Greeneville Historic District
The Greeneville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2005, The Gombach Group.
The Greeneville Historic District encompasses an industrial village laid out in 1833 on the west side of the Shetucket River in the City of Norwich. Located about a mile northeast of the downtown business district, the 300-acre site slopes up from a narrow, relatively level river bank to a 150-foot ridgeline that runs along the western border of the district. As originally planned, the village consists of a tiered street grid, with three principal north-south thoroughfares stepping up from the river: beginning with North Main Street on the east; followed by Central Avenue, which diverges from North Main at the foot of the district to rejoin it just beyond the northern boundary; and Prospect Street. Numbered east-west connectors (Second through Fourteenth streets) run uphill from North Main Street, with some extending through to Boswell Avenue (the former Providence Turnpike), which forms part of the Greeneville Historic District's western boundary. Unpaved alleys access the interior of the blocks between North Main and Central Avenue. Below North Main Street four numbered streets provide access to the extensive industrial area of the district section located between the railroad tracks and the river. Also included in the Greeneville Historic District are village streets south and west of the original grid that were laid out after the Civil War and fully developed by the 1930s.
The densely populated Greeneville Historic District contains 772 resources, of which 691 (90 percent) contribute to its historic and/or architectural character. Contributing historic resources include residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial buildings and structures erected between c.1830 and c.1940. The 81 non-contributing resources include some substantially altered or deteriorated historic buildings, as well as outbuildings, commercial buildings, and a limited amount of modern residential infill dating from after 1940.
Domestic architecture, the major component of the Greeneville Historic District, consists of single and multi-family dwellings, with the majority constructed in the nineteenth century. Although a few were built of brick, and most have brick foundations, houses are wood-framed and closely sited on small lots. Even though a full range of stylistic influences is represented in the Greeneville Historic District, nearly half are simple vernacular dwellings, a category that includes various types of workers' housing. Artificial siding is common, but many houses have retained the doorhoods and/or open porches characteristic of the Victorian or Colonial Revival periods. Most contributing buildings historically used for commercial purposes are located along Central Avenue and typically included living quarters. Rounding out the Greeneville Historic District are some institutional buildings, including churches and schools. The industrial component of the Greeneville Historic District along the river consists of a group of mill buildings and ancillary structures dating from c.1830 to c.1920, which include a power canal and dam, the latter structure at the northern end of this complex.
The oldest domestic architecture includes workers' houses built by the Shetucket Company in the vicinity of its mill at the south end of the district from about 1850 to 1870. Single-family cottages on Second and Third streets and Central Avenue feature three-bay facades, center chimneys, and paired windows in the gables, with the best preserved examples at 12 and 16 Third Street. A row of similar duplex company cottages on Central Avenue have porches sheltering two doorways in the center bay (146, 148-150, 152-154, 156-158, 160-162, and 172-176). Multifamily two-story workers' houses on Second Street have chimneys at either end, and six-bay facades with full-width porches (23-25 to 53 Second Street). In the slightly larger, seven-bay center-chimney versions there, doors are in the outside bays. Larger company-owned housing erected after the Civil War includes a tenement at the foot of Sixth Street, which has wood-shingled walls and narrow recessed attic windows (28-30 Sixth Street). A three-story 1887 boardinghouse with a 12-bay facade at 155 Central Avenue has twin hip-roofed facade porches.
The influence of the Greek Revival, the dominate style of the antebellum period, persisted well into the 1870s. Only a few temple-fronted Greek Revivals were built in the Greeneville Historic District, most notably represented by the Peleg Rose House at 274 Prospect Street. Even though many other homes, boardinghouses, and tenements of this style also display pedimented gables, frieze boards and pilasters, in most cases, the ridge of the gabled roof runs parallel to the street. Two examples of this latter form of the Greek Revival are located on Prospect Street: the c.1840 Congregational Church Parsonage at 114 Prospect Street and the c.1860 Owen Stead House at 122 Prospect Street. The colonnaded facade porch on the latter house was replaced in the early 1900s by the present Colonial Revival porch, which has a coved ceiling archway in the center. A number of late Greek Revivals display Italianate doorhoods. On Central Avenue, the Frank Hewlett House (333 Central Avenue) at the corner of Tenth Street, one of group of three houses there, is the most fully realized example of this combination style. (The two other houses are 335-337 and 339 Central Avenue.) The Elizabeth Roath House, another Greek Revival house just down the street displays half fans in the pediments (possibly a later alteration) and wood quoining (293 Central Avenue). Paneled pilasters, pediments, and a frieze board are found on the Page Company boarding house at 93 Fourth Street. Two vernacular Greek Revival style tenements on the west side of Central Avenue have high facade foundations because of the slope of their lots (328-332 and 336-338 Central Avenue). Three other similar tenements on the west side of North Main Street have the same exposed foundations but lack stylistic detail (526-528, 530-532 and 534-536 North Main Street).
The Second Empire style first appeared in the Greeneville Historic District in the 1850s but a number of these have been altered over time. For example the side porch on the Frederick Carey House at 118 Central Avenue, one of the better examples, was recently enclosed. Historic or modern storefronts and even double-decker facade porches were added to several others on this street, such as the Albert Hurlburt House (297 Central Avenue) and Gilbert McMahon House (351-353 Central Avenue), but all have retained their mansard roofs.
Many gabled facades of the later nineteenth century were detailed in the Italianate or Carpenter Gothic manner. Such was the case on Prospect Street where these contemporaneous styles differentiated otherwise identical houses. The John Fitzpatrick House (79 Prospect Street) has an Italianate portico and bracketed window heads, while the eaves and porch of the James Hollins House next door (81 Prospect Street) are detailed with Gothic bargeboards and spandrels.
More typically, the Italianate influence in the Greeneville Historic District was limited to just bracketed doorhoods, features found on many vernacular houses on Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh streets. More stylish examples on Thirteenth and Fourteenth streets have Italianate facade porches, with characteristic chamfered posts on tall bases, with bracketed capitals (36 Thirteenth Street, William Wilson House; 38 Thirteenth Street, Jacob Munz House; 39 Fourteenth Street, John Karkutt, Jr. House; 40-42 Fourteenth Street, Eli Robillard House; 41 Fourteenth Street). Similar porches are found on Boswell Avenue on one of the few cube-form Italianates in the Greeneville Historic District and its gabled neighbor to the south (472 Boswell Avenue, Ralph Fillmore House and 480 Boswell Avenue). On the latter house, the characteristic paired, round-arched gable windows are embellished with hood moulds. Another cube-form example, the Jacob B. Bacheldor House at 88 Central Avenue next to St. Mary's Church, has a wraparound veranda as well as a cupola. Two-story bay windows with brackets, another popular Italianate feature, flank double-decker porches on a row of nearly identical houses at 147, 153, 157 and 159 Hickory Street.
A number of cottages and houses on Prospect Street are detailed with elaborate Carpenter Gothic millwork. The more steeply pitched gables of the nearby William Pitt Potter, Jr., House, one of the more fully realized Carpenter Gothics in Greeneville, are fully embellished with decorative trusses and brackets (60 Prospect Street). Similar detailing is found on the Andrew McLaughlin House and Saloon and Saloon (361-363 Central Avenue) and the Elias Taylor House (366 Central Avenue); the latter example is partially hidden from view by tall hedging. The delicate "gingerbread" trim at the eaves, dormers, and porches at 45 Golden Street is also quite characteristic of this vernacular style in thee Greeneville Historic District.
The Queen Anne had a limited impact in Greeneville. Among the very few examples are two identical double-deckers 311-313 and 338 Prospect Street. Even though they do exhibit the characteristic cutaway corners and patterned shingles, as well as a recessed second-floor porch, these houses do not have the complex massing or tower usually associated with this style. More commonly, the Queen Anne influence is expressed simply by open facade porches with turned posts with brackets or spandrels; stylistically identified in this nomination as Victorian vernacular. Representative examples include a double-decker and cross-gable plan house on Page Street (66-68 Page Street, Donovan House and 72 Page Street, John C. Atterbury House) and two houses built by the Zahn family in the 1890s at the west end of Fourth Street (120 and 122 Fourth Street).
The remaining residential lots in the original village grid and on the periphery of the Greeneville Historic District were developed in the early 1900s. Bungalows and Foursquares were the most popular styles, usually influenced to some degree by the Colonial Revival. One of the earliest Bungalows, the 1904 Jacob Munz House at 291 Prospect Street, displays other stylistic influences, such as Neo-Classical Revival, which is expressed by applied swags on the facade dormer. More conventional "pattern-book" Bungalows as well as vernacular Colonial Revivals with open porches with columns or posts line Convent Avenue, a street that developed in conjunction with the building of the Greek Orthodox church there in 1915. A half dozen Foursquares interspersed among earlier Victorian houses along the northern end of Boswell Avenue completed the development of the streetscape there between 1924 and 1932. One of two neighboring Foursquares on Golden Street was interpreted as a double-decker (62-64 and 70 Golden Street), as were several others on Central Avenue.
The first of the institutional buildings in the Greeneville Historic District was the 1834 Greek Revival style Congregational Church, which once faced Central Avenue (143 Prospect Street). In 1867, when it was turned around to face Prospect Street, the building was literally cut in half and two additional bays inserted in the long elevations. The three stage tower and oval windows in the pediments are later additions. Anchoring the southern end of the district on Central Avenue are St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, a Gothic Revival granite edifice with rose window and buttressed bell tower erected in 1921 (76 Central Avenue), which stands next to the earlier Tudor Revival rectory (70 Central Avenue).
The Greeneville Hook and Ladder Company of 1896 at 444 North Main Street, one of the few non-industrial brick buildings in the Greeneville Historic District, was designed in a streamlined Renaissance Revival style. It features granite belt courses and lintels, the material also used for the voussoirs and keystones in the arches of the truck bays. Central Avenue was also the location of two other important brick commercial buildings: the offices and trolley barn of the 1905 Connecticut Company, the northern anchor to the Greeneville Historic District (385 Central Avenue), and the ornate Kelly Block, a Neo-Classical Revival building dating from 1896 (219-231 Central Avenue).
The Shetucket River was first dammed in 1829, but the extant historic hydropower generation system in the district mostly dates from 1882. It includes the present dam, gatehouse and headgates, a power canal, and a number of ancillary structures. The dam was originally constructed of granite rubble with dressed granite aprons (15' x 399') with rubblestone abutments. After a flood in 1886, the collapsed middle section was rebuilt with gravel filled timber cribbing and raised to 25 feet. The capstones were replaced and the upstream face sealed with cement and planked with oak. Planking also was added to the downstream face and on the new two-step apron. Repairs in 1915 included replacement of seven or eight courses of deteriorated cribbing and the original capstones were reset in concrete.
Just west of the dam abutment is the entrance to the canal, which runs parallel to the river for almost a mile to its outlet below Second Street. At the northern end of the canal, six head gates with round-arched granite voussoirs are set in a bulkhead of granite ashlar with a dressed granite coping. The sliding wooden gates are raised and lowered by gears and rack-and-pinion mechanisms (replaced in 1918) in the gatehouse, a wood-frame, one-story structure with a gabled roof (14 x 100) that stands on top of the bulkhead. Just below the dam abutment is a two-step canal spillway into the river constructed of reinforced concrete. A 1923 replacement for the earlier spillway of 1882, this structure functions as a waste weir, which allows the canal to continue to operate during high water. The spillway also provides a bridge for the gatehouse access road. A much smaller gatehouse, 500 feet downstream, stands over the original 1882 drain gate for the canal (no longer in use). The current sluice and powerhouse further downstream are the main components of the modern electric plant, owned and operated by the City of Norwich since 1966. An earlier powerhouse at the foot of the canal was built in 1927.
Related industrial infrastructure includes bridges and the railroad tracks and right-of-way along the west side of the canal. Most of the bridges have been replaced, including the road bridge over the Shetucket at Eighth Street to the Town of Preston. The only historic canal bridge still extant is located at the foot of Sixth Street. Now fenced off and mostly hidden from view by dense undergrowth, this riveted Warren pony truss structure was built about 1920. The remaining resource associated with the railroad is located east of the tracks at 10 Eighth Street. The rubblestone section along the west elevation of this brick building once served as a railroad vault.
The remaining historic paper and textile mills are located alongside the canal south of Sixth Street. All were constructed of brick, with elevations bordering the canal resting directly on the exposed stone foundations. The mills of the Chelsea Manufacturing Company, producers of paper, include the only extant building on the west side of the canal, a c.1890 storehouse (115' x 72'). Six stories high and 12 bays long, it has a near flat roof and segmental-arched windows with stone sills. A gable-roofed addition on the north elevation, which once served as a coalhouse, has been demolished down to the foundation. An enclosed, fourth-story catwalk at the south end of the storehouse runs over the canal to connect with the rest of the complex.
The paper mill complex, which developed between 1860 and 1910, occupies most of the land between the canal and the river. Although built at different times, most of these brick structures now are joined together. The sole freestanding structure is a c.1870 machine shop (90' x 30') at the north end, which exhibits typical brick pier construction and has paired windows with segmental heads. The mills, which extend along the east side of the canal for 731 feet, start with a three-story building beside the canal at the foot of Fifth Street. A c.1910 two-story, flat-roofed brick pier mill is attached on the northwest end (behind the machine shop). The c.1860 mill on the canal to the south (375' x 78'), the first Chelsea Company building, runs all the way to the foot of Second Street. It has a shallow gable roof with exposed rafter ends. Windows display segmental-arched lintels and stone sills. A similar mill was built about 1880 along the river bank to the northeast. When it was attached to the complex, a large rectangular area was left open as an airshaft between the buildings.
The first of the textile mills in the Greeneville Historic District was built by the Shetucket Company at the foot of Second Street in 1840. It has a typical period stair tower with loading doors at all four floors A four-bay pavilion was added to the north end of the 15-bay main block about 1860. Windows throughout have flat brick headers. There are iron tie rods with star plates between bays on the upper three levels of the main block, the pavilion, and the stair tower. On the south end, a c.1880 gabled two-story addition, which has segmental-arched windows, is sited perpendicular to the main block and extends partially over the canal. Water passes through a round-arched opening in the stone foundation of a brick connector, which is attached to another building on the west bank, possibly the former c.1910 boiler house (104' x 59'). The complex is completed by another attached two-story brick mill with a flat roof, which is turned at 90 degrees and has a north-south orientation (385 North Main Street). Erected in 1915, this long narrow building (473' overall) has a polygonal-shaped section at the south end, and displays decorative brick corbelling and dentils. The company office was built just one block to the west at the corner of North Main Street about 1880 (387 North Main Street). The classical stone surround of the main entrance has a full entablature and an arched doorway in antis, with round columns. Key blocks are centered in the flared stone lintels of the facade windows.
The Greeneville Historic District encompasses a historically significant industrial village that was created to support and sustain water-powered industry from 1828 to c.1940. Much of the enduring success of this industrial enterprise can be attributed to the entrepreneurial vision of industrialist William P. Greene (1795-1862). His development of this planned community and a company to deliver a centralized power delivery system, combined with significant technological infrastructure improvements in the late nineteenth century, supported the largest industrial presence in Norwich. Although nominally part of the City of Norwich after 1875, from its creation in 1833 to after World War I, Greeneville remained a relatively independent and self-sufficient, working-class community an evolution fully expressed by the Greeneville Historic District's large, cohesive collection of generally well-preserved domestic, institutional, and commercial architecture. While much of the architecture has the vernacular character expected in a mill town, the district also includes representative examples of several of the major styles of the period, including Greek Revival, Second Empire, Italianate, and Carpenter Gothic.
Greeneville proved to be ideal site for industrialization. Unlimited waterpower, sufficient capital, a resident labor force, and superior transportation facilities produced an industrial base which flourished for nearly a century. As was typical in the early industrial period, one individual was primarily responsible. William P. Greene, who gave his name to the village, was a member of the ambitious and visionary generation that truly launched the American Industrial Revolution. What set him apart from other early Yankee industrial entrepreneurs was a better grasp of the complexity of national market forces, as well as his access to Boston and Norwich venture capitalists. In the boom or bust economy of the nineteenth century that destroyed many of his peers, Greene became the leading industrialist in the Norwich area. A civic leader and philanthropist, Greene was mayor of Norwich in 1842-43, served as president and director of several city banks, and as an incorporator of the Norwich Free Academy. His house in Norwich (no longer extant) was donated to the academy for the principal's home.
After graduating from Harvard in 1814, Greene practiced law in Boston. He came to Norwich at the invitation of William C. Gilman, who was already operating a nailery, or slitting mill, at the falls on the Yantic River. Greene became his partner in another venture there in 1824, the Thames Manufacturing Company, a cotton mill. Eventually two textile mills, a paper mill, an iron factory, a foundry and rolling mill were prospering at that location. So successful were these ventures that the two men looked elsewhere in the area for other industrial sites. Although few places had as great potential as the natural falls on the Yantic, Greene recognized the possibilities of the lower Shetucket River for a power canal system similar to that of Lowell, Massachusetts, the site of the first development of speculative waterpower in the United States.
In essence, the Lowell development model redefined the traditional industrial dynamic, in which mill owners were responsible for their own source of power. For the first time production and consumption of power became separate economic entities, which not only spread the risk, but promoted industrial growth. Power companies that invested heavily in building and maintaining canals and dams and efficient water delivery systems expected to recoup their investment by leasing power rights to industrial developers, hence the speculative nature of this approach. The benefits to industry were obvious: not only was it cheaper to lease power, without the financial burden of maintaining and repairing power sources, another cause of failure in the early industrial period, capital was freed up be reinvested in physical plants.
After acquiring the land and water rights on both sides of the Shetucket River above Norwich, Greene was the principal founder and largest shareholder of the Norwich Water Power Company. Other stockholders included many of Norwich's professional, industrial, and merchant elite. In 1828 the company began construction of a dam and the first industrial power canal in Connecticut. To harness a river of this size required the skills of James Baldwin, an experienced engineer and surveyor. A member of a prominent Boston family of civil engineers (his father Loammi designed the Middlesex Canal in Massachusetts in the 1820s), Baldwin already knew the Shetucket area. In fact, his earlier survey for a proposed navigation canal along the west side of the Shetucket Valley was the basis for the engineering of the waterpower system as well as the Norwich and Worcester Railroad here a decade later. The contractor for the power project, Caspar Webler from Columbia, Connecticut, completed the dam in 1829. Industrial leasing was delayed until the canal was nearly finished in 1832.
William Lester, the local surveyor hired to lay out the street grid of the village in 1833, reported that nearly half of the available power was leased in the first year of operation to two cotton mills, a paper mill, and several smaller factories. Although the power company placed some restrictions to protect its investment, such as requiring brick or stone construction and forbidding potentially dangerous enterprises such as powder works or chemical plants, lease terms were generous. For an annual rental of $150 per mill, the power company guaranteed to maintain the dam and canal to assure a constant supply of water; lessees were only responsible for their own internal power systems. Greene himself was a lessee after his takeover of the Quinebaug Company, one of the cotton mills that failed in the Panic of 1837. Reorganized as the Shetucket Company, it was destined to become one of the major manufacturers in Greeneville.
The waterwheels, races, and power trains for some of these early mills may have been designed by Peleg Rose, a local millwright. Since this profession often combined the skills of engineer and architect, it is likely that Rose also designed his fine Greek Revival style house at 274 Prospect Street, as well as other houses in the district. In fact, when local directories were first published in the late 1850s, Rose listed himself as an architect.
The river remained the major transportation artery. Both raw materials and finished goods were shipped by boat until the railroad was established in 1840. Once again Greene was the prime mover, persuading Boston capitalists to invest what became the Norwich and Worcester Railroad. With the right-of-way running alongside the canal, Greeneville was directly connected to national markets and well on its way to becoming a major center for the manufacture of textiles and paper, a process only temporarily disrupted by the Civil War.
The Northern cotton industry was the most affected by the war. The American South was not only the chief source of raw cotton, it was a major market for finished goods. Although cotton mills the size of the Shetucket Company usually had a stockpile of raw material, by 1862 smaller mills had to close and even larger mills went on reduced hours to weather this period. The Battle of Vicksburg in 1863, which gave the North control of the cotton production of the lower Mississippi Valley, was a turning point. By the last years of the war, the Connecticut cotton industry was booming, supplying government contracts and meeting the pent-up demand for cloth in the private sector. The Shetucket Company and other Norwich mills doubled their spindle capacity and by 1870 the city was ahead of Lowell, Massachusetts, in cotton production.
The expansion and diversification of Greeneville's industrial base in the postwar period was reflected in improvements made to the railroad and waterpower infrastructure. Soon after the Norwich and Worcester Railroad became the Boston, Hartford, and Erie Railroad in 1869, car shops and a roundhouse were built just south of Greeneville. To protect valuable freight prior to shipment, a railroad car vault with its own spur line was erected beside the Eighth Street crossing (10 Eighth Street). Although many of the larger mills installed supplementary steampower, the Shetucket River continued to be the major source of power, especially after the second Greeneville dam was built downstream by the Norwich Power Company in 1882.
The present Greeneville dam was designed by Hiram Cook (1827-1927), a civil engineer who was also president of the Norwich Power Company, a dual role that involved him in the planning as well as the implementation of the project. A self-taught engineer and schoolteacher with a common school education, he began his career as a maintenance engineer for the Norwich and Worcester Railroad and by 1886 was that firm's senior consulting engineer. As president of the power company, Cook was surely involved in management's decision to abandon the 1828 dam and the upper reaches of the canal and build a more efficient power facility at Fourteenth Street. The reasons for this decision were clear. The banks of the canal above this point had proved to be too narrow for industrial development and a shorter canal was easier to maintain.
The sophisticated engineering needed to build a dam of this size required a considerable "scaling up of vernacular techniques [in use] since the earliest days of settlement..." In fact, for much of the nineteenth century, although timber crib construction was introduced, as it was here when the dam was repaired, the rubblestone dams of the eighteenth century were still the norm. Some engineers experimented with new profiles, such as a two-stepped face, as early as 1860 to break up the force of the falling water, but for the 400-foot span at Greeneville, such a profile would have added 50 percent to the cost. The power efficiency of Cook's new dam was largely due to the increase in the impoundment area, the larger number of head gates (six instead of two), and the more precise gate control mechanisms. More significant, perhaps, were the technological improvements made after the 1886 flood, which were based on Cook's professional analysis that the dam's collapse was not due to inherent structural failure. Realizing that the actual cause was the erosion of the riverbed under the structure after the apron was severely damaged by flood debris, Cook re-engineered the dam profile with a greater incline on the downstream face, and designed a larger, two-stepped planked apron to absorb the force of the water. This significant engineering achievement has withstood the test of time. Although maintenance and repairs were undertaken in 1915 as part of an overall upgrading of the facility, the dam as designed and modified by Hiram Cook survived the major hurricane floods of 1936, 1938, and 1955, when many other dams in New England were destroyed.
Although Cook had retired in 1890, in 1915 he surveyed the dam's structural integrity and made recommendations for repairs that were implemented by Chandler & Palmer, then the leading engineering firm in the Norwich area. Charles Chandler (1852-1928) trained as an engineering apprentice in the firm of Edgar Clark in Putnam, Connecticut. His partner, Shepard Palmer (1871-1945) graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1894. Chandler served as engineer for the City of Norwich and the firm was responsible for most of the civil engineering projects for industry, transportation, and utility systems in the greater Norwich region. Among the several important twentieth-century improvements to the waterpower system designed by the firm were modifications of the headgate mechanisms in 1918 and the redesign and construction of a two-step canal spillway in 1923. Although reinforced concrete is common in dam construction today, the spillway represented the first use of this material at Greeneville, which also allowed the engineers to incorporate a structurally sound bridge for an access road to the headgates.
The Greeneville dam of the 1880s supplied power to major textile manufacturers: the Shetucket Company, still producers of unfinished cotton cloth, and the Norwich Bleaching, Dyeing, and Printing Company at the foot of Seventh Street, known locally as the Bleachery. The Shetucket Company, which by 1867 had three buildings and a picker and dye house, had added a two-story addition to their c.1840 weaving mill and built a new brick office at 387 North Main Street by about 1880. This textile mill was one of four in the Norwich area; together they manufactured $6 million worth of cloth by 1888. At its peak in 1894 the Bleachery had at least 20 buildings on the canal at the foot of Seventh Street, five waterwheels and 2,000 h.p. of steam produced 60 million yards of finished goods per year. Company superintendent William Pitt Potter, who lived at 230 Central Avenue was succeeded in this position by his son, William, Jr., a former company clerk who built a fine Carpenter Gothic at 60 Prospect Street. Other Greeneville residents in charge at the Bleachery included William Pierce, a foreman who bought a house at 455 North Main Street. Among the twentieth-century managers at United States Finishing Company, the successor firm, were John Bowker (380 Central Avenue), a color mixer at the Bleachery who became an overseer in 1905, John T. Haslan, who moved into the Dr. LaPierre's first house at 294 Central Avenue, and David Seed, who bought a house near the limits of the village at 2 Baker Street.
The manufacture of paper in Greeneville began with Camp, Hall & Company. Located at the foot of Fifth Street since 1835, it was reorganized as the Chelsea Paper Company in 1867 and expanded its facilities. By 1870 the plant contained 19 papermaking machines and was valued at $400,000. It remained in business under this name until 1890, producing an average of 30 tons of fine rag stock per day. Utilizing both steam- and waterpower, the company employed 200 men and 100 women. Leading publishers, such as Harper & Brothers in New York, obtained all their paper from this firm. Some of its buildings were taken over by the Bleachery before Chelsea was reorganized as the Uncas Paper Company in 1893. Operating around the clock (two 12-hour shifts), Uncas Paper produced paperboard for international markets. The paper industry more than doubled in size in 1860 when the Hubbard Company, manufacturers of paper at the Yantic Falls, moved to Greeneville, building a new plant at the foot of Tenth Street near the north end of the canal (no longer extant). Owners Amos and Russell Hubbard, original stockholders in the Norwich Water Power Company, were pioneers in this industry in the United States. Frank Hewlett, hired as the first superintendent, built his stylish Italianate just up the street at 333 Central Avenue.
Given the size of all these operations, company-built housing in Greeneville was relatively rare. All of these manufacturers purchased nearby residential blocks from the Norwich Water Power Company, but only the Shetucket Company built a group of single- and two-family workers' houses. When this mill doubled its capacity after the Civil War, it turned to larger scale boardinghouses and tenements. Chelsea Paper and the Norwich Bleaching, Dyeing, and Printing relied almost exclusively on private sector development to supply their housing needs. In fact, as late as 1884, the blocks these companies owned between the railroad and Central Avenue remained undeveloped.
Smaller firms along the canal included a wood type factory, a foundry, and a merchant gristmill. Page Wood Type was established at the foot of Fifth Street by 1860 by William H. Page. He moved the business to Franklin Street in Norwich and eventually supplied half of the American market, but Page remained in his Greeneville home at 103 Fourth Street and built an employee boardinghouse right next door (93 Fourth Street). His son Elmer, a bookkeeper at Shetucket, who became superintendent of that company, lived at 127 Central Avenue. Gilmour Bros. Foundry, in business at the foot of Sixth Street from about 1870 to 1895, was owned and operated by four brothers, who had all learned the trade from their father. Two of the four lived at 107 and 111 Fifth Street, another at 2 Gilmour Street (James C. Gilmour House).
The commercial grist mill (226-250 Prospect Street) was owned by Frank Durfey, a member of a prominent Greeneville family, who also was the proprietor of the granite quarry in the district. In 1888 Durfey became superintendent of the Norwich Water Power Company, a position previously held by his father, Benjamin, who came here from Griswold to manage the company in 1828. Benjamin married a local girl in 1829 and moved into an extant farmhouse on Central Avenue, one of the few dwellings in place before the village was laid out (now the site of Frank Durfey's home; 313 Central Avenue). Benjamin built a new house nearby (319-321 Central Avenue), as did his son, Henry (308 Central Avenue). Both men served in the state legislature, and Henry was elected to represent Greeneville on the Norwich Common Council.
Within 30 years of its founding, Greeneville was well on its way to becoming a self-sufficient community, a process that was substantially complete by the end of the nineteenth century. Educational and religious institutions had been established. While clearly dependent on the mills for their livelihoods, Greeneville's citizens had strong allegiances to the village itself. Unlike other mill towns in the area, townspeople did not rely on downtown Norwich for goods and services. Skilled carpenters were locally available to build homes, churches, and schools. Even though some tradesmen continued to operate from their homes or shops on the premises, by 1857 there was a nucleus of a "downtown" business district. By the late 1800s a fully fledged, prosperous business community had been established and the infrastructure of the village was in place with municipal services provided by the City of Norwich.
Greeneville's early workforce consisted of farmers and their families who came in from the countryside to work in the mills alongside a number of immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, and England. Few mill workers lived in the village before 1840. It is likely that native-born employees were transported to the mills by wagon on a daily basis, a common practice in the Norwich area, while the Irish, many of whom had been construction workers on the dam and railroad, continued to live in temporary quarters. Within 30 years, the Irish comprised the largest single ethnic group. Very few European immigrants arrived in Greeneville to take their place on the economic ladder, at least in the nineteenth century. In 1867 there were 2,706 people living in the village: 51 percent Irish; 46 percent native-born or of English descent. The remaining three percent were either French Canadian or German immigrants; the later group may have been recruited by the mill owners as they were in Baltic. Given the size of the workforce at this time (between 1,000 and 1,200), it is evident that women and probably children also worked in the mills.
The rigid hierarchical geography based on class and wealth as found in some Connecticut mill towns was not as evident in Greeneville. Although there was indeed a social class structure, it was limited to the working and middle classes. The workplace and the home were within a few blocks of each other; no one living in Greeneville could really get away from the sight, sound, and odor of the mills which dominated the landscape. Not surprisingly, mill owners chose to live in upper-class residential neighborhoods in Norwich, leaving the supervision of the mills to company managers who lived in the village, probably as a condition of employment. Like most members of Greeneville's middle class, these factory foremen and supervisors owned their homes, as did highly skilled workers, independent tradesmen, storeowners, and the few professionals in the village.
Although Greeneville's sons and daughters often stayed in town and followed their parents into the mills, economic opportunities were limited for this class. Mill workers could learn new skills in the workplace, and some well connected young men rose to managerial level positions, but for the majority, better jobs produced only modest increments in wages and only slightly better living conditions. There was, however, a high degree of internal geographic mobility. Boarders or tenants in company houses could move into new quarters in the village, but few owned their homes. Most continued to be tenants, either renting half of a duplex or a single-family cottage. It was not until the twentieth century that residents had jobs in other communities. A rare nineteenth-century exception was Jacob Munz, superintendent at the J.B. Martin Company, velvet manufacturers in Taftville, a lifetime resident who owned two houses in Greeneville (38 Thirteenth Street and 291 Prospect Street).
The exceptional number of churches built in Greeneville reflected its cultural diversity as well as the importance of religion in nineteenth-century life. Although not immediately obvious today, since several churches now serve secular functions and others were torn down, a total of eight were constructed in the village, five in the district in the nineteenth century. The first was the Greeneville Congregational Church, built in 1834 at the center of town (143 Prospect Street). As was common practice in emerging industrial villages, the church was constructed on donated land, here by William Greene and the Norwich Water Power Company. Before the church was completed, services were held in the office of the company. The 20-member congregation included company superintendent Benjamin Durfey and other prominent residents such as the Careys and Averys. Land also was donated by the company for a cemetery on Hickory Street in 1844. These philanthropic gestures were more self-serving than altruistic. Mill owners hoped to attract rural families to their towns by providing land for religious and educational institutions; in some cases, they contributed to the cost of construction. Since most Connecticut families in the early industrial period were Protestant and predominately Congregational, the first church in many mill villages was usually built by or for this denomination.
In 1831 the Reverend James Fitton held the first Roman Catholic mass for Irish construction workers in Greeneville "amidst the groves and shanties." Father Fitton's dream of a church for his parish was fulfilled in 1843, when the first Church of St. Mary, a wood-frame building of the Greek Revival style, was erected south of the village on North Main Street. The oldest Roman Catholic church in eastern Connecticut, it also served Catholics from the surrounding communities of Voluntown, Baltic, Taftville, Jewett City, Yantic, and Preston.
Other Protestant sects built churches in Greeneville, beginning with the Baptists in 1838, followed by Methodists and Episcopalians. Today the Greek Revival style former Baptist Church at 258 Central Avenue serves as a furniture and carpet store. The Methodist parsonage stills remains at 8 Eleventh Street, but both the Methodist Episcopal Church around the corner on North Main Street and the first St. Andrew's Episcopal Church on Central Avenue, once located next to the Congregational Church, are no longer standing.
Institutional and community development proceeded rapidly after the Civil War. New churches were built and others enlarged. The cornerstone of the second St. Andrew's Episcopal Church (extensively remodeled for the present-day headquarters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars) was laid in 1874 (356 Central Avenue). The Greeneville Congregational Church was literally expanded when carpenter/builder Frederick W. Carey cut the building in two and added a new section to seat another 200 parishioners. Because of the growing number of school-age children in the community, plans were made to build a new public school and a building committee was appointed. The new brick school with nine classrooms, erected in 1868 at a cost of $30,000, was located at the corner of Seventh Street and Central Avenue (no longer extant). The school committee consisted of Paul and Gardiner Greene, (probably William's sons), George Dubison, and two prominent local men: William Page and Owen Stead. An earlier wood-frame building to the southwest at the corner of Sixth and Prospect streets continued to serve as a primary school (180 Prospect Street).
In 1874 Greeneville officially became part of the City of Norwich. It is clear from the close vote of the inhabitants (195-191) that almost half the voters were content with the status quo and saw no advantage to annexation. One of the first direct benefits, however, was the inclusion of the village in the city water system. Norwich's first gasworks and electricity generating plant were built on the Shetucket River, the latter facility in the district (393R North Main Street). By 1888 gaslight illuminated the streets and some homes in Greeneville and mills and principal stores were electrified. The infrastructure of the community was completed when a sewer system was constructed in 1885. The Shetucket Steam Engine Fire Company of 1885, mainly run by Irish volunteers, became the Greeneville Hook and Ladder, No. 2, which was housed in an impressive brick building at 444 North Main Street before 1900. By then the Norwich Street Railway ran up to Greeneville and in 1889 the line was electrified and went on to Taftville. The first wooden car barns of the Norwich Street Railway are no longer extant, but a newer brick facility on Central Avenue housed both the Shoreline Electric and Westerly Traction trolley companies in 1905 (385 Central Avenue). Among the motormen and conductors in the village were Burton Hall, who lived right across the street (359 Central Avenue) and Harry Rushworth at 2 Baker Street. With the shift to gasoline powered engines after World War I, the building served as a garage and repair shop for the 30 buses of the Connecticut Company. Further evidence of the dawn of the automotive age is found in the proliferation of small residential garages all over town in the 1920s and 1930s.
The growth of the business community during this period was phenomenal. In 1883 there were 98 independent Greeneville businesses listed in the city directory, which represented a 400 percent increase over the number advertised in 1857. Two-thirds were specialized retail establishments selling such items as groceries, drygoods, meat, fish, bread, candy, brooms, drugs, stationery, and even picture frames. Service businesses that made up the remainder included barbers, blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, dressmakers, milliners, and livery stable owners. Greeneville had its own post office in a store on North Main Street near Third Street. One of the earliest housing construction companies was run by Frederick W. Carey, who had a shop on North Main Street. His son, Andrew, employed by the firm, built his own house on the same lot (488 North Main Street). Two physicians had offices in their homes on Central Avenue: Dr. Julian LaPierre, a French Canadian who had come to Greeneville as a child, was living in his second house, an early Colonial Revival (220 Central Avenue); and Dr. William Witter, who set up his practice in his Second Empire style dwelling (204 Central Avenue). The local undertaker, Orlando Lee, did business on Central Avenue near Eighth Street and may have lived in an earlier Lee house down the street (198-200 Central Avenue).
The scale of the local construction business increased dramatically in 1889 when the three foremen at Carey's (W. Matthews, C. Flint, and H. Blackledge) took over the firm and founded the H. Blackledge Company. Employing 50 men, it became the largest construction business in Greeneville. In addition to their residential work, the company built the roundhouse for the railroad south of Greeneville and additions to some of the mills. Archibald Torrance, who had clerked at the Durfey Quarry Company, established Torrance & Matthews, another construction company, on the quarry lot (226-250 Prospect Street). The firm, which advertised as builders of dams, waterworks, railroads, and sewers, also sold crushed stone from the quarry. Torrance moved into a house at 449 Boswell Avenue on the west side of the quarry that had once belonged his partner's father. Several carpenters in the Matthews family, employed here or at Blackledge, lived nearby on Tenth and other streets bordering the quarry lot (64 Tenth Street, George K. Matthews House; 68 Tenth Street, Matthews-Shaw House; 15 Thirteenth Street, William Matthews House; 54 Twelfth Street, James H. Matthews House).
The center of town along Central Avenue appeared much as it does today, with several continuous blocks of detached wood-frame commercial and residential buildings. Little differentiated the commercial from the residential structures there, or on North Main Street. Some businesses, such as Livingston Smith's store at 207 Central Avenue, dated from the 1850s. His attached house was right around the corner at 38 Fourth Street. Often the newer buildings combined commercial and residential use with owner's family living upstairs, but there were exceptions. For instance, Robert Balfour, longtime proprietor of a country store at 287 Central Avenue, lived in one of the family's tenement houses on North Main Street. Thomas Perkins, a partner in Charles Browning's store, lived at 56 Sixth Street. Storefronts or display windows were lacking on some historic commercial buildings, such as McLaughlin's Saloon (361-363 Central Avenue) or Henry Palmer's shoemaker's shop (326 Central Avenue). Some houses were converted to commercial use in this period. The storefront was added to the mansard-roofed home of wagonmaker Albert Hurlburt; when his house became a meat market and grocery in the late nineteenth century (297 Central Avenue). T.B. Enright, one of the few to locate his business outside the downtown, had a grocery in one of his houses (61 Seventh Street). William Wilson, who listed his occupation in city directories as "tea peddler," also sold small luxury items door-to-door. His Italianate house at 36 Thirteenth Street attests to his success.
One large brick commercial building at 219-231 Central Avenue, the Kelly Block, was as sophisticated and stylish as any found in downtown Norwich. The first floor was leased to Albert Maine for a grocery and drygoods store. Although there were eight apartments on the upper floors, Maine lived at 209 Hickory Street. Owner Timothy Kelly, a leader of the Irish community in Greeneville and president of St. Mary's Total Abstinence and Benevolent Society headquartered in Norwich, was one of the few successful independent businessmen from this group with his own grocery store on North Main Street (no longer extant). He first lived at 86 Sixth Street but later moved to the large Italianate near the church once owned by John Bacheldor, the Greeneville sheriff (88 Central Avenue).
The twentieth century seemed full of promise. The town continued to ride the wave of prosperity produced in the nineteenth century; the social and economic stability of Greeneville seemed to be assured. The mills were prospering and the majority of its citizens were still employed locally. The business district continued to flourish and new residential construction demonstrated a modest growth in population, which included some new immigrants from Europe. Even though an electrified streetcar line ran several times a day into Norwich, making it easier for people to shop in the city, the local business district was little affected. There was some decline in retailing but almost half of the businesses now provided a service. For the first time a bank opened in Greeneville, the Thames Loan and Trust Company, with offices in the United States Finishing Company (the former Bleachery). Other new and more exotic services were provided, such as a Chinese laundry on Seventh Street run by Wah Yee, who lived on the premises. Tubbs' Orchestra was available for hire from 110 Central Avenue. Frank Ufford ran a bicycle repair shop at 544 North Main, reflecting the almost universal popularity of this mode of transportation at the turn of the century. Three candy stores, known then as confectioners, were in business, one on Main Street, the other two on Central Avenue within a few doors of each other. In the same block was Kramer and Henderson, ice dealers, one of many new partnerships formed in this period. The partners shared the former Benjamin Durfey House and their icehouse was located at the rear of the property (319-321 Central Avenue). Eight dressmakers and a milliner worked out of their homes; several tailors had shops in the business district. Although Cunningham's Hotel and Saloon had closed (467 Central Avenue), at least nine other saloons remained in business on North Main Street and Central Avenue, some operating out of private homes (361-363 Central Avenue and 479 Central Avenue). The number of drugstores had increased from two to four, and steamship tickets to New York and even Europe could be purchased at Bisket and Meech's establishment at 462 North Main Street. The drugstore was demolished, but Meech's house still stands at 60 Sixth Street.
Greeneville's population remained fairly stable in this period, albeit with some modest growth from natural increase and immigration. Poles, along with a few Greeks and Italians, came to the community in the second wave of immigration from Europe prior to World War I. The newcomers found work in the mills, others in the local stores and businesses. Presumably, most of the Poles and Italians became members of St. Mary's growing parish. The cornerstone for the present Gothic Revival stone church at the foot of Central Avenue was laid in 1915 (76 Central Avenue). Other new parish buildings were the 1909 rectory next to the church (70 Central Avenue), the 1902 convent (191 Hickory Street), and the first parochial school on Hickory Street. The later parochial school building erected on the site about 1960 is no longer associated with the church (205 Hickory Street). A new church on Convent Avenue served the Greek population. Officially known as the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church, it also was constructed in 1915 and displays a characteristic onion dome (33 Convent Avenue). The rectory next door was built in 1920 (35 Convent Avenue). Although most houses on this street were built in the same period, none of the Greeks lived nearby. Typically, they first lived in boardinghouses or tenements or rented small houses on the periphery of the district.
By the 1930s Greeneville was caught up in forces beyond its control. The Great Depression had only exacerbated the problems of regional industrial decline and traditional industries in the Northeast virtually ended by World War II. All over southeastern Connecticut, nineteenth-century mills like those in Greeneville, saddled with obsolete equipment and antiquated buildings, were increasingly unable to compete in national or international markets. The textile industry was particularly hard hit. Competition from new synthetic fabrics, Southern textile manufacturers, and foreign countries eventually forced many Northern mills to close or relocate. As the greatly reduced industrial presence in Greeneville attests, despite attempts to diversify after World War II, the heavy industrial base of the region is virtually gone.
Although the Shetucket Company stayed in business until 1923, it began to scale back and lay off workers as early as 1915. Atlantic Carton, a paper box manufacturer founded in 1916 on South Golden Street, which took over the plant, still uses part of this complex and also owns the former office of the Shetucket Company on North Main Street. Uncas Paper Company, once the largest paper mill in the world with a second plant in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and offices in New York City, was forced out of business by lawsuits in 1927. Some of its buildings in Greeneville were taken over by Wakefield-Capehart, which began assembling television cabinets there in 1963. Founded in Mystic, Connecticut, as Connecticut Cabinet in the 1920s, it merged with Wakefield Industries, an electronics firm, after World War II. United States Finishing Company (the former Bleachery) closed its local plant and moved its operations to the South in 1958, and all of its buildings and the Hubbard paper mills to the north have been razed.
The closely knit community that had existed for more than a century in Greeneville unraveled as mills closed and workers lost their jobs. In a village once exclusively focused on the manufacture of goods, such a loss of common purpose undermined the socioeconomic fabric. Very few people are employed locally. A small business district that still survives on Central Avenue provides greatly reduced services and the number of stores is limited. Rental properties are more likely to be leased from absentee landlords rather than neighbors. Generations of mill workers have died out; so few have historic roots in Greeneville that only two homes are owned by descendants of nineteenth century families (430 Central Avenue, George McClure House and 47 Eighth Street, Kirker-Buddington House). Few living here today know of William P. Greene's vision of community, a self-sustaining world that not only supported an enduring industrial presence for a hundred years, but one that shaped the lives of successive generations of Yankees and immigrants. Nevertheless, his legacy survives in the Greeneville dam and the rest of this significant historic engineering achievement, in the now mostly silent mills along the Shetucket River, and perhaps, most all, in an enduring village plan so indelibly imprinted on the landscape.
The cultural landscape of the Greeneville Historic District was shaped by a plan that still defines the parameters of the village and largely dictated its pattern of architectural development. Neither the idealized company town of the later nineteenth century, often the product of a single dominant industry, nor the random organic clustering found in less articulated rural industrial villages, the layout of Greeneville was more reminiscent of the city planning of the late eighteenth century. The urban logic that imposed an arbitrary rectangular grid on the bank of the Shetucket River created an exceptionally ordered world. With little regard for topography, the area was sectioned off in a rectangular pattern nearly aligned with the cardinal points of the compass. A further sense of order was imposed on this once rural setting by numbering the streets that run straight up from the river, regardless of the steepness of the incline. It is no wonder that building lots along the more level main thoroughfares were considered more desirable and the first to be developed.
Motivated by economic considerations rather than social welfare principles, the Greeneville survey of 1833 clearly was designed to make maximum use of limited space, resulting in the densely populated village that stands today. Residential blocks were divided into small narrow parcels, which in turn established the orientation of the houses and the rhythmic pattern of the streetscapes. Even though outcroppings of granite ledge above Prospect Street and at the north end of village made some sections unsuitable for residential use, William Greene's village eventually accommodated at least 3000 people in less than half a square mile. With the exception of the cemetery, no open space was set aside for public use, which was fairly typical for the early industrial period. In fact, it would be 40 years or more before the "machine in the garden" philosophy produced model industrial communities like Manchester, Connecticut, with such amenities as parks, meeting halls, and landscaped factories.
Despite the restrictions that such a plan imposed, within the limits of the vernacular, the exceptionally large collection of contributing buildings that evolved here is distinguished by a variety of form and style. Several mitigating forces of the marketplace were in play. Largely due to the fact that mill owners elected to rely on private developers, a limited number of identical workers' houses were constructed. Furthermore, the period of greatest growth in Greeneville coincided with the emergence of new technologies, principally the millwork machinery that turned out endless variations of decorative architectural detail. Much of this Victorian millwork embellished the remarkable number of open porches that survived in Greeneville. More importantly, the diversity of the streetscapes in Greeneville is a tribute to a cadre of local carpenters whose ability to translate stylistic norms into the vernacular genre enlivened even the humblest cottage.
This ability was first expressed in the Greek Revival period. Although Peleg Rose in his own house established a fine local exemplar for this style (274 Prospect Street), in reality his well-preserved conventional temple-fronted version of the Greek Revival had become the universal standard in both rural and urban settings. Greeneville carpenters generally interpreted the Greek Revival much more freely by applying the characteristic style elements to colonial house forms. They range from the early examples at 114 Prospect Street (Congregational Church Parsonage) and 122 Prospect Street (Owen Stead House) to the more fully realized Elizabeth Roath House at 293 Central Avenue, or, on a larger scale, the detailing of tenements at 328-332 and 336-338 Central Avenue.
The enhanced vernacular, to coin a phrase, was particularly evident in the numerous variations in the district of the Carpenter Gothic style, customarily considered a folk style. There were some stylistic norms, however, best illustrated in the Greeneville by the well-preserved William Pitt Potter, Jr., House at 60 Prospect Street, which has fine decorative trusses in every gable, or a house at 45 Golden Street, which displays delicately detailed verge boards. A number of Carpenter Gothics are attributed to Frederick Carey, one of the more prolific carpenter/builders identified in the architectural survey of Greeneville. Although Carey selected the social status of the Second Empire style for the houses he built for himself (118 Central Avenue) and his son, Charles (57 Prospect Street), it was in his Carpenter Gothics on Prospect Street that his flair for decorative embellishment really shone. In addition to one for his married daughter (63 Prospect Street, Archibald Toland House), he probably was responsible for the Potter house, as well as three other properties, all originally embellished with elaborate trusses or verge boards of different design. One stands next to the home of Edwin Gardner, another carpenter working with this genre (38 Prospect Street, Edwin B. Gardiner House; 42 Prospect Street, Frederick P. Carey Rental House). Just up this street is a good example of how applied detailing, be it Carpenter Gothic or Italianate, added architectural character to relatively simple two-story houses in the district (79 Prospect Street, John Fitzpatrick House and 81 Prospect Street, James Hollins House. Greeneville's builders often utilized Italianate detailing in porches or bracketed door hoods, even combining the latter feature with Greek Revival elements in the 1870s.
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† Jan Cunningham, Cunningham Preservation Associates, Greeneville Historic District, Norwich, Connecticut, nomination document, 2004, National Park Service, national Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.