Winsted Green Historic District
The Winsted Green Historic District 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 © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The Winsted Green Historic District comprises the Winsted Green, also known as East End Park, and the varied neighborhood around this park. Buildings included in the Winsted Green Historic District either actually face the green or are so close to it that they contribute visually to enclosing it, The Center Burying Ground, a cemetery founded in the late-18th century, is part of the Winsted Green Historic District since its entrance at 61 Park Place West is opposite the green. The Mad River forms part of the southern border of the Winsted Green Historic District, while the Still River is its eastern border.
The green is an attractively landscaped park shaped in plan somewhat like an elongated triangle. It is separated from surrounding streets by a simple fence with masonry posts and metal rails. Through it pass straight paths bordered by grass/yards with trees. On the axis of the north-south path which passes approximately through the center of the green are an architectonic water fountain, a soldier's monument, a bandstand, and a late 19th century fountain. The path circles around the most picturesque of these: the soldier's monument crowned by a figure of a Union soldier and the three-tier fountain. The bandstand is a recent addition although a bandstand of very different design had been on the green earlier. The existing bandstand, a raised masonry platform with railing, is a too massive design for the small scale park.
There is considerable variety in the density of development in the Winsted Green Historic District. It contains a lot of open space due to the green and the cemetery. In addition, development around most of the green is not dense. Most of the 28 principal buildings are free-standing and setback from the sidewalks in spacious, landscaped yards. However, the southwest section of the Winsted Green Historic District has a different character. Here, development is denser and buildings are attached or closely spaced. They do not have yards; instead, their facades abut the sidewalk. The southwest section contains all the Winsted Green Historic District's 9 structures with commercial uses as well as a factory. The rest of the Winsted Green Historic District has a residential character. The only function there not compatible in function is a gas station located on the southeast corner of North Main Street and Holabird Avenue. In the residential section of the Winsted Green Historic District in addition to 10 houses retaining their original functions there are two houses (101 North Main Street and 20 Park Place East) now used as offices by educational groups. Also located here are the Northwest Connecticut Community College (in the Gilbert School building) and two ecclesiastical structures.
Over half of the principal buildings were erected before 1900. Five were built between 1800 and 1845, five between 1846-70, and six between 1871-1899. Six of the twelve 20th century buildings were erected before 1930. One of the buildings categorized as a post 1930 structure, 40 Park Place East, may be a remodeling of the 1816 James Cleveland House, but it is so altered that it appears to be a 20th century Colonial Revival design. Unfortunately five of the six post 1930 structures are intrusions incompatible with earlier structures. The intrusion ratio is 6:28.
The four Federal period buildings in the Winsted Green Historic District (62 Main Street; the Seldon Kinney House, 45 Park Place West; 79 North Main Street; and 66 Park Place West) are two-story structures with gable ends facing the street. All are pleasingly proportioned vernacular designs. Three are frame houses, while 62 Main Street, the former Rockwell Academy building, is brick. Unfortunately only the exterior of the Kinney House is well preserved and even it has a later porch.
The Gideon Hall, Jr., House at 49 Main Street is an excellent example of an elaborate, provincial manifestation of the Greek Revival style. It is a very dignified frame structure composed of a central block with Doric colonnade flanked by side wings. It is possible that the west wing, while of compatible design, is a later addition since it does not appear in 1850's woodcuts showing the house. These woodcuts show a now missing balustrade on the hipped roof of the main block in addition to the existing central cupola. Unfortunately this important house, now converted to apartments, is not well maintained and later structures crowd it.
The five buildings dating from 1840-70 are well-preserved examples of picturesque domestic architecture in the romantic tradition popularized by A.J. Downing. The irregularly massed frame house at 75 Park Place West is a fine Gothic Revival design accented by window hoods and exposed decorative framing in the gables. Of the three frame Italianate houses (101 North Main Street, 32 Park Place East, and 20 Park Place East) 20 Park Place East is the most fanciful due to the inventive, furniture-like columns of its entrance and porch. The George W. Phelps House at 53 Park Place West is an elaborate Stick style building. Its exterior is enlivened by gables, dormers, bracing, verandas, and bay windows.
The six buildings erected between 1871-1899 do not have the domestic scale of earlier buildings in the district. This group contains no houses, but four commercial buildings, one factory, and one school. Only the Gilbert School is located outside the more densely developed southwest section of the district. While only one of the earlier buildings in the Winsted Green Historic District is masonry, half of these late 19th century buildings are, including the two largest buildings in the district: the brick Strong Manufacturing Company building and the brick with rock-faced stone foundation Gilbert School building. These late 19th century buildings are representative examples of good late-Victorian commercial, industrial, and institutional architecture. The Baird & Woodruff Block (70-74 Main Street) and the adjacent double-gable block at 64-68 Main Street are interesting examples of two very different architectural modes popular in the 1870's. The Baird & Woodruff Block is a restrained Second Empire design with mansard roof and planar wall surfaces due to flush board siding. In contrast, the High Victorian Gothic style neighboring building has agitated wall surfaces due to constructural polychromy. The Strong Manufacturing Company building erected in 1873 is a large 3-1/2-story gable-roofed structure with the sturdy dignity associated with quality utilitarian architecture. Its four-story west wing was probably added in the 1880's. Unfortunately, awkward 20th century alteration of its tower has detracted from its appearance. The Norton Block 58-60 Main Street) and the large frame building at 13-17 Park Place West have also had unfortunate 20th century alterations. Both of these buildings have apartments above the first-story commercial space. The double-gabled Main Street facade of the Norton block is a simplification of the composition of 64-68 Main Street. This building retains its picturesque cupola. The main facade of the building at 13-17 Park Place West is an ordered composition with slightly projecting central pedimented pavilion. This building represents the changing architectural taste at the end of the 19th century away from agitated forms and eclectic exuberance to formalistic designs with calmer silhouettes. The Gilbert School building of 1894-95 with its simplicity of outline and massing is another example of this trend. With its mixing of Romanesque Revival and Renaissance Revival features, this building is typical of late 19th century institutional architecture found in many American communities.
Four of the six buildings in the Winsted Green Historic District erected during the first decades of the 20th century are frame houses. Three of the houses (46 and 56 Park Place East, and 106 North Main Street) are pleasing designs with some architectural embellishment. They are typical examples of middle-class housing of their period and are harmonious with earlier buildings in the district. The other house (25 Park Place West) is typical of turn-of-the-century working class housing, but its first-story has been remodeled into a grocery store. The most important building in the Winsted Green Historic District erected during the early 20th century is the First Congregational Church edifice built in 1900-1903 near the north end of the green. This Romanesque Revival building has an irregular mass with corner tower. While this rock-faced stone building may lack general coherence it does have considerable visual impact due to its massive, plastic form.
Post World War II buildings in the Winsted Green Historic District are generally not compatible with the historic scene. Unfortunately a fast food restaurant (Dairy Queen) has occupied an important corner by the south end of the green since about 1955. In the 1960's another poorly designed commercial building has been erected east of the Dairy Queen building further crowding the very important Hall House. The one-story commercial building at 21 Park Place West has no embellishments to diminish the stark appearance of its ugly facade. The long, horizontal lines of the one-story Temple Beth Israel building erected in 1957-58 are incompatible in this district of 2- to 4-story buildings. A gas station of one-story Colonial Revival design has been an intrusion in the residential section of the district since the mid 1940's. In recent years its visual impact has increased due to the erection of large additions.
Since 1799 when the construction of the Green Wood Turnpike stimulated its development, the area comprising the Winsted Green Historic District has been one of mixed uses containing stores and factories as well as residences, churches, schools, and a burying ground. The picturesque green, a notable landscaped area with fountains and monuments, is the Winsted Green Historic District's focal point. Scattered around it are noteworthy examples of 19th century domestic and commercial architecture whose quality is a reminder of the prosperity brought to Winsted by its manufacturing. Among specific examples deserving mention are the Gideon Hall Jr. House (49 Main Street), Greek Revival; the Italianate house at 20 Park Place East with original vernacular details; the George W. Phelps House, Stick style; and the Baird & Woodruff Block (70-74 Main Street), Second Empire. Unfortunately the high quality of 19th century buildings is not found in post 1930 structures in the district.
Prior to the opening of the Green Wood Turnpike in 1799, settlement in Winsted had focused on Wallen's Hill, east of the Still River and where the meetinghouse was located. However, the turnpike which followed the present Main Street, was part of the heavily used highway between Hartford and Albany and stimulated development on the level area south of it and west of the Still River. Near the crossroads of the turnpike and a new six-rod wide road built on the west side of the Still River, a meetinghouse was built in 1800-1805 and in 1803 a tavern was erected. (Both buildings no longer stand.)
The open area near the meetinghouse was used as a parade ground. By 1802 the green had taken definite form when this land was purchased "to be kept forever as a public parade."
Gradually a village grew up around the green and Winsted became a prosperous manufacturing town due to the easily available water power from the Mad and Still Rivers and to convenient transportation. Nineteenth century builders saw no need to separate residences from factories and stores, therefore, from the beginning buildings of varying functions ware erected around the green.
Very few early 19th century buildings remain since they have been replaced or extensively altered. The gable-ended Federal period house at 45 Park Place West is the oldest building in the Winsted Green Historic District retaining architectural integrity. It was erected in 1816 by Sheldon Kenney. The houses at 66 and 40 Park Place East may have been erected about the same time, but 20th century alterations have reduced their significance. Another altered building, but one of considerable local historical interest, is the small, two-story brick commercial structure at 82 Main Street. It was erected in 1828 as a school and became well known as Rockwell's Academy after being purchased by Henry E. Rockwell in 1830. A woodcut of the Winsted Green in John W. Barber's Connecticut Historical Collections (1836) shows this gable-ended structure with a now missing cupola.
The Greek Revival house at 49 Main Street which faces the south end of the green is one of the most architecturally distinguished buildings in Winsted. This imposing house with a two-story colonnade of Doric columns extending the full width of its main block was built about 1840 by Gideon Hall, Jr. Hall, a graduate of Litchfield Law School, had opened his law office on the Winsted Green about 1830. (The law office building is gone.) He subsequently became a judge.
In 1845 the green was enlarged when the meetinghouse was moved from it. Additional improvements were made in 1858. In the late 19th century a very attractive fountain was added and in 1890 a soldier's monument designed by George C. Bissell of Poughkeepsie, New York, was placed at its south end.
During the mid-19th century a number of houses in a variety of the romantic styles popularized by A.J. Downing were erected around the green. The house at 75 Park Place West is a Gothic Revival design, while the Italianate style is represented by the houses at 101 North Main Street and at 20 and 32 Park Place East. The house at 20 Park Place East, now used for offices by Northwest Connecticut Community College, is a particularly pleasing example of vernacular architecture. Its entrance and porch have very original columns resembling elongated vase-shaped legs of furniture. The George W. Phelps House at 53 Park Place West is a well-preserved exuberant example of the Stick style lacking only a proper choice of paint color.
After 1870 most commercial buildings clustered at the southwest edge of the green were replaced by larger commercial structures. The Baird & Woodruff Block at 70-74 Main Street is a restrained Second Empire design with flush board siding and plain pilasters. Its neighboring High Victorian Gothic Revival style building at 64-68 Main Street is a brick building with constructural polychromy. Unfortunately the large frame corner building (58-60 Main Street) has been covered with unattractive aluminum siding, but its cupola suggests former charm. The pleasing proportions of the central pavilioned building at 13-17 Park Place West are not hidden by its unattractive siding. In 1873 the Strong Manufacturing Company building was erected on the southwest corner of Rowley Street and Main Street, a site which backed up to the Mad River and on which earlier industrial enterprises had been located. This building with its west addition is a fine example of late 19th century industrial architecture despite the clumsy 20th century alteration to the roof of its tower.
In 1894-95 the Gilbert School building was erected at the southeast edge of the green. There had been earlier schools in buildings around the green, but the erection of this building insured that the area remained the educational center of the community. The large yellow brick building with features of both the Romanesque and Renaissance Revival styles first housed a privately endowed, free secondary school and since 1965, the Northwest Connecticut Community College.
The existing Congregational Church was erected in 1900-1903 at the north end of the green. Although not a building of outstanding design quality, the asymmetrically massed Romanesque Revival structure is an effective visual anchor to this end of the green. Several houses were erected along the east side of the green in the early 20th century. While not significant architecturally, they harmonize with earlier structures.
Unfortunately most buildings erected around the Green since World War II are of inferior architectural quality and are intrusive elements. They include a gas station, a soft ice cream store, and a low synagogue building which replaced an earlier church building. The bandstand erected on the green about 1970 and enlarged in 1976 is not an aesthetically appealing structure, but as the site of outdoor performances it, contributes to the continuing vitality of the green as an important gathering place.
Maps in the collection of the Winchester Historical Society including those of 1854, 1859, 1887, 1892, 1897, and 1909.
Emily Parkins Roberts, Winsted Green and Its Neighborhood, 1800-1845 Winsted, Ct.: 1935. Printed for the Tercentenary of the State of CT.
A Tour to Places of Historic Interest in the Town of Winchester. Made as part of the Observance of the CT Tercentenary, August 31, 1935.
Interviews with Mr. Ted Vaill and Mr. Rex Little, August 4, 1976. Notes in files of T. Robins Brown.
† T. Robins Brown, consultant, Connecticut Historical Commission, Winsted Green Historic District, Town of Winchester, Litchfield County, CT, nomination document, 1976, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.