Gales Ferry Historic District Number 1
The Gales Ferry Historic District #1 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
Gales Ferry Historic District #1 is a residential neighborhood which occupies a small promontory on the east bank of the Thames River in the western portion of Ledyard, Connecticut. It consists of two streets: Hurlbutt Road, which runs east and west and terminates at its western end to intersect with Riverside Place at the north end of the district. The latter street runs parallel to the river and descends in a southerly direction to the river bank, a site historically known as the Lower Wharf. The Upper Wharf site is located on the riverbank below the head of this street. The entrance to the Gales Ferry Historic District #1 is on Hurlbutt Road just after the bridge which spans the railroad cut there; the latter feature forms part of the eastern boundary of the district.
The Gales Ferry Historic District #1 contains 33 contributing and non-contributing buildings, consisting of 19 houses, one a former nineteenth-century store, along with their related outbuildings, and one boathouse. All of the houses contribute to the historic character of the district, including two that have undergone relatively recent remodelings but still retain their basic integrity of form and materials (59 Hurlbutt Road and 6 Riverside Place). The non-contributing resources are confined to two modern outbuildings.
Generally small in scale and sited close to the road, the houses are all woodframe construction with granite foundations. To the rear and side of the properties are a number of wood-framed barns, sheds, or former shops, probably all dating from the mid to late nineteenth century.
Most of the historic houses in the Gales Ferry Historic District #1 were built in the nineteenth century; only four predate 1800. The earliest is the c.1750 Benajah Davis House, a gambrel-roofed Colonial which was enlarged to its present size and form in the early nineteenth century (7 Riverside Place). The 1796 Daniel Copp House (64 Hurlbutt Road), a large Federal/Colonial with an associated nineteenth-century barn, is distinguished by Federal style porticos at both the central main entrance and the secondary doorway on the west gable end. Across the street is the 1796 Thomas Geer House, a gambrel-roofed Cape considerably enlarged in the late 1800s by Yale University for its rowing crew headquarters (2 Riverside Place). The last example from this period, the John Allyn, Jr., House, located near the entrance to the district, is a small vernacular cottage built in 1795 (54 Hurlbutt Road).
The majority of the later houses were built in the first half of the nineteenth century. They include examples of most of the domestic architecture of this era: Cape, Federal, Greek Revival, and vernacular styles. The 1827 William Browning House at the entrance to the district displays the late use of the Cape form (52 Hurlbutt Road). A two-story Federal style example (11 Riverside Place) is located next to the site of the Lower Wharf at the foot of Riverside Place. It was built for Guy Stoddard about 1820 with the same form and orientation of the earlier Daniel Copp House of this style.
The Greek Revival style ranges from the c.1842 Stephen Gray House (56 Hurlbutt Road), a small cottage with a ridge-to-street orientation, to a fully detailed temple-fronted house with a full pediment, the 1846 Captain Austin Lester House (5 Riverside Place). The Gray House has small attic windows under the eaves of the facade and a Greek Revival doorway. The pediment of the Lester House displays a split elliptical fanlight, a locally characteristic feature. A classic example of the vernacular Greek Revival is the small gable-to-street, side-hall plan house built for Rebecca Bailey in 1857 (8 Riverside Place). A group of three vernacular buildings on the south side of Hurlbutt Road are similar in form and have the same gable-to-street orientation. Two are houses (57 Hurlbutt Road, John Bradford House; 59 Hurlbutt Road, William Bracewell House) built about mid-century; the other was built as a store in 1899 (55 Hurlbutt Road, Samuel Brown Store). There are several smaller cottages of this era which are more simply detailed Victorian vernacular examples, such as the Sarah Vincent House at the west end of Hurlbutt Road (63 Hurlbutt Road). Several nineteenth-century buildings are associated with the latter property, one of which was possibly a tradesman's shop.
The only house built later in the century is a large Italianate, the 1875 Captain Latham Brown House (2 Riverside Place). Its hip and gable roof displays bracketed eaves and pediments. Three vernacular houses built in the early 1900s (53 Hurlbutt Road, Lucy B. Hempstead House; 3 Riverside Place, Delphine Fish House; 12 Riverside Place, John MacDougal House) and a large woodframe boathouse used for storage of rowing shells, built about 1910 (2 Riverside Place, Yale Boathouse) complete the district.
Gales Ferry Historic District #1 is architecturally significant as a well-preserved collection of historic buildings, dating from c.1750 to 1930, which illustrate the development of the village as a small river trading port and its associations with the nineteenth-century whaling and sealing trade from about 1750 to 1880. It derives further significance from its later long and continuous association with the Yale-Harvard Regatta held annually on the Thames River after 1878. The Gales Ferry Historic District #1 is distinguished by several exceptional examples of architectural styles, including the Federal, Greek Revival, and Italianate, which are individually significant and display a high level of craftsmanship. Although the rest of the houses do not approach this level of style, they contribute to the historical integrity of the district as representative examples of vernacular architecture from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century. A few are fine examples of the work of local carpenter/joiners and all have consistency of scale, form, and materials.
† Jan Cunninghan, Cunningham Associates, Ltd., and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Gales Ferry Historic District #1. nomination document, 1992, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.