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Torringford Street Historic District


The Torringford Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Torringford Street Historic District lies in the eastern part of the City of Torrington, near the boundary with the Town of New Hartford. The Torringford Street Historic District includes all of the right-of-way of Torringford Street, which is State Route 183, from its intersection with Route 202 (East Main Street) northward to the northerly property boundary of 4040 Torringford Street. The right-of-way varies in width between approximately 70 and 132 feet.[1] Laid out as part of the original subdivision of town land in 1732, the street itself is a major contributing resource of the district. Buildings and structures along Torringford Street that contribute to the significance of the Torringford Street Historic District are also included. The boundary extends westward onto Hayden Hill Road to encompass a c.1770 dwelling and related outbuildings that are visually linked to Torringford Street.

The natural features of the Torringford Street Historic District are a key part of its visual impact. The Torringford Street right-of-way appears to retain much of its historic appearance. The roadway runs nearly straight northeast/southwest, paralleling the Torrington/New Hartford boundary. Traveling southwest, it undulates over varied terrain marked by several steep grades, reaching a long plateau that descends gradually to Route 202. In many places, the edges of the right of-way and property lines are defined by fieldstone walls and/or rows of mature trees. Along its course are active farms with cultivated fields and pastures that recall the predominant historic: use of the land in the district.

The Torringford Street Historic District contains 139 historic resources, including buildings and structures, one object (a marker commemorating the location of the first Torringford meeting house), and two sites. 119 (86%) of these resources contribute to the district's significance. Spread randomly along the street, some in clusters, they range widely in age from c.1760 to 1941. With the exception of the Hilltop Inn (Nathaniel Smith House, c.1820, ell c.1840), all of the principal buildings are residential; the outbuildings consist primarily of barns and garages. Examples of architectural styles represented include the Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, and Colonial Revival. Some resources display features of more than one architectural style, while others, including the Reverend Samuel Mills House (1557 Torringford Street, c.1825) and the plain and functional outbuildings, are vernacular. Non-contributing resources are mostly outbuildings of less than 50 years of age.

The built resources of the Torringford Street Historic District retain their historic appearances to a considerable degree. Alterations are generally limited to non-original synthetic sidings and replacement windows; some houses received later ells and wings. All of the contributing resources are wood-framed, and the prevalent exterior wall cladding is clapboards. Wood shingles and brick are present to a lesser degree. Brick and granite are the common foundation materials. Two stories is the typical building height, although there are several one-story homes and outbuildings. Contributing to the visual cohesion of the Torringford Street Historic District is the fairly uniform setback from the street of the dwellings.

The ten 18th-century Colonial houses in the Torringford Street Historic District display typical features of the period. The Gaylord House at 1280 Torringford Street, built c.1770, has a five-bay facade with central entrance, 12-over-12 sash windows, and a large central brick chimney. Its double overhang and secondary door at the front corner of the south elevation are also common features. Considered to be the oldest house in the Torringford Street Historic District, the Kelsey House at 2519 Torringford Street (c.1760) has an atypical three-bay facade. Several buildings of the period were remodeled with Greek Revival entrances, a good example of which is 3417 Torringford Street (c.1785), the best-preserved of the Torringford Street Historic District's few one-story Colonial homes. The c.1769 Battell House at 1477 Torringford Street received a mid-19th century entrance porch that is embellished with pierced quatrefoils and molded brackets.

All of the Torringford Street Historic District's five Federal style houses have low-pitched roofs, multiple interior chimneys, and broad gable-end elevations. Yet they display considerable variety. The two most elaborate are the Nathaniel Smith House (c.1821, ell c.1840) and the Hayden Homestead (c.1800, attached to a smaller c.1760 house), both with brick exteriors. They share characteristic embellishments of the style in their entrances with semi-elliptical fanlights (in the Smith House, obscured from view by the porch enclosure) and large elliptical windows with radial glazing in their side gables. Each, however, displays distinctive features. A long ell with a two-story Greek Revival portico was added to the Smith House. The facade of the Hayden Homestead has a pedimented gable, a feature shared with several Federal buildings in the district. Brick pilasters separate the four bays. Exemplifying the delicacy and attenuated proportions of the Federal style is the front entrance at 1318 Torringford Street (c.1790), with its fanlight, denticulated broken pediment, and fluted pilasters. Built at a time of stylistic transition, the house has a fenestration pattern typical of the 18th century.

The Colonial Revival style is also well represented in the Torringford Street Historic District. 1440 Torringford Street (c.1900), one of the district's largest buildings, is an American Foursquare design that has been made grand by the ample proportions of its features, especially the wraparound porch and porte cochere with paired Doric columns resting on fieldstone piers. Expressing the Neo-Classical mode in its two-story Doric portico and second-floor sheltered balcony is 1307 Torringford Street of c.1915. Many of the other buildings in the style, modest in size and embellishment, show the clear inspiration of 18th-century construction. 1071 Torringford Street (1941) is one of these, displaying a three-bay facade with central entrance and minimal ornamentation.

The Torringford Street Historic District contains a few examples of other architectural styles, as well as many vernacular buildings of different periods. The Major Isaiah and Ruth Tuttle House (dated 1803 by the local historic resources survey, but c.1790 by visual analysis for this listing) is a late Colonial design that was made stylistically up-to-date with an elegant Palladian window in the Federal mode. One of two similar Greek Revival houses, 1164 Torringford Street (c.1850) illustrates the gable-front variation of the style and has a characteristic entrance surround with pilasters and classical entablature. The Bungalow style is represented by 1367 Torringford Street, a c.1915 one-story house that has the requisite broad roofs supported by knee brackets. Most outbuildings, including 19th-century barns and 20th-century garages, are wood-framed and plain; one of the few exceptions is the barn at 2656 Torringford Street, which is topped by a louvered cupola with a flared pyramidal roof.

The Torringford Cemetery contains grave markers in the varied materials, styles, and proportions of 18th through 20th century funereal art.

Significance

The Torringford Street Historic District is significant architecturally because it includes one of Torrington's oldest roads and a notable concentration of buildings from the 18th through the mid-20th centuries. Examples of the Colonial, Federal, and Colonial Revival styles are well represented. Known historically as the community of Torringford, the district's resources form a cohesive composition that retains most of its historic built and natural features. Of particular interest are those 18th- and early-19th century resources that document the area as one of early settlement in Torrington.

Historical Background

Torringford Street and the surrounding land holdings were created in the first division of property authorized by Connecticut's colonial legislature in 1732 for the new town of Torrington. Typical for the time, the town was laid out in a grid, with tiers of lots oriented north/south between evenly spaced roads.[2] From the start, the Torringford Street area became a focus for settlement because of the fertile soil and farming potential. By 1760, 22 families with a total of 166 people had settled here. The area also soon achieved its own identity because topography made travel difficult to the town center. Recognizing that fact, Torringford sought permission for years for its own church, which the colonial legislature approved in 1763 by the creation of the Torringford Ecclesiastical Society.[3] A meetinghouse was erected in 1768 on the west side of the street near West Pearl Road.[4]

As the community expanded throughout the 18th century, commercial activity developed along Torringford Street, buttressing the neighborhood's sense of identity. The agricultural economy supported a number of small businesses that included general stores, a blacksmithy, and a tannery. Shubael Griswold's tavern (c.1757), one of several along the street, was one of the earliest in Torrington. William Battell opened a store near his home (1477 Torringford Street) around 1785 as a market for farmers' produce and a variety of wares. The growing population and commerce supported a Torringford post office.

Torringford's growth continued well into the 19th century. A new Congregational church in the modern Greek Revival style was built in 1838-39 to replace the old, a modest structure.[5] Rev. Epaphras Goodman opened an academy in 1822 near the church that during its 15-year life was known widely for its high quality. A few manufactories began operation. The Haydens of 2656 Torringford Street opened a brickyard as early a as the 1790s that supplied building materials for a regional market. Several residents brought recognition to the community. Rev. Samuel Mills, Jr. (1783-1818), son of the noted longtime Torringford pastor, was active in missionary work, both at home and abroad, and helped found the American Board of Foreign Missions (1810), National Bible Society, and the United Foreign Missionary Society (1816). During the 1830s, Torringford was a hotbed of anti-slavery sentiment; Dr. Erasmus Hudson was general secretary of the Connecticut Anti-Slavery Society.

The coming of the railroad to nearby Wolcottville in 1849, however, marked a watershed. Trade gravitated to Wolcottville, which became the trading center for farmers' produce, mercantile trade, and industry. Wolcottville became the recognized town center, a fact confirmed by its change of name to Torrington in 1883.

After 1850, commercial activity largely ceased along Torringford Street. Membership in the Torringford church peaked in 1835, and population in the community fell after reaching 530 in 1849. When Nathaniel Smith died in 1854, his son moved the family store at the corner of present-day Route 202 to Wolcottville, a not uncommon event. By default, farming became the almost exclusive economic activity of the Torringford Street community.

Little further development occurred until the early 20th century. By that time, the growing Torrington population made Torringford Street attractive for residential construction. A few prominent townspeople, such as Walter St. Onge of the Torrington Company, built homes here. Several farms were also subdivided in the 1930s and early 1940s for housing.

The Torringford Street Historic District displays a strong sense of time and place because most of its historic resources, both built and natural, remain intact. Few of the buildings that date from its long period of significance appear to have been demolished.[6] The present-day path of Torringford Street closely follows its historic route, with no significant changes. Old field-stone walls in many places still mark the boundary of the original right-of-way, and rows of old trees line the street. A number of fields remain in their traditional agricultural use. The distinctive topographical features of the area, furthermore, have not been obscured by change or modern development. Steep grades, marshes, cultivated fields, and forests survive along almost the entire length of the street.

Torringford Street itself is significant historically in other respects. It is one of the oldest thoroughfares in Torrington, and its path illustrates 18th-century land grant patterns in Connecticut. The hilly, almost straight north/south course clearly expresses the fact that towns were often laid out in rigid grids without regard for topographical considerations or natural features, such as swampy land and steep grades.

Architecturally, the Torringford Street Historic District displays the diversity in style, range in age and quality, and primarily residential character that marked its long period of significance and historical development. The architectural styles run the gamut chronologically from the Colonial to the Colonial Revival. The c.1770 Gaylord House, 1318 Torringford Street of c.1790, and 1440 Torringford Street (c.1900) are fine examples of the Colonial, Federal, and Colonial Revival styles, which predominate.

Other buildings, such as the Major Isaiah and Ruth Tuttle House of c.1790, are well-executed designs combining features of two styles (here, the Colonial and Federal).

Many vernacular buildings, including modest homes and outbuildings from the 19th century, are present and contribute to the Torringford Street Historic District's significance. Alterations to houses incorporating features of later styles are found, not surprisingly, throughout the district, such as the mid-19th century entrance porch at the Battell House (c.1769). These changes often have not compromised the integrity of the district; in fact, as in the case of the Battell House, they have acquired value in their own right.

The buildings also express the history of the area. The large number from the 18th and early-19th centuries confirms that the area was one of early settlement. Local brickmaking was a significant 19th century activity, supplying materials for several Torringford Street homes (e.g., 2656 Torringford Street). The relatively few buildings from the second half of the 19th century, and their less sophisticated designs, demonstrate the Torringford Street Historic District's economic decline relative to the center of town. Agriculture's historic and continuing role as an economic anchor for Torringford is confirmed by the cultivated fields and the many barns and related outbuildings. In the 20th century, the area's attractiveness for residential development is evidenced by the homes from that period.

Endnotes

  1. See preliminary base maps #143-15, 143-16, and 143-17 for State Route 183, Torringford Street, on file at the Thomaston, CT office of the state Department of Transportation.
  2. Areas were laid out in long rectangular lots, with their axes oriented latitudinally, each tier separated by a public right of way running almost straight north/south.
  3. The name "Torringford" was a combination of Torrington and New Hartford, since the new ecclesiastical society included 4 and 1/2 tiers of lots in Torrington and the western tier of lots in New Hartford.
  4. A granite stone with inscription marks the site.
  5. The church, which stood on the site of the United Congregational Church at 1622 Torringford Street, burned on April 25, 1975.
  6. See the 1852 Clark Map of Litchfield County and the 1874 Beers' Atlas of Litchfield County.

References

Bailey, Bess and Merrill. The Formative Years. Torrington, CT: Torrington Historical Society, 1975.

________. The Growth Years. 1976.

________. The Annealing Years. 1979.

Beers, F.W., and Company. Atlas of Litchfield County. New York, NY: 1874.

Clark, Richard. Map of Litchfield County. Philadelphia, PA: 1852.

Connecticut, State of. Preliminary right-of-way base maps #143-15, 143-16, and 143-17, for State Route 183 (Torringford Street, Torrington, CT), c.1935. On file at the Thomaston, CT office of the state Department of Transportation.

Gaylord, Elizabeth B. Torringford 1744-1944. Torrington, CT: Torrington Printing Company (1990 reprint, United Church of Christ, Torrington, CT).

Interviews with Jessie Gaylord (March 1991) and Rev. Peter Dakers of United Congregational Church (April, 1991).

Moore, Rev. William H. Torringford: In Connection with the Centennial of the Settlement of the First Pastor, Rev. Samuel A. Mills. Hartford: Case, Lockwood and Brainard, 1870.

Orcutt, Rev. Samuel. History of Torrington, Connecticut. Albany, NY: J. Munsell, Printer, 1878.

Roraback, Louisa, and McEachern, Mark. Torringford Road Historic Resources Survey, Torrington, Connecticut. Prepared for the Torrington Historical Society and the Connecticut Historical Commission, 1985.

Torrington, City of. Assessor's Office.

† Gregory E. Andrews, consultant, Torrington Historic Preservation Trust and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Torringford Street Historic District, Torrington, CT, nomination document, 1991, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Torringford Street Historic District Map

Street Names
Hayden Hill Road • Route 183 • Torringford Street • West Hill Road

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