The Lime Rock Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
Lime Rock is a former industrial village located in the southeastern section of the Town of Salisbury, Connecticut. The village lies along the Salmon Fell Kill or Salmon Creek and is divided into two sections joined by the creek. The northwestern portion of the village is centered around the remains of a nineteenth-century blast furnace and is dominated by the wooded slopes of Forge Mountain, which rise over 400 feet above the village. The southeastern section of the village is downstream of the remains of a large mill pond and contains a variety of former commercial, industrial, and residential structures. The village is predominantly residential in character, with an Episcopal church, several small businesses, and one contracting firm. Of approximately 80 structures within the village boundaries, the majority are of 19th-century date, while many of the earlier and later buildings are also connected with the iron industry which gave birth to the community.
The earliest structures within the Lime Rock Historic District are of 18th century or early 19th century date. These are associated with the early iron industry in Lime Rock, which started in 1735. The earliest extant house is that built in 1767, presumably by Phillip Livingston and located on Lime Rock Road. Another, probably of late 18th or early 19th century date is "The Surrey" on Route 112. This has a five-bay front with a central doorway, a two-story porch, and dormers in the roof. As the major period of development in Lime Rock did not occur until the mid-19th century, these earlier structures do not play an important visual role.
The introduction of a blast furnace to Lime Rock by Holley & Coffing in 1825 marked the transition to large-scale industrial production characteristic of the mid- and late-19th century. A replacement of the 1825 furnace, built in 1864 and partially repaired by the Salisbury Association in the early 1970s, remains a dominant feature of the northwestern part of the village. The fore-arch, where casting operations took place, is pointed and retains its brick lining. Associated wooden structures, such as the casting shed which once covered the casting area, and the superstructure where the furnace was charged with ore, limestone flux, and charcoal fuel, are no longer extant. Nearby, however, is a masonry-lined embankment along which the raw materials would be brought in order to charge the furnace from above. Along the riverbank are vast piles of slag now covered with organic debris. On the opposite side of the river, traces remain of the late-19th century pipe and powerhouse which provided the cold air blast to operate the furnace, replacing earlier water-powered bellows.
Nearby on Furnace Road is a large brick office building constructed in the Federal style for Holley and Coffing in 1830. Two-and-a-half stories in height, the basement level is fully exposed on the western side, where two entrances have later 19th-century hoods above them. Attic windows in the gable ends feature semicircular fanlights. Also related to the furnace is a small 1-1/2-story house which once served as a scale-house for weighing material being brought to the furnace. Probably of late-19th century date, this has been converted to a residence. A number of simple, 2-1/2-story frame residences in the area of the furnace were undoubtedly constructed to house workers who tended the furnace. These are of mid-19th century date, perhaps from the 1860s.
In 1830, the first foundry for remelting and casting the raw pig iron produced by the blast furnace was constructed. Located near where the present highway bridge for Route 112 crosses the Salmon Kill, this building is no longer extant. Soon taken over by Milo Barnum and his son-in-law, Leonard Richardson, this operation became the basis for the Barnum-Richardson Company and a new residential and industrial complex downstream of the furnace area. An illustration from the 1853 map of Salisbury by L. Pagan reveals the design of this foundry building. Closely associated with this development was the provision of housing and other services for workmen and their families. Transient workers and other guests could be accommodated in a nearby hotel. Small, 2-story homes were built in the Greek Revival style along Elm Street, now Route 112, probably during the 1830s. Nearby was a general store and, later, a meat market. The meat market, late 19th-century in date, features attractive cast-iron supports for the front porch posts, perhaps cast by Barnum-Richardson.
Near the foundry, Leonard Richardson built his home about 1845. Remodelled in the French Second Empire style, the house features a slate-covered mansard roof with elaborate dormers. Below the eaves, the original entablature remains. A 1-story porch envelops the house.
By the 1840s, the firm began to specialize in railroad work and soon became well-known for their cast iron wheels for railroad cars. With the tremendous expansion of railroads in the post Civil War era, Lime Rock prospered. During this period, continued industrial expansion continued along the banks of the Salmon Kill. New shops were added for many of the ancillary functions necessary for the manufacture of car wheels. These included blacksmithing, pattern-making, and "jingling," or tumbling molds in barrels to clean them. Some of these ancillary buildings survive, although converted to residences.
Residential development also continued in the post Civil War era as exemplified by the spread of development along Elm Street (present Route 112) away from the industrial area. The Barnum Richardson Company erected a number of dwellings for employees on the south side of the road. To the north of the road were the larger and more grandiose homes of the Barnums, Richardsons, and their associates. Company housing included a rather modest 2-1/2-story frame dwelling with open-bed pediment, modillions, and a 1-story porch embellished with scroll-work, probably from the 1850s or 1860s. Later houses include a group of three built in the Queen Anne style, with both clapboard and shingle siding, brackets beneath the eaves, and a turned pendant and cross bar in the gable ends. On the opposite side of the street were homes occupied by company officials and privately owned. The most impressive surviving home is that of N.A. McNeil. This home, similar in design to homes built by the Paliser brothers, is dominated by a polygonal turret and a 1-story Eastlake porch. Varying types of shingles are used for siding, and a panel with foliated ornament takes the place of one of the second floor windows. At the eastern end of the Lime Rock Historic District at the corner of Dugway Road and Route 112, is a stone church building in the High Victorian Gothic style, Trinity Episcopal Church, designed by the elder Richard Upjohn. Dedicated in 1873, the building is constructed of native stone and is dominated by the polychrome slate roofs of the nave, bell tower, and porch. In 1892, a Shingle style building, the Casino, was constructed for social affairs. This is still extant as a private home on Route 112.
Following the late 19th-century expansion of the railroad car wheel industry, a period of economic uncertainty and increased competition from western producers in the early-20th century resulted in the stagnation of the local economy. This was reversed briefly during the years of the First World War, during which period some construction was evidently undertaken. It is possible that some of the modest homes which are scattered throughout the village were built in this era. These are 1-to-1-1/2-stories in height and are devoid of ornamentation. After the closing of the foundry in 1923, Lime Rock was virtually deserted. Subsequent colonization by artists and others from the New York area during the 1920s and 1930s did little to change the fabric of the community. Many buildings were converted to residential or workshop use with comparatively little effect on exterior appearance. Unfortunately, three of the larger late 19th century homes were destroyed by fire in the early 20th century, "Hephzivalla," the residence of C.W. Barnum and "Edgewood," the residence of M.B. Richardson, both on Elm Street (Route 112), and "Foxhurst," the Richard N. Barnum house, off White Hollow Road. The only evidence of these is the foundation and chimney of the Richard N. Barnum House. The Charles W. Barnum house, "Hephzivalla," an enormous structure of eclectic design, has been replaced by the Silvernale Contracting Company. One of the few non-contributing structures in the Lime Rock Historic District, it is a large 1-story structure of no architectural distinction.
In general, Lime Rock is not densely settled, although clusters of homes and other structures occur at intervals along the major roads and in the vicinity of the major industrial areas. A number of cast iron stanchions remain scattered throughout the area, probably of local manufacture. Some features, such as the bandstand and the company baseball field, have vanished. While abundant evidence remains of the 19th century iron industry, including the remains of three concrete dams along the Salmon Fell Kill, there are no obvious remains of the 18th century forge operation. The site of this forge was upstream of the blast furnace, and was rediscovered about 1958. The head of a trip hammer and an artillery projectile said to have been recovered from this site are both displayed prominently on the lawn of a district homeowner.
On the east side of the Salmon Fell Kill, a stone foundation may mark the site of this early forge. Other evidence of industrial activity is also discernible. The entire hill side to the north and west of the present blast furnace site is composed of slag. Analysis of the composition of the slag compared with that from other sites may aid researchers in determining the provenance of cast iron artifacts. Massive ashlar retaining walls built above the furnace site were once the foundations of large sheds for storing the raw materials for the furnace: charcoal, iron ore, and limestone flux. Near the furnace itself is a foundation hole for a building of unknown use. A field inspection in April 1984 revealed that two cast iron, water-cooled tuyeres which had been found on the site by the present owner. These were used to introduce the air blast into the furnace. Debris between the furnace and the power house remains on the opposite side of the river is probably from the truss structure over which the pipe carrying the air blast crossed the stream.
Lime Rock is an industrial community of the 19th and early 20th centuries based on the primary production of pig iron using a blast furnace, and the manufacture of railroad car wheels and other cast-iron products from the remelting of the pig iron. Significant industrial remains are still extant, as well as worker housing, mansions of company owners, and associated stores, offices, and other structures, including a church patronized by the owners, and a social hall. After the close of operations in 1923, the major part of the community was purchased by a New York realtor who developed Lime Rock into an artist's colony in the 1920s and 1930s. The wealth created by the iron industry in Lime Rock is evident in the high architectural quality of the surviving mansions, primarily late-19th century in date, and in the consistently high quality of design accorded to worker's housing, stores, offices, and other structures. Architectural styles range from the colonial through the Greek Revival, French Second empire, and Queen Anne styles, and include a High Victorian Gothic church by the elder Richard Upjohn. The Barnum and Richardson families, proprietors of the blast furnace and foundries from about 1830 to 1920, were important figures in state and local politics. William Henry Barnum was a Democratic Congressman and Senator, and chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Significant figures in the 1920s and 1930s included Count Alfred Korzybski, founder of the Institute of General Semantics, and Dard Hunter, papermaker, and M. Wallach, printmaker.
The origins of Lime Rock date from the 18th century. While exploration and scattered settlement by the Dutch from the nearby Hudson River Valley occurred in the early 18th century, this had little influence on the development of the area, although the Salmon Fell Kill probably derives its name from Dutch usage. Real development of the area began with the activity of Thomas Lamb, an entrepreneur who purchased a rich bed of iron ore, the Davis ore bed, about 1732. Comprised of limonite, or bog iron ore, the Davis ore bed was somewhat over 2 miles from Lime Rock and consisted of iron-rich deposits easily mined. Lamb soon realized the potential of Lime Rock, where the Salmon Fell Kill provided abundant waterpower for the operation of bellows and triphammer, and vast tracts of woodland were available for the production of charcoal fuel. About 1735, he set up a forge upstream of the present site of the blast furnace. Here, iron was produced directly from ore by heating ore with charcoal until the ore was reduced to a white-hot spongy mass. This was then refined by hammering under a triphammer to produce wrought iron. This direct process was labor intensive and small in output. Wrought iron virtually pure iron with fibers of iron silicate, was extremely tough and malleable and could be forged by blacksmiths into a wide variety of implements and iron products. Traces of this forge were discovered in 1958.
Several of the buildings within the Lime Rock Historic District date from this early period, from 1735, when the forge was established, to 1825, when the forge was rendered obsolete by the introduction of a blast furnace. These are generally in the upper or northeastern section of the village, near the forge location. One early building, however, remains on Route 112, probably of late 18th or early 19th century origin.
The introduction of the blast furnace to Lime Rock by Holley & Coffing in 1825 revolutionized the local industry. The blast furnace utilized ore, limestone flux and charcoal fuel to reduce the iron to a molten state. This molten iron, with a high carbon content, would be drawn from a tap-hole in the fore-arch and cast into "pigs" under the shelter of a covered shed. Lime Rock was fortunate in having nearby deposits of limestone for flux (from whence the name Lime Rock originated) and plentiful waterpower and charcoal yielding woodland. The furnace itself survives in good condition. Nearby is a large masonry-lined embankment along which loads of ore, flux and charcoal would be drawn to charge the top of the furnace. The wooden superstructure above the furnace where loading took place is no longer extant, as is the casting shed at the base of the furnace. However, the weighing station where loads of ore, flux, and fuel had to be carefully weighed before charging remains, converted to a private residence. Also in the vicinity are worker's houses of the mid-nineteenth century, and an imposing brick office building erected about 1830. Furnace operations continued on a 24-hour basis, and it was essential that workman live close to the furnace. Production of pig iron averaged three tons per day in each of the four blast furnaces in operation in Salisbury in 1840, using an average of 600 bushels of charcoal a day. In 1881, average furnace production in the area had increased to 11 tons per day, using twelve hundred bushels of charcoal. These increase in productivity reflects the modernization of existing plants and the construction of new units. A new furnace at Lime Rock was built in 1864. The remains of the power house and water pipe opposite the furnace probably date from this later improvement.
The introduction of blast furnace technology to Lime Rock had important implications for the local iron industry. Pig iron, with a high carbon content, was not capable of being forged as was wrought iron. Although it could be converted to wrought iron through a process known as puddling, its primary use in Lime Rock was to serve as a raw material for castings. Remolten in a foundry, pig iron could be cast in molds and later machined and worked to produce a variety of products. In 1830, a foundry was established near the present site of the highway bridge crossing the Salmon Fell Kill. This was soon acquired by a local storekeeper, Milo Barnum. Barnum's son-in-law, Leonard Richardson, and his son, William H. Barnum, were soon partners in the firm of Barnum, Richardson & Co. Production was limited to small items such as clock and sash weights, and plough castings, much of it sold locally through Barnum's store. By 1840, the firm began to produce castings for railroads. In this same period, they gained control of the blast furnace, source of the pig iron needed for foundry operations.
By 1850, the firm had begun to specialize in the production of chilled cast railroad car wheels. The high quality of their product and the rapid expansion of railroads throughout the country resulted in a rapid increase in business. By the latter part of the nineteenth century, Barnum Richardson wheels were in such common use that it was joked that the sound produced by railroad cars riding on tracks was "Barnum-Richardson, Barnum-Richardson," endlessly repeated.. While the iron industry of Northwestern Connecticut was in a period of general decline, the Barnum and Richardson interests throve. This was accomplished through specialization in a product for which there was great demand, and for which the company's product enjoyed an unsurpassed reputation. It was also possible through the increasing control exercised by the firm over the remaining sources of ore and fuel and the remaining blast furnaces. Reorganized in 1852 as Richardson, Barnum & Co., the company acquired the Beckley furnace in East Canaan in 1858 and the Forbes furnace, also at East Canaan, in 1862. At the same time, they purchased a foundry in Chicago. They also began to acquire controlling interests in the great ore beds of Salisbury, the Ore Hill, Davis, and Chatfield beds.
In 1865, the company again reorganized as the Barnum-Richardson Company, increasing its capital stock from $100,000 to $200,000. The Lime Rock furnace had been rebuilt the previous year. In 1870, a second foundry was constructed at Lime Rock near the first. A third furnace was built in East Canaan in 1872, and a new wheel foundry in Chicago in 1873. By 1881, Barnum-Richardson controlled eight blast furnaces within an eight mile radius of Lime Rock, three at East Canaan, the Lime Rock furnace, and furnaces at Millerton, Sharon Valley, Cornwall Bridge, and Huntsville. It was during this period of rapid growth that the fine homes along Elm Street or Route 112 were constructed and that the UpJohn-designed Trinity Church was built under the leadership of Mrs. William H. Barnum.
The Barnum-Richardson Company owned most of the real estate at Lime Rock. The remainder was owned by the Barnums, Richardsons, and other company officials as private citizens. Like many company towns, Lime Rock was dominated by the owners and their families. Worker's housing was owned completely by the company, which rented to its workers. The Rocky Dell Hotel, later the Lime Rock Lodge, housed important guests, who used the front door, as well as transient workers or "floaters," who used a separate entrance and dining facilities. The general store was operated by James H. Barnum, while several other shops were operated in buildings owned by Barnum-Richardson and leased out. One of the most interesting of these is the small store on Route 112 next to the general store, originally built as a meat market, later housing a barbershop, and most recently a glass shop.
The social life of Lime Rock was also dominated by the two leading families. Barnum-Richardson had a baseball field and bandstand on company-owned land. The ball field was in evidence by 1899, the bandstand was built somewhat later. When residents of Lime Rock created The Casino Company in 1892 for "the providing of social entertainment for the stock holders, and their families, and friends, and for the putting up and maintaining of a building for that purpose," members of the Barnum and Richardson families owned 69 out of 140 shares of stock issued.
By the early 20th century, improvements in the manufacture of steel railroad car wheels ended the dominance of the Barnard-Richardson Company in the field, while blast furnaces in the mid-west fueled by coke and using hot air blasts instead of cold were able to produce pig iron far more economically than the charcoal fueled, cold blast furnaces of Northwest Connecticut. Despite brief prosperity during the First World War, the Barnum-Richardson Company sold its holdings to the Salisbury Iron Corporation in 1920. The Salisbury Iron Corporation maintained two blast furnaces at East Canaan, both of which had been modernized by Barnum-Richardson to provide a hot air blast at a 650° temperature, and with mechanized facilities for charging the furnace. Ore was supplied from the mine at Ore Hill, and the pig iron from the furnaces cast at Lime Rock into general castings, gray iron castings (malleable iron), and railroad car wheels. A prominent metallurgist, Dr. Richard Moldenke, was hired to proselytize the advantages of pig iron produced by charcoal furnaces. He produced a booklet, Charcoal Iron, published in 1920 by the Salisbury Iron Corporation. Despite these efforts, iron production and casting was no longer profitable in Salisbury. The Salisbury Iron Corporation closed down operations in 1923.
In 1925, Alfred Stone, a New York realtor, purchased the Lime Rock holdings of the Salisbury Iron Corporation, consisting of approximately 326 acres with 27 houses and numerous other buildings. Stone marketed properties in Lime Rock to artists and craftsmen, most of them from the New York City area, realizing the attractiveness of the surroundings and the appeal of the local scenery. The foundry was converted to a paper mill by Dard Hunter, the Casino was taken over later by M. Wallach, who produced hand block prints on linen, and numerous other studios and shops set up. Bernhardt Wall produced etched books in Lime Rock, and proclaimed that "There is real reason to believe that the spirit of Elbert Hubbard is not so far away and that it (Lime Rock) might yet become another East Aurora." This artist's colony attracted considerable talent and attention in the 1920s and 1930s. The establishment of the Institute of General Semantics by Count Alfred Korzybski in the former home of Leonard Richardson further enhanced the artistic and literary reputation of Lime Rock.
The legacy of the wealth provided by industry in Lime Rock is considerable. Examples of architectural styles in the village range from the Georgian through the Queen Anne and Shingle styles, although the most common styles are those of the latter half of the 19th century, when the Barnum-Richardson Company was at its most prosperous. "The Surrey" is a good vernacular example of late-18th or early-19th century architecture, with a symmetrical facade, a two-story porch, and dormers in the roof. The Holley and Coffing Office Building, built about 1830 in brick, is an impressive example of the Federal style, imposing in scale and with semicircular fanlights in the gable ends. The small Greek Revival homes built for workers on Route 112 are distinguished by their open-bed pediments, corner pilasters, and simple entrances. Despite their small scale, these houses are well-designed and constructed.
The post Greek Revival styles are the most numerous in Lime Rock. The French Second Empire style is well represented by the Leonard Richardson House, apparently remodelled in this style after his death in 1864. This retains its slate roof, with dormers containing round-arched windows. Scroll-cut boards are applied to the sides of the dormers, which also have roofs resembling hood molds popular at the time. The one-story porch which envelops the house is supported by columns with stylized capitals, probably of cast iron. Several homes more vernacular in character also display good design. A frame house on Route 112, probably built in the 1850s or 1860s, has an open-bed pediment with overhanging eaves beneath which are paired modillions. The 1-story porch is supported by flat, pierced wooden posts with scroll-cut brackets and ornamentation. Another house at the corner of White Hollow Road and Route 112 has window surrounds with molded caps, and scrollwork ornamentation in the peak of the gable ends.
A series of homes built along Route 112 in the late 1860s or early 1870s are characterized by the use of the then popular Stick style. These use clapboard siding with applied shingles in the gable ends and covering hoods over the second floor windows in the gable ends. The overhanging eaves have supporting Stick style brackets. The porches and gable ornament are also in the Stick style, characterized by squared posts with chamfered edges. The Queen Anne style is exemplified by the McNeil House on Route 112. The design of this house is very similar to designs by the Paliser brothers of Bridgeport, and may well have been executed by them. It features a polygonal tower asymmetrically placed, verge boards on the gable ends, with a Palladian attic window, and a panel decorated with a foliated frieze in place of one of the second floor windows. The Eastlake porch has a round arch above the entranceway.
An interesting vernacular commercial building is the former meat market. This has windows with hoods over them, a conventional storefront, and a projecting roof with an eyebrow window which forms a porch supported by cast iron posts. It is probable that the cast iron supports were made in Lime Rock. These are excellent specimens of the caster's art.
The most architecturally prominent building in the village is Trinity Church, one of the last buildings designed by Richard Upjohn, the foremost Gothic Revival architect in America. Dedicated in 1873, the building uses locally obtained stone which is rock-faced. Door and window surrounds, as well as belt courses are of a lighter stone with a smooth finish, providing an effective contrast to the rough stone of the walls. The roofs of the nave, the bell tower, and the porch are covered with polychromed slate. The belfry is open, with wooden arches and quatrefoils. Also of interest is a modern addition, not visible from the highway, designed in 1970 by Mr. William Dudley Upjohn, a descendant of the original architect.
The commercial success of the Barnum family encouraged active participation in the political arena. William Henry Barnum, son of Milo Barnum, served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1867-1876. In 1876, he was appointed to fill a vacant seat in the U.S. Senate. He served as Democratic National Chairman in 1880 and in 1884, when Grover Cleveland was elected President. At his death in 1889, many nationally known political figures came to pay him homage, including Cleveland.
Other well-known figures who resided in Lime Rock came as a result of the development of the community into an artist's colony in the 1920s and 1930s. The most prominent of these were Dard Hunter, who produced handmade paper in the old foundry. Hunter, an internationally famous papermaker, was an important figure in the Arts and Crafts movement. His experiment at Lime Rock apparently failed because of the dissolved limestone in the water. M. Wallach, a printmaker from Europe, produced hand-blocked linens in the former Casino. Perhaps the most famous figure of the revitalized Lime Rock community was Count Alfred Korzybski, (1979-1950), a native of Poland who developed a non-Aristotelian linguistic philosophy known as General Semantics. Concerned with the meaning of words and their relationship to reality, Korzybski's writings have been very influential in the development of linguistic theory. The Institute of General Semantics, which he founded, still operates from the former Leonard Richardson home on White Hollow Road.
"Artists See Paradise Where Others See But Poverty," Lure of the Litchfield Hills, Volume III, No. 2 (1929), pages 11-20.
Asher and Adams' Pictorial Album of American Industry. New York: Asher & Adams, 1876.
Clap, Jonathan. Northwestern Connecticut's Iron Hills Heritage. Hartford: Department of Environmental Protection, September, 1975.
Fagan, L. Map of the Town of Salisbury, Connecticut, Philadelphia: Richard Clark, 1853.
Geographical Location of Historical Landmarks in the Town of Salisbury, Connecticut. Salisbury: Salisbury Association, 1949.
Gesner, Rev. R.H. "In the Connecticut Highlands-Lime Rock," Connecticut Magazine, Volume VIII (1904), pages 689-703.
Goodwin, Julia Emmons. A History of Trinity Church. No imprint, 1949.
Moldenke, Dr. Richard. Charcoal Iron. Lime Rock: Salisbury Iron Corporation, 1920.
Oppenheimer, Mrs. Armand. Typewritten manuscript tour of Lime Rock, n.d.
"Prospector Discovers Old Forge Built in Lime Rock in 1735," October 18, 1958. In clipping files of the Scoville Library, Main Street, Salisbury.
Records of Joint Stock Companies of Salisbury. Volume I, 1853-1899. In the office of the Town Clerk, Salisbury Town Hall, Main Street, Salisbury, CT.
Report of the Historic District Commission Regarding the Creation of the Lime Rock Historic District in the Town of Salisbury, January 28, 1974.
Rudd, Malcolm Day. An Historical Sketch of Salisbury. Connecticut. New York: 1899. (supplementary to Sanford's Map of Salisbury).
Sanford, I.W. Topographical and Historical Map of Salisbury, Connecticut. New York: 1899.
Wall, Bernhardt, "Lime Rock, Connecticut's Deserted Village, Comes to Life," Lure of the Litchfield Hills. Volume 1, No.3 (August 1929), pages 20-26.
Williams, Mrs. Reid, Interview, January 1983. Mrs. Williams has been a resident of Lime Rock since 1921.
Roth, Matthew. Connecticut; An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites, Washington, D.C.: Society for Industrial Archaeology, 1981.
† Dale S. Plummer and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Lime Rock Historic District, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.