Jordan Village Historic District
The Jordan Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. 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 Jordan Village Historic District is a well-preserved, discrete, residential community of small and moderate-scale buildings that developed primarily after 1848, the date of construction of the First Baptist Church of Waterford. Clustered around the intersection of Rope Ferry Road, the main east-west road that connected New London with the ferry crossing the Niantic River to the west, and North Road, a prominent local thoroughfare to the interior of the town, the village is located on flat land known historically as Jordan Plain at the head of Jordan Cove, a historically navigable estuary off Long Island Sound. Jordan Brook, which flows southerly to Jordan Cove, is located on the east side of the district. The Jordan Village Historic District consists of 69 structures (58 contributing; 11 non-contributing) and one site, with the Greek Revival and late-19th century picturesque tastes dominating. Its period of greatest development was from 1848 through the 1860s, when 20 buildings were constructed. This pattern of growth gives the village an architectural homogeneity that distinguishes it from surrounding communities. Part of the Town of Waterford, Jordan Village was the population center of the community, and the limits of the district are defined by the concentration of period buildings that make up the village and support the historic themes. Always a small community with little commercial focus, the village center remains a residential enclave with few non-conforming intrusions. Recent development to the east and north of the district, however, help define the limits of the historic portion of the village and isolate it as a historic nucleus of the community.
Development and settlement in what would become Jordan Village began as early as the late 1720s when Rope Ferry Road was laid out. The right-of-way through the village appears to have varied little since the earliest days, and it has played a dominant role in the development of the plan. Most of the houses and the few commercial buildings in the district line the two-lane road. Eighteenth-century development in the area was scattered rather than clustered at the head of Jordan Cove; that would come later. The only documented 18th century house in the Jordan Village Historic District, the Tinker-Rogers House at 26 Jordan Terrace, has been extensively reworked, with the original sections forming the nucleus of a larger dwelling.
One of the most historic sites in the village is the former 18th-century grist mill, which was apparently in continuous operation from 1731 until destroyed by fire in 1905, at the falls of Jordan Brook where it enters Jordan Cove. An ashlar mill dam, elements of the head and tail race, and the random ashlar retaining/foundation wall on the north side of the cove survive. The frame grist mill was located at the end of a short street south of Rope Ferry Road, and the site has been redeveloped with a 2-story brick woolen mill built in 1920 of brick pier construction. The mill is well-preserved and is currently used for specialty manufacturing. The mill dam is crossed by a modern, pedestrian pony-truss bridge that connects the grist mill site with a small park of approximately 5 acres.
Early-19th century dwellings are not common in the Jordan Village Historic District. The shingled ca.1820 Cape at 14 North Road is the best example of a pre-1835 house. The diminutive, 1-1/2-story dwelling with a massive central chimney is five bays wide and has an early rear ell; it ranks as the best-preserved early house in the village. The nucleus of the Shaw-Perkins-Nevins House at 50 Rope Ferry Road was also constructed during the early 19th century. The house, which is now a rambling, H-shaped pile with brick wings, anchors the eastern edge of the district.
The 1848 Greek Revival style First Baptist Church of Waterford not only stimulated development at the head of Jordan Cove; it also set the architectural tone that would dominate the village for the next 20 years, its period of most dramatic development. The well-proportioned and chastely detailed church, dominated by an inset Doric portico and two-stage square steeple, is the finest and most complete expression of the Grecian mode in the village, but it was not the earliest use of the style. Predating the church by nine years was the 1839 Ebenezer Darrow II House at 90 Rope Ferry Road. Representative of two-story, gable-ended Greek Revival houses with the side-hall plans that came into fashion in the 1820s, the house has a flush-sided tympanum and an entrance portico as well as a bold pilastered frontispiece. Three more buildings of nearly identical styling were erected on the opposite side of the road between 1848 and 1850. The later buildings, located at 95, 99, and 101 Rope Ferry Road, all follow the two-story gable-ended massing and are three bays wide with six-over-six windows. All have been altered to some extent but retain their original Grecian character and do much to establish the decided Greek Revival character of the center of the village.
A local Greek Revival variation on the long-popular Cape house form was developed and used extensively in the village. The 1-1/2-story, gable-roofed mass was retained, but it was turned on end and pilasters were frequently added to the corner to suggest the temple form. A bold entablature, sometimes articulated as at 10 North Road, was set under the eaves and the cornice returned on the gable ends. The 3-bay-wide house is arranged on the side-hall plan, and the offset entrance is usually accented by a pilastered frontispiece with a deep frieze. As many as ten of the total pre-1870 houses in the district were built in the mode. Two 1-1/2-story houses (located at 83 Rope Ferry Road and 102 Rope Ferry Road) with 5-bay facades were also built in the Greek Revival mode.
The architectural conservativeness established in the village during the building boom of 1848-1870 is balanced by several examples of the picturesque modes that dominated the last quarter of the 19th and early-20th centuries. While not as numerous as the Greek Revival houses, the expressions of the picturesque taste are nonetheless prominently located and scaled, and they contribute greatly to the 19th century character of the Jordan Village Historic District. The most significant of the late-19th century houses in the district is the Rose House at 108 Rope Ferry Road. Incorporating an earlier 5-bay dwelling, the house was reworked ca.1870 in the exuberant High Victorian Italianate mode. Added to the exterior was a richly detailed deep-bracketed cornice, rondel windows with patterned muntins in the gable ends, a wrapping verandah with chamfered posts, and bold eared architraves at the doors. The corners are set with octagonal engaged columns, a rarely seen detail.
The Queen Anne mode, with its varied massing and profusive use of milled trim and sidings, is best represented by the Darrow-Gallup House at 98 Rope Ferry Road. Built ca.1885 on the site of a much earlier house, it is picturesquely massed with an offset projecting pavilion and originally had a wrapping verandah with chamfered posts and a solid sunburst-pattern balustrade. The gable ends were sheathed with unusual butt, imbricated shingles, and the peaks accented with lacy milled gable pieces. The porch and entrance hall have a steep shed roof, and the hall is illuminated by a variety of highly decorative "fancy" sash that adds to its picturesque appearance. When the house was enlarged in 1914, some of the original/early detailing was lost, but it remains one of the architecturally most significant late-19th-century dwellings in the district. The ca.1890 Booth House at 80 Rope Ferry Road, with its varied massing, bold proportions, and use of milled trim, also reflects the tenets of the picturesque, as does remodeling of the Darrow-Pachy House at 100 Rope Ferry Road. The gable-ended 1-1/2-story, Greek Revival dwelling was reworked in the late-19th century with the addition of a wrapping millwork verandah and imbricated shingles in the gable ends. In all, 10 of the houses in the Jordan Village Historic District were constructed during the last third of the 19th century.
The picturesque massing and eclectic detailing of the late-19th century was continued for the few houses constructed during the first two decades of the 20th century. Again, the conservativeness of the local building tradition continued since the 20th-century buildings are late expressions of their genre. Most distinguished of the 20th-century buildings is the Patch House at 106 Rope Ferry Road. Built in 1919 in the picturesque Colonial Revival mode, it has boxy, gable-roofed massing, a Tuscan-columned verandah, and Revival window sash, but it retains the picturesque bay window and 19th-century proportioning. Two hip-roofed Foursquare Colonial Revival dwellings were also constructed on Rope Ferry Road in the 1910s, and one Craftsman Bungalow, the 1932 Young-Beauchamps House at 128 Rope Ferry Road, was added to complete the assemblage of period buildings in the village.
The east side of the Jordan Village Historic District is dominated by a farm located on both sides of Rope Ferry Road that was held from the late-18th century until the early 1950s by one family. The dominant feature of the farm is the eclectic Shaw-Perkins-Nevins House, a large rambling dwelling at 50 Rope Ferry Road which defines the eastern limit of the historic development of the village. Originally set on a generous, casually landscaped lot, the house, which has been converted to condominiums, it is now framed by modern 2-story row houses, but their siting is such that the historic farmhouse remains prominent and surrounded by a green space buffer. The Town of Waterford purchased the land on the north side of Rope Ferry Road in 1952. The parcel on the northeast corner of Rope Ferry Road and Avery Lane was designated an open green space, and it has become the town's cultural park that functions like a town green. Jordan Park, as the open space is known, was dedicated to the preservation of threatened historic structures.
In 1961 the former Waterford Library became the first structure moved to Jordan Park. It was set at the rear of the parcel and was joined in 1972 by the Jordan School House, an 18th-century building, and the well-preserved 1832 Beebe-Phillips Cape in 1974. The town also acquired the former estate tenant house located at 57 Rope Ferry Road, and it is used as part of the heritage complex. The park is included as a contributing element of the Jordan Village Historic District because it is contiguous to historic structures, and it is located on land that is part of the historical development of the village.
The overall character of the Jordan Village Historic District is that of a mid- to late-19th century residential enclave with a few 20th century additions. It has survived in a remarkably complete state of preservation. Many of the late-19th century "improvements" added to mid-19th century buildings survive. Another factor that contributes greatly to the period appearance of the village is the absence of a commercial center and the attendant 20th century practice of continually refreshing commercial storefronts. What few commercial/professional buildings do exist in the center were constructed in the 19th century as residential or residential/retail spaces and conform to the residential and architectural character of the village. Only one of the commercial buildings has a traditional first-level storefront arrangement, and it has not been reworked since installed in the late 1930s. The only non-residential building in the district that does not conform to the residential pattern is the 1936 two-story brick firehouse at 89 Rope Ferry Road.
Jordan Village, the historic population center of the rural agricultural Town of Waterford, is significant in the areas of religion and architecture. A linear-plan residential settlement, it developed quickly after 1848 and is distinguished by its profusion of Greek Revival buildings that include the First Baptist Church of Waterford, the raison d'etre for the community.
Founded in 1710 when Waterford was still part of New London, the Baptist Church was one of the dominant institutions in the historical development of the Jordan Village. It is unlikely that without the physical presence of the Baptist Church Jordan Village would have developed when and as it did, thus making the church the most important and dominant element in the historical development and settlement pattern of the village. It also made the village the population center of the town. When the new church was built at Jordan Cove in 1848, it stimulated a building boom that marked the period of most dramatic growth in the entire history of the village. Between 1848 and 1870, approximately 30% of the contributing structures were erected, primarily in the Greek Revival style. The dominance of one style in the village endows the community with an architectural homogeneity that is enhanced by the remarkable complete state of preservation that the community enjoys. Lack of redevelopment pressures as well as an absence of the Colonial Revival have resulted in a small residential enclave that appears much as it did at the close of World War I.
Jordan Village, located in the Town of Waterford, is distinguished by the fact that the town in general and Jordan Village in particular are the result of a community based on the Baptist, not the established Congregationalist, sect. Waterford favored the more evangelical Baptist persuasion which was introduced into Connecticut from Rhode Island in 1705. This bias stimulated in part its break from New London in 1801, and it remained a major influence in the development of the community. The 1848 decision by the First Baptist Church of Waterford to relocate its church from the Mullen Hill area of town to Jordan Cove, which was a small scattered settlement at the time, is the reason the village developed as it did. The 1848 relocation triggered an unmatched building boom in the village, and transformed a loose settlement into a compact, discrete village with an economy based on fishing, trading, farming, and the surrounding stone quarries. Never a commercial or manufacturing center owing to the proximity of New London five miles to the east, the town grew through the 19th century as a residential enclave. Fishing remained an important activity through the early-20th century, as did stone cutting at the local quarries. Jordan Village's position as a sleepy, rural village located away from the coast and with no commercial center, major businesses, or institutions to expand and threaten its historic development pattern, survived as a complete, well-preserved nuclear 19th-century settlement with few modern intrusions.
The fact that Jordan Village sprang up around a Baptist and not a Congregational church gives it an unusual religious significance in the state. The Baptist denomination was introduced to Connecticut from Rhode Island in 1705. The Waterford church, the second oldest in the state, was founded in 1710, and, interestingly, no Congregational church was established in the town. The separation from the City of New London, which was organized around the locally supported Congregational church, was due in large part to the differences between the formal, structured, and unemotional Congregationalists and the evangelical Baptist farmers in the West Farms section of New London, as Waterford was then known. The "New Lights," as those who favored an evangelical and simplified religion often preached by itinerant revivalists were called, preferred to center their community around the Baptist Church and chafed at being forced to support or reconcile with the establishment in New London. Such divisions between rural "dissenters" and the urban Puritans were common during the last two-thirds of the 18th century (McLoughlin, p.279). The distrust and polarization of the two interests was a major undercurrent in 18th- and early-19th-century society in some portions of New England, and the church and village stand as a record of the resolution of that problem — separation. The establishment of the Town of Waterford also coincided with the post-Revolution growth of the faith within the state when it increased from 450 members in nine congregations in 1760 to 65 churches with 5,700 members by 1810 (McLoughlin, p.919).
Prior to 1848 Jordan, as the area, brook, and cove have been known since the mid-18th century, was a scattered settlement of approximately 15 houses. It was the 1848 decision to relocate the church to the northwest corner of Rope Ferry and North roads that ushered in a building boom unmatched in the history of the village. In all, approximately 30% of the extant buildings were constructed between 1848 and 1870. Land owners like the Williams family and blacksmith Daniel Dodge subdivided their holdings in the center into quarter-acre house lots that were snapped up and developed for primarily residential use by the successful seamen, stonecutters, and businessmen in Waterford (1860 census).
Jordan Village is a well-preserved and architecturally significant example of a nuclear village that survives virtually unchanged from the 1920s. Rather than being dominated by a host of individually distinguished structures, the Jordan Village Historic District offers an impressive assemblage of well-preserved predominantly residential structures that reflect primarily the stylistic preferences of the 19th century, although several contributing resources date as early as the last quarter of the 18th century. Most significant of the original early buildings in Jordan Village is the Beebe-Bushnell Cape at 14 North Road. Built ca.1820, it stands in a remarkably complete state of preservation and is an excellent example of the long-popular house form. The Beebe-Phillips Cape in Jordan Park Village was moved to the district, but the house built in 1832 is a good later example of a Cape house form that was common in Waterford. The 18th century Jordan Schoolhouse, whose original location is not known for certain and which was moved to Jordan Park in 1972, is very similar to late-18th century houses that are known to have stood in and adjacent to the district. It is thus representative of an early house type did exist in the district.
Of particular significance is the quality of the Greek Revival buildings, which, due to their prevalence and location clustered in the center of the village, gives the Jordan Village Historic District a strong Grecian character. The style of preference when the village experienced its period of greatest growth, the Greek Revival endows the village with a stylistic homogeneity. Earliest of the distinguished Greek Revival buildings is the two-story, 3-bay, Ebenezer Darrow II House with a pedimented gable-end built in 1839 at 90 Rope Ferry Road. Well-proportioned with a flush-sided tympanum originally filled with a Palladian-motif window and featuring a pilastered frontispiece at the entrance, the stately format was repeated for three houses built on contiguous lots on the opposite side of Rope Ferry Road. The three later buildings follow the form of the Ebenezer Darrow II House and may well have been the work of the same builder, whose name has been lost. The group of two-story temple-form Greek Revival houses with pilastered corners and pedimented gable ends dominate the center of the village.
The most ambitious Greek Revival building in the Jordan Village Historic District is the 1848 First Baptist Church. The original building survives basically unaltered save for the addition of aluminum siding over the original clapboard sheathing, and it is a quintessential example of the temple-form Grecian pile with an inset Doric portico, bold but chastely detailed eared architrave at the central entrance, and two-stage square, truncated steeple. The interior features a large foliated center medallion and a balcony carried on slender colonettes. The stately building contributes greatly to the architectural character of the district.
The Greek Revival house form most common in the Jordan Village Historic District is an interesting variation on the Cape. The 1-1/2-story dwelling, represented by the complete example at 10 North Road, was turned gable end to the street with corner pilasters and a bold pilastered frontispiece at the offset entrance. A strong entablature, sometimes articulated as at 10 North Road, was often added, and the cornice returned on the gable ends. In all, approximately ten houses of this type were built in the village between 1848 and 1870.
While the number and quality of Greek Revival buildings in the Jordan Village Historic District strongly establish its architectural character, several architecturally significant buildings were constructed or remodeled during the late 19th century. Most significant of those is the well-preserved Rose House at 106 Rope Ferry Road. A superb example of the High Victorian Italianate mode, the house does not conform to the shallow hip-roofed norm because it incorporates an earlier dwelling. By far the most elaborately detailed house in the district, it features bold milled trim which includes the bracketed cornice and a wrapping Italianate verandah with chamfered posts and an arched frieze. Corners are set with octagonal engaged columns — a seldom-seen detail.
Most distinguished of the late-19th-century houses is the ca.1885 Queen Anne style Darrow-Gallup House at 96 Rope Ferry Road. Other representative examples of the picturesque mode are the Queen Anne style Booth House at 80 Rope Ferry Road and the Perkins House at 12 North Road. The 1919 Patch House at 106 Rope Ferry Road is a good example of the picturesque Colonial Revival mode, and the Greene-Ruggieri House at 119 Rope Ferry Road is the best of the hip-roofed Foursquare Colonial Revival houses in the district. It was constructed in 1914. A Craftsman Bungalow was built to complete the historic development of Jordan Village with the 1932 Young-Beauchamps House at 128 Rope Ferry Road, a good and well-preserved example of the popular early-20th century mode, is the most significant.
Another factor in the preservation of the architectural significance of the Jordan Village Historic District is the retention of late-19th and early-20th century "improvements" to many of the original buildings. In Connecticut, a state noted for the removal of 19th century trim and an enthusiastic embracing of the Colonial Revival, its survival makes the district an important statement of pre-World War II architectural preferences unaffected by the colonializing influence. Jordan Park, the heritage park to which several threatened buildings have been moved and preserved, does reflect the mid-20th century trend to cluster otherwise lost resources in a preservation park, and it continues a local trend started in the early-20th century when an 18th-century house was moved from within to outside the district to ensure its preservation.
Bachman, Robert L. Illustrated History of Waterford. Morningside Pres, 1967.
Bachman, Robert L., ed. Waterford and Independence 1776-1976. American Revolution Bicentennial Committee Town of Waterford, 1975.
Bucher, Robert. "The Colonial Lands of New London." Vol. 1. unpublished manuscript, 1984.
Beers, J.W. Atlas of New London County. 1868.
McLoughlin, William G. New England Dissent 1630-1833. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984.
Wall, R.B. "Waterford Stories: Jordan Village." The Day (New London), May 13, 1915.
Waterford Land Records.
United States Bureau of Census. Population Schedules: Connecticut; Waterford, 1860.
† Mary E. McCahon, Architectural Historian, Jordan Village Historic District Comm., and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Jordan Village Historic District, Waterford, CT, nomination document, 1990, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.