Quaker Farms Historic District
The Quaker Farms Historic District (467-511 Quaker Farms Road) 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 © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Quaker Farms Historic District in the Town of Oxford lies west of the north-south ridge that divides the Housatonic River and Little River. The 12 properties of the Quaker Farms Historic District front on Quaker Farms Road (State Highway Route 188), which carries steady but modest traffic. The Quaker Farms Historic District consists of Christ Church Episcopal (1814), its most significant architectural resource, and nearby houses in the Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival styles, built from 1720, many of which were homes of families that helped found the rural church and have supported it over the years.
Christ Church Episcopal faces west, close to the road. It is a rectangular white clapboarded edifice without portico but with an entrance composition of doorway with flanking paired Roman Doric pilasters and Palladian window. The doorway and its accompanying window are in a projecting tower, which is tied to the main building by two cantilever beams and rises to a high three-stage steeple designed in the manner of James Gibbs. The two tiers of five 12-over-12 windows in the side elevations are large in size, occupying a high proportion of the wall space. At the second floor, the windows have Gothic-arched heads filled with interlacing tracery above the small-paned sash. The central section of the Palladian window is the same.
On the interior, a three-pointed archway separates the entrance from the sanctuary. Galleries run around three sides, rounded at the back and curved at the front. Columns supporting the ceiling have Ionic capitals, and a second Palladian window with central Gothic arch pierces the east wall over the altar.
The Greek Revival house (1836) across the street at 467 Quaker Farms Road is a temple-style example of the mode, having portico and three bays of 6-over-6 windows under a strong pediment, with tympanum of smooth boarding, in its front elevation. The rural character of the property is highlighted by the substantial frame outbuildings. Another Greek Revival house (1844) stands at 487 Quaker Farms Road. It is ell-shaped, with entrance in the angle of the ell. Each end elevation has two bays, projecting gable roof without pediment, and typical rectangular attic window. The absence of pediments and the projection of the roof suggest the oncoming Italianate style. This property has the most extensive outbuildings in the Quaker Farms Historic District: a two-story structure with arched windows at the first floor (purpose of the building unknown), an old garage, a gambrel-roofed barn, and several chicken coops.
The structure at 486 Quaker Farms Road (1800), a reminder of the Quaker Farms Historic District's modest industrial history, was converted from a carriage manufactory to a five-bay Colonial design with Greek Revival central doorway. Its neighbor at 494 Quaker Farms Road (1935) is a modest Colonial Revival house with a portico whose coved ceiling is supported by paired posts.
Across the street, 489 Quaker Farms Road is the only Queen Anne- style house in the Quaker Farms Historic District. The turned posts and sawn brackets of its hipped-roof porch and the fish-scale shingles covering its gable end are unmatched elsewhere. The two-bay house at 491 Quaker Farms Road (1725) is perhaps the oldest in the district, but has been altered from time to time so that it now presents a vernacular appearance. Its 1/2-story barn of vertical siding has a small pyramidal-roofed cupola. A series of alterations also is reflected in 511 Quaker Farms Road (1772); today the principal block of the house is the three-bay section (1805) added in the Federal style. Its coved portico resembles the similar Colonial Revival portico at 494 Quaker Farms Road.
The Quaker Farms Historic District forms a nucleated settlement of houses mostly built from the mid-18th to mid-19th centuries. All frame and all modest in size and architectural pretension, they form a setting and foil for the church with its outstanding architectural features.
There is one vacant lot in the Quaker Farms Historic District, included for visual continuity, and one vernacular house (1933) at 473 Quaker Farms Road, which is considered to be contributing. Two non-contributing houses are the Ranch (1974) at 490 Quaker Farms Road and a recent Colonial Revival residence (c.1970s) at 495 Quaker Farms Road.
The houses physically form a cohesive group, a settlement adjacent to the church. Beyond them are open spaces. The church and its neighbors are an easily identified entity, a rural grouping along Quaker Farms Road.
The Quaker Farms Historic District is significant architecturally because it consists of an outstanding Federal/Gothic Revival church and its accompanying nucleated settlement of houses constructed from mid-18th to mid-19th century. The houses are good examples of their styles, but are equally important because they form a background setting or foil for the dramatic features and fine architectural character of Christ Church Episcopal.
In the 17th century, the height of navigation on the Housatonic River was at Derby, nine miles southeast of Quaker Farms. As early as 1683, settlers one at a time were pushing further inland from Derby along the Derby-Woodbury Road (now Quaker Farms Road) to the Quaker Farms area in what was to become the Town of Oxford. The name Quaker Farms was in use at the time, but the reason for the name is unknown. Early (1708) settlers, freemen of Derby, included members of the Tomlinson, Hotchkiss, Nichols, and Lum families, names which are associated with houses in the Quaker Farms Historic District and with the early history of Christ Church Episcopal. A petition for a separate New Derby (Oxford) parish was granted by the General Court of Connecticut in 1741, and in 1798 the Town of Oxford was incorporated, using land taken from Derby and Southbury.
St. Peter's Episcopal Church was established in Oxford center in 1764. By the early 19th century, when a sufficient number of Episcopalians resided in the Quaker Farms area and the number of complaints about traveling the 2 1/2 miles to Oxford center was increasing, Christ Church was established as a chapel of St. Peter's. David Tomlinson was chairman of the building committee. Consecrated September 3, 1817, by Bishop Hobart, Christ Church became a separate parish in 1827. Architectural Significance The overall design, proportions, and detailing of the interior and exterior of Christ Church Episcopal make it a fine example of its type. For example, it is of interest that the proportions are carefully and regularly worked out: the width of the tower is one-third the width of the front elevation, while the depth of the building is 1 1/3 times the width. It is to be noted that the projecting tower rises directly from grade, in the manner of Christopher Wren's churches, to its great height. While the general layout of the building is consistent with Federal/Adamesque practice common at the time, as are the presence of the elliptical windows in the tower and the use of Palladian windows, the Gothic pointed arches and accompanying tracery are not. The close relationship between the Episcopal Church and the Church of England, which strongly favored medieval forms during the 19th century, may explain the presence of the Gothic windows at Quaker Farms. If so, the influence of the mother church had indeed reached out to the frontier.
Fine detailing on the church ranges from the raised moldings of the exterior corner boards to the series of small curved shapes arrayed in dentil-like courses on the interior gallery fronts. The curved shapes of the galleries themselves are also unusual and fine.
"The interior of the edifice is one of the most interesting in Connecticut," Kelly wrote, "due not only to its beauty but also to the fact that it has been so little changed. " While this statement about little change may be true on a relative basis, there have been several interior changes over the years, including removal of the high staircase pulpit (1858), replacement of the square box pews with slips (1853), changing the glazing of the chancel window from small panes of clear glass to stained glass (1878), painting the interior white (1879 — original color unknown, but thought not to be white), installation of the present chancel platform, altar, and pulpit, which are not original, and adding the pipe organ (1879) and the chandelier (1880).
Despite these changes, the integrity of the building as a whole, exterior and interior, is good, reflecting the outstanding quality of the church's design and workmanship.
The houses that are near the church, while less dramatic than the church in their quality, are good examples of the Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival styles. By providing a record of the settlement and development pattern of the Quaker Farms Historic District, the houses contribute an important component to its significance. The agricultural character of the outbuildings contributes to the historical authenticity of the district, as does the association with the Tomlinson, Hotchkiss, Nichols, and Lum families with both the houses and the church. As a group the houses and barns form an appropriate historically-and architecturally-related context for the outstanding quality of the church. The splendor of the church in the rural community is exceptional; an explication of the circumstances surrounding its inception to explain so architecturally distinguished a design is not at hand. Perhaps its construction is a demonstration of the power and outreach of pattern books based on the work of Robert Adam, the English architect whose work influenced the Federal style, books published in England and distributed in America, as well as similar books of American origin.
Early Houses of Oxford. Oxford Bicentennial Commission, 1976.
Kelly, Jr. Frederick. Early Connecticut Meetinghouses. New York: Columbia University Press, 1948, v.2.
Litchfield, Norman. A History of Christ Church, Quaker Farms, in Oxford, Connecticut. Quaker Farms: 1954.
Litchfield, Norman, and Hoyt, Sabrina Connolly. History of Oxford, Connecticut, 1900.
Ransom, David F. Milton Historic District, nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, 1986.
Sharpe, W.C. History of Oxford. Seymour, Connecticut: Record Print, 1885, Part 1.
† David F. Ransom, Consultant and John Herzan, , Connecticut Historical Commission , Quaker Farms Historic District, Oxford, CT, nomination document, 1991, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.