The Buckingham House (61 North Street) 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 Buckingham House occupies a large corner lot in a residential area of Milford. Except for one or two shade trees to one side, the yard is open around the front and the house is situated on a slight knoll, creating an advantageous fitting. The main house is a gable-roofed frame structure, 2-1/2 stories high and one room deep, It was probably built in the early 18th century. The framing where visible shows the use of flared posts. The roof framing is of the common rafter type. There is a slight overhang at the gables and the front cornice, finished with cyma moldings, projects about a foot. At one time there was a lean-to appended to the rear, but it was later replaced with the two story ell which now extends partway across the back. In addition, there is a large two-story wing at right angles to this ell; from the north, it somewhat overpowers the original house visually. The central stack, like the underpinning, is of fieldstone, 16' square at the base; above the roof it is brick, with a separate flue for the rear room.
The exterior features of greatest interest are contained within the main facade. Although the original fenestration may have been of the five-window type, there are now two windows flanking the entrance on the first story, producing an unusual arrangement. The windows have 12/12 sash, some of it old, and are surrounded by plain frames. Unlike the rest of the house, which has modern clapboards, the front has very wide beaded sawn clapboards, the remains of what probably was the original covering. The front entranceway is also interesting. The door frame consists of three levels of plainly molded boards, surmounted by a pronounced coved cornice. The door itself is of the Dutch type, with two rectangular raised panels above and crossed panels below. There are modern entrance steps. The rear door, relocated on the ell, is also Dutch, but its upper panels have reverse-curve shaped heads, suggesting a broken pediment.
The interior also has significant remaining historical material. When the house was built, the fieldstone fireplace of the lean-to kitchen was retained. It is nearly 8' wide and has two brick ovens in its rear wall. Above the oak lintel are feather-edged panels removed from an upstairs room. The front south room has a small brick fireplace and an Adam-style mantel, with pilasters and coved cornice, beneath which are a rope-turn molding and a row of dentils. The cove and rope-turn combination is repeated in the room's cornice, the casings of the three large beams, and the chair rail above the paneled dado. The cupboards on either side of the mantel are modern work, as are the excellently reproduced stairs in the porch.
The woodwork in the north front room is similar to that in the south: three cased beams, chair rail, and rope-turn cornice molding. The large brick fireplace has a different treatment, however. Surrounding the opening is a typical bolection molding. But to the left is a cupboard over what was once either a brick oven or the end of the original, larger opening, and this area has a molding with a different section. Above is a panel surrounded by the rope motif and a floating dentillated cornice. This room has two corner cupboards. That in the northeast corner is very simple, having two large doors above and smaller ones below, with sunken panels. In the outside corner is a more elegant shell-carved cupboard. The lower part is enclosed by a single two-panel door, and the open upper part has fluted sides and three shelves, the top two intricately curved. Surrounding the whole is a raised molding, with a small key-block above the arched opening, two carved feathers mounted thereon. At the top of the cupboard is a remnant of an earlier cornice molding.
Upstairs, the north room has cased beams like those below, but most of second floor has been done over. The door to the south room is interesting, however: it is made of three wide featheredged boards and has a wooden, drawstring latch.
The Buckingham House is of architectural significance because of the amount of remaining historical fabric, dating mostly from the mid-18th and early 19th centuries. The house's external appearance, particularly from the front, has a great deal of historical character, and its long association with the site's original family is an interesting part of local lore. Because the house has been considerably altered, its value comes more from the individual ingredients than from any overall consistency.
The beaded front clapboards, for example, are an early type of sheathing rarely found in place. The Dutch doors are also a somewhat unusual feature, and are beautifully designed. Most of the interior woodwork is Adam-inspired, with the delicate, rope-turn motif, repeated in mantels, cornices and beam casings, an exceptionally fine detail. Earlier work is represented by the shell-carved corner cupboard and the upstairs door and latch. The large stone fireplace in the kitchen, with its two ovens, is also noteworthy.
This site was occupied by the same family from 1639, when the land was set out to Thomas Buckingham, until the late-19th century. Supposedly the frame and stack date from the 17th century, but this may not have been the first house on the site. The early clapboards, flared posts, and fenestration point to a date around 1725. In 1753 Jehiel Bryan married into the family. A carpenter, he is credited with making several alterations, including a lean-to, the addition of more windows downstairs, and the cupboards. Further interior woodwork was done in the Federalist period, and in 1888, the lean-to was replaced by the present ell.
The house is thus a product of continual evolution. The growth has in some places produced incongruities, such as the uneven fenestration or the use of three different mantel treatments in the north room. Such modifications indicate that this house's heritage is one of activity, not stagnancy. Fortunately, each cycle of renovation left some of the most interesting and best executed work from previous periods.
Federal Writers' Project, History of Milford. Bridgeport: Milford Tercentenary Committee, 1939.
"The History of an Old House," Milford Citizen, October 9, 1903.
Kelly, J. Frederick. Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut. New York: Dover Publications, 1963, (reprint of 1924 ed.).
Putnam, Helene Y. "The Buckingham House," Colonial Dames MS, State Library, 1926.
† Bruce Clouette, Consultant, Connecticut Historical Commission, Buckingham House, Milford, CT, nomination document, 1976, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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