exuberant expression in Italianate architecture. The Patrick Murphy House (c.1871, 345 Palisado Avenue) is an example of the flat-roofed, boxy-massed Italian Villa style; its brick construction makes it particularly distinctive of Windsor. The Palisado Avenue Historic District's most vivid Italianate building is the Fifth District School (1871, 235 Palisado Avenue), with its round-arched shapes, deep cornice with paired brackets, and small square tower rising from a shallow entry pavilion. The Palisado Avenue Historic District also features good examples of other Victorian styles: Second Empire (390 Palisado Avenue), with its characteristic mansard roof; Eastlake (8 North Meadow Road), with its profusion of turned and carved ornament in the peaks and porch; and Queen Anne (143 Palisado Avenue) with the key features of asymmetrical plan, massing and roof, and varied wall textures.
Among the various revival styles that achieved high popularity in the early 20th century, the Colonial Revival was the most favored in this neighborhood. Like the other revival styles of the day, the Colonial Revival gained favor in part because it offered an appearance of order and solidity relative to the exuberant eclecticism of Victorian architecture. Its scale and materials were also in keeping with the prior buildings around Palisado Green and along Palisado Avenue. The Colonial Revival is meshed with the nativist tenor of Yankee society, as people looked to their ancestors for inspiration. Gambrel roofs, symmetrical facades, and small-pane sash were applied to balloon-framed dwellings, and ornamentation took the form of re-interpreted Georgian-Classical motifs. The Colonial Revival era also included the remodeling of dwellings that were truly colonial, most often resulting in a fancier appearance than the original. The colonial forebears were rightly honored for their hard work and flinty rationality, but it is ironic that the 20th century attempt to memorialize in architecture the values of earlier generations imparted a rather precious appearance to the stark elegance of the older buildings. While such alterations can be seen as detracting from the integrity of the older buildings, they also have significance in their own right because they help to illustrate how an evolving community interpreted its own past.
Fowles, Lloyd and William Uricchio, The Fowles History of Windsor, Connecticut. Windsor, 1976.
Hayden, Jabez, Historical Sketches. Windsor Locks, CT, 1900.
Howard, Daniel, A New History of Old Windsor, Connecticut. Windsor Locks, CT, 1935.
________, Glimpses of Ancient Windsor from 1633-1933. Windsor Locks, CT, 1933.
Stiles, Henry, The History of Ancient Windsor. Hartford, 1891, 2 vols.
Maps and Views
Pease, Seth, Map of Windsor. Suffield, CT, 1798.
Baker and Tilden, Atlas of Hartford City and County. Hartford, 1869.
† Matthew Roth, Bruce Clouette & Robert Griffith, Historic Resource Consultants, and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Palisado Avenue Historic District, Windsor, CT, nomination document, 1987, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.