Philip Chapin House
The Philip Chapin House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document . Adaptation copyright © 2014, The Gombach Group.
The Philip Chapin House is located on Church Street on a spacious lot facing the small shaded green in the Pine Meadow section of New Hartford. Next to it are two country Gothic buildings, a church and a residence, and across the green are other 19th century buildings. Because of the visual continuity and common associations with the Chapin family, the center of the village is a National Register district. The Philip Chapin House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places separately because its size, setting, architectural significance and well-preserved state make it the most outstanding house on the green.
The Philip Chapin House is an example of the north Italian Renaissance style; its main mass is in the form of a cube, two full stories tall with a low third story. The deck-on-hipped roof is surmounted by a square belvedere, and on three sides is an open loggia. In the rear is a hipped-roof, L-shaped wing, containing a rear entrance, service rooms and servants' quarters. Although it is two stories high, its floor levels are a few steps below those of the main house. There are two outbuildings: a small privy and a two-story carriage house. Although devoid of ornament, both resemble the main house in form: cube-like with a flattish hipped roof. The latter is distinguished by a pointed segmental arch bay on two sides and a similar loft opening,
The main facade of the Philip Chapin House is three bays wide; the central bay, containing the entrance, is projected forward slightly and is topped off by a pediment which merges with the main roof. On each side of the pavilion is a closely set pair of windows at each story. The side elevations are similarly composed of nine pairs of windows. The whole exterior is clapboarded, except for the belvedere, the central bay and the third story, which are flush-sided. The roof is covered with brown, red and gray fish-scale slate shingles.
The exterior is richly executed, particularly in the use of paneling to create textural effects, the repetition in different scales of cornice brackets and carvings, and interesting combinations of shapes and different types of arches into single elements. The main entrance features double rectangular doors of black walnut; they have round-headed panels and in the center, large circular bosses. These and a transom are formed into a single round-arched opening by a band of carving; the whole is then enclosed as a rectangle by a series of moldings. The first story windows are tall and narrow, grouped into pairs, and are also surrounded by a set of moldings, with recessed panels filling in the space between the sills and the floor of the veranda. The flat-roof veranda is supported by square columns with arched-paneled bases and flared capitals; it has steps for the main entrance and at the southwest corner. The second-story windows are also paired and narrow, but have the shape of a segmental arch at the top. Above each pair is a raised panel which forms a single curve above the two segments. The effect is completed by a hoodmold which follows the same shape but rests on consoles located at the level of the top of the panel. The third story is set off by a series of moldings and its flush siding; its windows are shorter, smaller, round-headed, and have simple molded frames. The window treatment in the central pavilion is somewhat different: on the second story is a single round-arched opening surrounded by paneling and a rectangular band of molding. It is surmounted by a straight cornice. Beneath the pediment is a smaller opening with a round-arched architrave whose keystone and supporting consoles have a pierced design. The belvedere has two windows, like those on the third story, on each side; recessed panels between the openings and in the corners make the transition between the arches and the basic rectangular shape of the belvedere. On each side of its roof is a projection similar to the second story hoodmolds. The jutting main cornice is supported by finely shaped brackets with pendent drops; it consists of a set of moldings and a band of ring-and-ball carving. This design, complete with brackets, is continued along the pediment, and is repeated in the cornices of the veranda, the second-story pavilion window, and the belvedere. The ring-and-ball carving is also repeated in the second-story window caps.
The interior is equally elegant. The house is laid out on the central hall plan, with a large parlor on one side and a smaller front room, perhaps a dining room, on the other. On the second floor are corresponding chambers, and on the third floor is an open space which was used as a ball room. The front rooms feature very wide arched openings, gilded cornices and original brass gas fixtures. There are eight coal fireplaces in the house: of Italian marble, they have round-arched openings, carved consoles and complex-curved mantles. Although the original decor is no longer known (another Chapin house had an interior by Tiffany), many built-in furnishings remain to suggest its opulence. In the dining room is a glass-front burl cupboard. Each of the chambers has in the corner a small marble sink, one with sterling silver faucets, and the bath has a mahogany encased copper tub.
The Philip Chapin House is an excellent example of Victorian domestic architecture. Built in 1867 for a member of Pine Meadow's leading factory-owning family, the house reveals the degree of refinement which a person in such a position could provide for himself. Like comparable houses of the period, the Philip Chapin House is large, spacious, and almost over-scaled. In style, the house is a northern Italian Renaissance villa: the 2-1/2-story cubic form, the symmetrical elevations, the belvedere, the central pavilion, the projecting cornice, and the round-arched windows are typical elements of this style. It is in the richness of ornamentation, however, that the Philip Chapin House excels. Everywhere one finds examples of elaboration and decoration which could have been left plain had the builder a lesser commitment to detail. At the same time, the effect is not overly busy: many interesting points, such as the repetition of the ball and ring turning in the window caps, veranda and main cornices, or the use of scaled down brackets as pediment modillions, can be appreciated only at close range. Other outstanding or interesting features include the front doors, the polychrome slate, the interesting geometry in the second-story window treatment, and the interior details — fireplaces, woodwork and built-ins.
The Philip Chapin House has local significance because the Chapins were one of the foremost Pine Meadow families in the 19th century. Hermon Chapin started in 1828 a factory which made planes and machine-stamped rules. This prospered and was one of New Hartford's largest firms. Chapin and his sons built several large houses in the Pine Meadow section, as well as donating land for the green and adjacent church.
Philip Chapin (1838-1915) tried to continue his father's success. Around 1865 he purchased the Kellogg Machine Works and, with additional shop space inherited from his father, formed the Chapin Machinery Company to manufacture machinery, especially knitting machines. At the same time, he married and built this impressive house on the green. Between 1878 and 1880, however, his business failed twice and was bought out by his brother Edward, who had continued the original tool company. Philip left Pine Meadow to start a bolt factory in Cleveland. He later managed an Iron Company in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, but after the flood, moved to Washington, D.C. and then to Paris.
The building is very well-preserved and is almost entirely in its original state. The well-kept grounds, as well as the nearby green, lend the house an appropriately spacious setting. The combination of style, setting, preservation, and high visibility make the Philip Chapin House an exceptional architectural resource.
Chapin, Gilbert W. The Chapin Book. Priv. pr.: Chapin Family Association, 1924.
History of Litchfield County, Vol.2. Philadelphia: J.W. Lewis, 1881. pp.410-11.
Norton, Geta Chapin. "Reminiscences of Pine Meadow, Connecticut," Lure of the Litchfield Hills. XXX, No.1, 10-15.
Strickland, Clark J. Interview with Florence Richards (recent owner), 12 November 1975, notes at Connecticut Historical Commission.