Hebron Center Historic District
The Hebron Center Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Hebron Center Historic District consists of 41 major buildings and their associated outbuildings situated around the intersection of Route 85 (Church and Gilead Streets) and Route 66 (West Main and Main Streets), and extending northward on Marjorie Circle and Wall Street, in Hebron, Connecticut. The buildings in the Hebron Center Historic District date mainly from the early to middle 19th century; however, as a result of Hebron's reconstruction after two severe fires in the 1880s, there are also several buildings that date from the late 19th century. Partly because of the fires, which destroyed numerous 18th century buildings, only two houses of traditional colonial form, one of which was built c.1800-1820, remain standing within the boundaries of the district. Most of the early 19th century houses have some Federal style detail, such as a fanlight in the tympanum or above the doorway, and several are oriented with their gable end facing the street. Greek Revival style features, such as pilaster-and-lintel doorways and corner pilasters, are also evident on several of the Hebron Center Historic District's buildings, in one case combined with Gothic arched windows. Some of the buildings built in the Victorian period display decorative elements such as scroll-sawn brackets and partly shingled exteriors. Wood-frame construction and clapboarded exteriors predominate, but there are also four brick buildings and one early 20th century house built of concrete blocks. Throughout the Hebron Center Historic District there are 19th century barns, sheds, and other outbuildings from the period of significance, and many of the properties include stone walls along the road and field lines.
In addition to the houses, the Hebron Center Historic District includes several institutional buildings. Among them are four current or former religious structures: the brick Agudas Achim (United Brethren) Synagogue, built in 1940 and exhibiting an Art Deco influence; the brick Gothic Revival style St. Peter's Church (Episcopal), built in 1826; the Victorian Gothic Congregational Church, erected in 1883; and the former Methodist meetinghouse, 1838, which is Greek Revival in style and was later used as the Town Hall. Other institutional buildings include the Town Records Building, a small brick building built in 1909 to safeguard Hebron's public records; the Stick style Hebron Center School, 1883, now used as the American Legion Hall; and the Douglas Library, 1898, Queen Anne style. Also included is the Porter Gristmill, a small 18th century wood-frame mill located on Jeremy Brook at the west end of the district.
A small town green formerly occupied the center of the Hebron Center Historic District. Although a large portion of that green has now been displaced by the intersection of Routes 66 and 85, wide two-lane state highways, parts of the green survive as grassy strips of land separating Route 66 from Old Hebron Road and Hebron Center Road, the local roads that run in front of the buildings. A few trees and a bench occupy these remnants. The largest remaining portion of Hebron Green is the open parcel southwest of the intersection that serves as Hebron's Veterans Memorial Park. In the park stand six war memorials: granite monuments to those who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam; a World War I plaque on a boulder, set back from the road against the trees; and a small black cannon and a flag pole located in the center of the square-shaped park. None of these objects appears to be more than 50 years old; they are counted as noncontributing objects. All the remnants of the green, including Veterans Memorial Park, are counted as a single contributing site.
The inventory of resources also includes the historic cemetery associated with St. Peter's Church as a contributing site and the town pound, a small early 19th-century enclosure built of low fieldstone walls, as a contributing structure.
Most of the buildings in the Hebron Center Historic District preserve their original form and much of their original detailing. Many of the buildings on Main Street have been converted from residential to professional or commercial use; however, alterations have been carried out mainly at the rear or sides of the buildings, so the original appearance is maintained. The Hebron Center Historic District remains unaffected by the large-scale commercial development often found along state highways. The majority of buildings throughout the rest of the district are still used as residences. Some have seen some type of minor alteration, such as window replacement and additions to the rear or sides, but most retain their original form, fenestration, chimneys, sash, and exterior siding materials. The few noncontributing buildings in the district are mostly garages, sheds, or barns that are of modern construction, along with one modern house and a veterinary clinic.
The boundary of the Hebron Center Historic District generally follows property lines, cutting across them only to exclude excessive acreage. The boundary was delineated so as to include contiguous historic buildings but exclude the predominantly modern construction that surrounds Hebron Center on all the main roads.
The count of contributing buildings includes a number of barns and other outbuildings that retain their historic appearance; conversely, the count of noncontributing buildings includes garages and other outbuildings that appear to be of relatively recent construction.
Hebron Center Historic District is historically significant because its buildings reflect the area's long-standing role as the town's political, commercial, educational, and religious center. In the 18th century, Hebron's widely dispersed farm families journeyed to the town center to attend weekly religious services at the Congregational meetinghouse and, less frequently, to participate in town meetings and militia drills on the adjacent town common. The area also was the location of a tavern and one other shop, typical of the limited commercial activity that occurred around rural crossroads in the 18th century, and of one of the water-powered gristmills that were essential to the agricultural economy. In the 19th century, the area developed as a town green, with meeting places of other religious organizations, an increased number of small businesses, and a greater concentration of houses. Public institutions, including a district school, town hall, public library, and, in the early 20th century, the town records building, also were located at the town center. Despite two severe fires that swept through the center in the late 19th century (an uncommon occurrence for rural Connecticut crossroads), many buildings remain today to recall Hebron Center's role as the hub of the town's community life. The Hebron Center Historic District also has architectural significance because many of its buildings are well-preserved and embody the distinctive characteristics of particular architectural periods and styles. The Federal style of the early 19th century is particularly well-represented, with numerous finely detailed cornices, fanlights, and porticos illustrating the elegant interpretation of classical precedent that was at the heart of the style.
Historical Importance of Hebron Center
Hebron, incorporated as a town in 1708, grew slowly as families from Massachusetts, Long Island, New York and other areas of Connecticut bought tracts of land and settled. Farms were spread out throughout the town, with only the area around the town common and meetinghouse as a focal point. The meetinghouse accommodated both religious services and town meetings, and the common served as the town's parade ground, market place, and common pasture. These two factors were enough to establish the area of the Hebron Center Historic District as the town's center. There were few houses there in the 18th century, but the crossroads at the center also provided the core for a small commercial nucleus in the form of a tavern and store. The district school and the gristmill on nearby Jeremy Brook did not serve the entire town, but they also helped establish the center as a place of community activity.
After the Revolutionary War Hebron began to grow and many more buildings were constructed, forming a small village at the town center. By the early 19th century numerous houses, several stores, a school, and a meetinghouse surrounded the town common, and a town pound was built nearby to accommodate stray animals. The main road through the village, present-day Route 66, was improved as the Hebron and Middle Haddam Turnpike in this period, further contributing to the village's prosperity. Church Street also began to expand and develop. The house at 22 Church Street, built in 1806, was home to Connecticut governor and physician John S. Peters. The pastor of the Congregational Church, the Reverend Amos Bassett, also built a house there, on 18 Church Street, as did John Graves, a cabinetmaker, who had a woodworking shop adjoining his house at 13 Church Street.
The 19th century saw an increase in religious diversity, and as other denominations formed, they built their meeting places at the town center. St. Peter's Church at 30 Church Street was constructed in 1826, and in 1838 the Methodists built a meetinghouse at the east end of the common, which by that time, fenced and planted with trees, was beginning to assume the aspect of a village green. In the 20th century, the process was repeated: United Brethren synagogue reflects the settlement of East European Jews in Hebron in the early 20th century. Taking up egg and dairy farming, they gave new life to the town's farmlands, which by then were in economic decline.
Hebron's growth tapered off in the middle of the 19th century, but as late as 1869 there were still about four dozen houses, a hotel, post office, five stores, two churches, a doctor's office, four artisan shops, the school, and the gristmill at Hebron Center, and the Methodist church had been converted into a "Town House" for public meetings. Several of these buildings were destroyed by the great fires of 1882 and 1888, but it is a testimony to the continuing importance of the center that most were rebuilt. As part of the reconstruction, the Victorian Gothic Congregational Church at 1 Main Street was dedicated in 1883, and a new parsonage was built nearby a few years later. The district school, 18 Main Street, was also replaced in a more Victorian style. New public buildings continued to be built at the center as need arose: a small Queen Anne style building was erected for a public library at 22 Main Street, on the south side of the green, in 1898, and in 1909, the town built a small brick structure to house town records and to commemorate Hebron's 200th anniversary.
Today many of the residences and other buildings in the Hebron Center Historic District have been turned to uses other than those for which they were built. Nevertheless, the buildings continue to serve as reminders of the village's long history as the center of Hebron's community life.
Many of the buildings in Hebron Center have exceptional architectural qualities and represent well-preserved examples of their type. The key features of the traditional colonial Connecticut house — central chimney, clapboarded exterior, and small-pane sash — are present in the small gambrel-roofed dwelling at 25 Marjorie Circle and in the later example next door. The Federal style, with its emphasis on small-scale detail, geometric designs such as interlaced arches and the ellipse, and classically inspired decorative motifs, is epitomized by the Hebron Center Historic District's many porticos, fanlight transoms, and elliptical or semi-elliptical gable windows. Although lacking the sophistication found in more cosmopolitan areas, these houses also illustrate the greater variety in form and floor plan that came in with the 19th century: hip roofs, gable-end-to-the-road orientation (usually with a full cornice return), and end or corner chimneys, combined with a center or side hall plan. Such features typify the period's departure from traditional New England house building.
Although not as abundant as the Federal style, there are a few structures that embody the Greek Revival style. The house at 8 Marjorie Circle, for example, displays the wide corner pilasters, rectilinear shapes, and heavily proportioned moldings that characterized the style. The Methodist meetinghouse, also known as the Old Town Hall also exhibits common Greek Revival characteristics in its cornice return, denticulated frieze, simple entablature, pilaster-and-lintel doorway treatment, and corner pilasters.
The Gothic Revival is represented in the house at 60 Church Street which, while primarily Greek Revival in inspiration, has the pointed-arch windows in the gable that are the hallmark of Gothic architecture. A more fully realized example, one of the earliest Gothic Revival buildings in the state, is the 1826 St. Peter's Church, which, in addition to its pointed-arch windows, contains a reference to the medieval parish churches of England in its orientation with the bell tower at the rear.
Finally, owing in part to the fires of the 1880s, the Hebron Center Historic District has a few buildings that have typical Victorian elements, such as entry hoods on scroll brackets, dense sawn and incised decorative woodwork, variegated siding materials, and complex overall massing. All of these characteristics are present in the 1883 Congregational Church and, to a lesser extent, in the houses built around the green following the fires.
Atlas of Hartford and Tolland Counties. Hartford: Baker & Tilden, 1869.
Baron, John, and Clifford Wright. "Hebron Center Historic District: Historical and Architectural Background." Report of the Hebron Historic District and Properties Study Committee, 1990.
Cole, J.R. History of Tolland County. New York: W.W. Preston & Co., 1888.
Eaton, W.C., and H.C. Osborn. Map of Tolland County, Connecticut. Philadelphia: Woodford & Bartlett, 1857.
Hebron. Connecticut Bicentennial. August 23rd to 25th. 1908. Hebron: Bicentennial Committee, 1908.
Sibun, John. Our Town's Heritage: Hebron. Connecticut, 1708-1958. Hebron: Douglas Library, 1975.
† Bruce Clouette and Maura Cronin, consultants, Hebron Center Historic District, Hebron, Tolland County, CT, nomination document, 1993, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.