Hurley Road Historic District
The Hurley Road Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. 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 Hurley Road Historic District is a small, early-nineteenth-century rural enclave located to the north and south of Hurley Road at its intersection with Strongtown Road (State Route 188). To the immediate east is Eight Mile Brook, which forms the border with the neighboring Town of Oxford. The district includes two houses, one a circa 1820 Federal (6 Hurley Road, Jason Curtiss House), the other a Greek Revival style Cape built about 1835 (17 Hurley Road, Japhet Curtiss House). Other buildings associated with these properties include two contributing barns and a small non-contributing summerhouse.
A nineteenth-century sawmill, no longer standing, was located on the far side of the stream in Oxford and linked for most of its history with the Greek Revival Cape. It was associated with the still extant stone dam and millpond on Eight Mile Brook. The dam and part of the pond are included in the Hurley Road Historic District. Constructed of rubblestone and incorporating existing ledge, the dam is approximately 75 feet in width. Other components of the power system, such as a race or water turbine, are no longer extant.
Other changes to the immediate area over time include the construction of Route 188, which rerouted Strongtown Road to the west of the Greek Revival Cape after 1935. There is a clearing bordered by trees which defines the former path of the old road in front of this house along the shore of the millpond. The house and its associated barn face this earlier roadway.
Situated close to the road but separated by a picket fence, the Federal style Jason Curtiss House is two stories in height, is oriented gable-to street, and has a side-hall plan. The entrance has a Federal surround with pilasters. Other exterior details include cornice returns on the facade and projecting window caps over the 12-over-12 windows.
There are two later additions at the rear: a kitchen ell with a wing to the south, the latter reputed to be the former Bucks Hill School moved here and attached to the building. The land slopes away to the brook at the rear and a modern addition for an enclosed porch is found at the first floor level a full story above grade.
The interior of the main block is typically Federal in plan with the parlor at the front, flanked by the entrance hall with its staircase. The parlor contains a Federal style fireplace surround. The original kitchen fireplace on the rear side of the stack has granite cheeks and hearth with a brick and iron lintel. The brick beehive oven is on the right. An unusual feature is a very small fireplace in the former borning room on the north side of the stack. The partition between this room and the old kitchen has been removed. There are two fireplaces on the second floor with simple surrounds; both have brick hearths. The center of the attic is a finished room with plastered walls, leaving a crawl space under the eaves. The interior of the former schoolhouse ell has a curved plastered ceiling.
The later Japhet Curtiss House to the north faces the millpond from a slight rise. It is unlikely that this house was an earlier Cape remodeled in the Greek Revival style as has been believed. Its consistency of materials, and the scale and integration of its Greek Revival features into the construction of the house, generally preclude this possibility. It is more probable that it was built in this configuration and style after 1835, possibly as late as 1840.
Its prominent Greek Revival details include the high facade entablature, broad corner pilasters with capitals at all four corners, and the Greek Revival doorway surround with transom in the center of the five-bay facade. There is a three-pane horizontal window in the gable peaks. Changes over time include the circa 1936 rear ell, the dormers in the front and rear slopes of the gabled roof, and a multi-paned bay window on the north end elevation.
The center-chimney plan is typical for a Cape of this period and style in the Woodbury-Southbury area. There is a rear staircase rather than one in front of the stack. The parlor fireplace has a simple Greek Revival surround. The original kitchen fireplace has granite cheeks and brick beehive oven, all contained within a single surround, and a one piece granite hearth. There are three recessed cupboards above the mantel to the left.
The barns associated with these houses have the typical form and massing of the nineteenth century, with gabled roofs and vertical board siding. The one associated with the Jason Curtiss House has a privy inside the building. Also on that property there is another secondary structure, which was moved next to the brook and serves as a summerhouse.
The Hurley Road Historic District is significant as a representative example of a nineteenth-century rural residential enclave, which is distinguished by the level of style of its domestic vernacular architecture and its integrity of setting. Further distinction is derived from its long association with the Curtiss family, descendants of the original proprietors of Woodbury, the parent town of Southbury.
Built and developed by members of the same family, the Hurley Road Historic District has exceptional historic ambiance and clearly conveys its early-nineteenth century associations. Even though the sawmill is gone, the interrelationship of the remaining buildings and sites to the natural and man-made environment recalls the patterns of living associated with rural industry in Southford village. While the barns may not be as early as the houses, they are typically nineteenth century in their form and construction, serving as reminders that farming and industry operated in tandem in rural villages and continued to do so through most of the industrial period. The millpond and its dam, which today contribute to the scenic beauty of the Hurley Road Historic District, recall the original purpose for its development and make a significant contribution to its historic rural atmosphere.
Although there have been some changes over time, the houses in the Hurley Road Historic District are fine representative examples of the fully developed vernacular architecture of the early 1800s. With its gable-to-street orientation, side-hall plan, and nicely detailed interior, the well-preserved Jason Curtiss House is a prime example of the Federal style as it was interpreted near the end of its period. Its later counterpart, the Greek Revival Japhet Curtiss House, was built in a style often associated with mill ownership. The popularity of this style, in all its manifestations, coincided with the onset of the American Industrial Revolution and was, with few exceptions, favored by early industrial entrepreneurs for their houses. Although more elaborate houses of this style were built, this house is a classic example of how the Greek Revival was often utilized in rural areas, simply as an embellishment of the earlier Cape form. The reliance on precedent is most obvious in its well-preserved interior which essentially has a colonial floor plan.
The Hurley Road Historic District houses were built by fifth-generation descendants of Israel Curtiss (1644-1704). He was one of the men who covenanted together in 1670 to establish and settle Old Woodbury. The. Curtiss family had extensive land holdings in the South Parish, now the Town of Southbury.
17 Hurley Road was first associated with Japhet Curtiss (1779-1864). The eldest son and only 19 at the death of his father, Benjamin Curtiss (1751-1798), he eventually received all of his father's estate, including the shares of his younger brothers after they came of age. Although the deeds are not conclusive, this property appears to be the one deeded in 1807 to Japhet by his brother Cyrus Curtiss (1786-1875). Both brothers were related to the Strong family through sibling exchange marriages. Since Japhet, Sr., had a house elsewhere in town (1581 Bucks Hill Road), it is possible that this house was built for his son, Japhet, Jr. (1820-1854), who might have married about 1840, a date consistent with the style of the house. It is known that a Japhet Curtiss mortgaged the property in 1849. However, in 1855 (one year after the death of Japhet, Jr.), the property was sold to Charles Fabrique by a Japhet Curtiss of New Haven. The property then included a dwelling house, barn, sawmill, and shop, along with the millpond and mill privileges. Fabrique, of French descent, was a nineteenth-century building contractor who employed a large workforce of carpenters and built houses in the Southbury area. He owned the property for only one year and may not have lived in the house but used it for his mill overseer. A series of later owners included George Bostwick, who is identified as the occupant on the 1868 map. Christopher Tappan obtained the property through foreclosure and it remained in the Tappan family until 1929. The present owners bought the property in 1979.
6 Hurley Road was built by Jason Curtiss (1794-after 1851), a cousin of Japhet and the eldest son of Simeon Curtiss and Mary Bradley. Simeon, the son of Benjamin's brother Joseph (who also died in 1798), owned an earlier house across Strongtown Road. He sold Jason a 4-acre parcel in 1819 with a barn but no dwelling was mentioned in the deed. In 1882, the property, which then included 10 acres and was identified in the deed as "long known as the property and residence of Jason Curtiss," was sold by his brother, Reuben Bradley Curtis, to Reuben's grandson, William R. Curtiss. Reuben B. formerly lived at 1770 Bucks Hill Road, where he ran a seminary for boys. The house remained in the Curtiss family until 1930 and was purchased by the present owners in 1988.
Barbour Collection of Connecticut Vital Records.
Beers, F. W. Atlas of New Haven County; The Town of Southbury. New York: Beers & Co., 1868.
Cothren, William F. History of Ancient Woodbury from the First Indian Deed in 1659 to 1871. 3 vols. Waterbury: Bronson Brothers, 1854, 1872; Woodbury: Cothren, 1879.
Smith, H. & C.T. Map of New Haven County, Connecticut, 1856.
Southbury: Townwide Architectural Survey (intensive level). Connecticut Historical Commission, 1990-1991 (compiled by Mary McCahon).
† Jan Cunningham, Cunningham Associates, Ltd. and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Hurley Road Historic District, Southbury, CT, nomination document, 1992, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.