The Garvan-Carroll Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
The Garvan-Carroll Historic District consists of a roughly square, four-block residential neighborhood located adjacent to the western edge of East Hartford's Main Street commercial area. The district encompasses approximately 25 acres of relatively level land and a total of 110 single and multi-family houses, and 76 outbuildings (73 garages, two carriage sheds, and one shed which appears to have originally been used as a bakery), almost all of which are one to three-story frame buildings erected between the early 1890s and early 1930s. All but two (98%) of the houses, and two (97%) of the outbuildings contribute to the historical and/or architectural significance of the district.
South Prospect Street is the Garvan-Carroll Historic District's only north/south street. East/west streets include Garvan and Chapel Streets, as well as Carroll and Tower Roads. Street setbacks for houses are basically uniform on each street, and, as a whole, range from about 15 to 25 feet. Lot frontages generally vary from about 50 to 75 feet, while lot depths range between 150 and 175 feet. There are only two vacant lots in the Garvan-Carroll Historic District (between 93-95 and 101-03 Chapel Street, and between 47 and 53 Carroll Road). There are no parks, although in 1943 a park was created adjacent to the district in former marshland along the west side of South Prospect Street, after the construction of nearby flood-control dikes by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Major residential architectural styles represented include Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Transitional Queen Anne/Colonial Revival, Bungalow, Tudor Revival, and Foursquare. Popular late 19th/early 20th-century multi-family house types include triple deckers and stacked duplexes. The Garvan-Carroll Historic District also includes several fairly plain and utilitarian houses dating from the late Victorian era. Garages, many of which coordinate with the style and materials of the houses, and are usually set off slightly to one side of the houses, approximately 100 feet from the street, are accessed by narrow driveways. While a number of the district's frame buildings have had aluminum, vinyl, or asbestos sidings superimposed over original wood sidings, or some porch or window modifications, as a whole they continue to effectively convey the area's historic significance and character.
The styles on each of the four east-west streets (Garvan and Chapel streets and Carroll and Tower roads) reflect predominantly the particular decade that each street was opened. Thus Garvan Street, opened in 1892, displays many Queen Anne style buildings from the 1890s. Lots on Garvan Street which were developed a decade or two later tend to contain large multi-family houses with Colonial Revival elements, a transitional style between the Queen Anne and the full Colonial Revival. Chapel Street, opened around 1910, contains an overwhelming majority of stacked duplexes with Colonial Revival elements. The east end of the street, developed later, displays four small Bungalows. Bungalows also occupy two lots on Garvan Street which were not developed until the second decade of the 20th century.
The larger houses, the Queen Annes, Foursquares, and stacked duplexes, were almost always constructed for multi-family use. By contrast, Carroll and Tower roads, opened in 1925, display simple single-family Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival styles, popular in the early 20th century. South Prospect Street, extended as needed to accommodate the advancing side streets, displays four houses, each in a different style from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Queen Anne style buildings in the district generally featured bulky and/or asymmetrical massing, use of materials of varying textures — usually clapboard and wood shingle, decorative-paned windows, and, occasionally, a tower. The best example of the style on Garvan Street (and one of the best in East Hartford) is the brick Michael Ahl House (93-95 Garvan Street), which displays a three-story conical tower surmounted by a finial. The Marshall House, 28 Garvan Street, also has a tower, square and somewhat shorter. Many houses retain Queen Anne style decorative windows or wooden brackets and trim. Several of these houses (numbers 43, 58, 62, 68, 84, and 85) employ only the asymmetrical massing of the Queen Anne style.
A transitional Queen Anne/Colonial Revival style characterizes many of the houses on Garvan and Chapel Streets. In these houses, massing typical of the Queen Anne style is embellished with detailing reminiscent of colonial, Georgian, or Federal style architecture. The gable-to-street stacked duplex form employed on Garvan Street displays a fully or half-facade porch on the first floor and a half-facade porch on the second floor. These porches generally use round columns. The gable often displays a round-topped or tripartite window. The Foursquare houses generally display dormers in three of their four roof pitches (not the rear), and certain decorative elements (columns or brackets) associated with either the Queen Anne or the Colonial Revival style. Both types use a blend of siding textures, clapboard and wood shingle.
Houses built in the 1920s and 1930s display a purer form of the Colonial Revival. The massing of these houses more closely imitates colonial-period massing. They are smaller single-family houses trimmed with conscious copies of colonial, Georgian, and Federal features. They are oriented ridge-to-street, generally having a three-bay facade. The Colonial Revival style houses employ both gable and gambrel roofs. Where the gambrel roof is used, it supports a full-width dormer. Several of the gamble-roofed houses display a curious variant, using a pent roof at the first story in imitation of the roofline created by the gambrel with its full-width dormer. A few of the Colonial Revival houses have cove-ceiling porches in imitation of this Federal style feature.
Approximately one quarter of the houses on the streets developed in the 1920s display the Tudor Revival style. Their broad gable-to-street orientation and steep roof lines provide an interesting contrast to the Colonial Revival style houses. In most cases, the Tudor Revival houses are sided with clapboard rather than stucco and half-timbering. Several houses in this neighborhood, both Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival, are covered in clapboard with an exposure of approximately eight inches.
One other significant style exists in this neighborhood, the Bungalow. Unlike most of the neighboring structures, these houses are only one story tall (plus attic). They display sweeping ridge-to-street roof pierced by central dormers. Exposed ratter ends and small brackets "support" the roof.
The Garvan-Carroll Historic District is historically significant as a good, cohesive example of several contiguous residential subdivisions which developed during the late 19th/early 20th-century "streetcar suburb" era adjacent to East Hartford's commercial center. The Garvan-Carroll Historic District is architecturally significant because it remains dominated by virtually unbroken streetscapes of substantially intact single and multi-family houses which, as a group, reflect a variety of popular residential architectural forms and styles of that era. The Garvan-Carroll Historic District also includes two mid 19th-century Italianate style houses built prior to the area's period of significance. Both of these houses (42 and 96 Garvan Street) were moved into the district from their original sites on nearby Main Street (1917 and 1950, respectively). However, both houses remain relatively good local examples of their style and period, and contribute to the area's historic character as visually compatible streetscape components.
The Garvan-Carroll Historic District forms one of East Hartford's most intact and cohesive remaining examples of late 19th/early 20th-century residential neighborhoods. Like other similar East Hartford neighborhoods, the district's development between the 1890s and the early 1930s was fostered by the consistent demand for new housing resulting from steady growth in the size of the town's population. In general, the town's population growth resulted, in turn, from the concurrent expansion and prosperity experienced by its manufacturing and commercial agricultural enterprises, as well as the dramatic late 19th-century emergence of East Hartford as a significant railroad center. However, a significant part of this population growth must also be attributed to East Hartford's emerging role as a residential suburb for downtown Hartford a process initially stimulated both by the removal of tolls on the old Connecticut River bridge in 1889 and, even more importantly, the opening of the first electric trolley line between the two communities in 1892.
Development of the Garvan-Carroll Historic District was initiated by real estate speculator Patrick Garvan in 1892. Garvan, who had acquired a sizable tract of former farmland in the central portion of the district from the estate of Sidney Pitkin in the late 1870s, laid out the street which now bears his name and subdivided the land along both its sides into a regular pattern of modest-sized rectangular lots for sale and development as building sites. The level of planning involved in Garvan's subdivision was somewhat rudimentary, even by the standards of the day. He laid out rows of contiguous lots ranging from 45 to 65 feet in width on both sides of the new (Garvan) street. Those on the south side of Garvan Street had depths uniformly set at 165 feet. Similar, though somewhat more irregular, depths characterized lots on the northern side of the street. While buyers were not restricted to the number of buildings that could be erected on a single lot, they were required to maintain frontage setbacks for buildings on the north and south sides of the street at 20 and 25 feet, respectively.
The first lots to be developed along Garvan Street during the 1890s were the easternmost, nearest Main Street, where today Queen Anne style houses predominate. However, the most elaborate building of this style in the district (93-95 Garvan Street) was constructed during the street's initial phase of development at the western end of the street. The central portion of the street was developed during the next two decades; a number of Foursquares with Colonial Revival style exterior details were built along this part of the street during this period. With the addition of one small Bungalow and one small Colonial Revival style house in the 1920s, and the relocation of a mid-19th-century Italianate style house from Main Street to 42 Garvan Street in 1917, Garvan Street's development was essentially complete. The only other significant changes to the street's built environment occurred in 1950, when the ca.1850 S.O. Goodwin House, one of the town's best surviving examples of an Italianate style house, was moved from its original Main Street site to its present lot at 96 Garvan Street.
Garvan Street was initially populated by a variety of prosperous middle-income merchants and shopkeepers, as well as employees of the "Street Railway." Some of these residents worked in Hartford; others worked for one of the town's various local businesses or shops. One 1890s resident, Howard Noble, was a local baker, whose bakery appears to have occupied the small shed which still stands behind his former house at 19 Garvan Street. Erastus Geer, the long-time publisher of the Hartford City Directory, lived at 38 Garvan Street for many years during this period. By 1915, the local city directory listed Garvan Street as home for two paperhangers, a baker, two house painters, and a photographer, as well as several machinists, bookkeepers, and stenographers. As the years passed, a higher and higher proportion of the street's residents commuted to work in Hartford on a regular basis.
Chapel Street was developed around 1910. The west half of the tract had been the property of Dominick Flynn, and the east half belonged to the First Congregational Church. Many of its deeds specify to their respective purchasers what sort of house was to be constructed. The Flynn heirs demanded two-tenement houses, and the church required a house worth at least $4,000 to be built within a year.
The houses constructed from 39-41 through 105-107, with the exception of the Foursquare at 67-69, are extremely similar gable-to-street stacked duplexes with full-front verandas on the first story topped by single-bay porches on one side of the second-story facade. (At the time of its development, the north side of Chapel Street seems to have been similar to the south side; the north side has lost much of its integrity and of is not included in the Garvan-Carroll Historic District.) Like Garvan Street, Chapel Street housed middle-class people working in either Hartford or East Hartford. The 1925 city directory shows a barber, a street railway conductor, a druggist, several clerks, teachers, bookkeepers and insurance agents, and optometrist.
South Prospect Street (Prospect Street Extension) was put through from Connecticut Boulevard south to Garvan Street at this time. The simple intersecting-gable house at 36 South Prospect Street was built about 1910 on acreage at the rear of numbers 80, 84, 88-90, and 96 Garvan Street, land which would have been unsaleable without this extension of Prospect Street.
Patrick Garvan's wife was the former Mary A. Carroll. Garvan had worked in a paperstock business with her older brother, Edward J. Carroll, then trained her younger brother, Joseph, in carpentry. Both Garvan and Joseph Carroll were successful builders in East Hartford. In the early part of the century, Garvan Carroll's nieces and nephews bought up the estates of James Bruton and John B. Smith, to the south of Garvan's tract. They combined the land, subdivided it, and filed a map of the entire tract with the town clerk, indicating 59 proposed house lots along two streets (Map 30, East Hartford Town Clerk's Office). The streets were to be called Tower and Carroll roads. They were connected by a further extension of South Prospect Street and a small north-south street called Carroll Court.
The Carrolls appear to have sold these lots to a variety of homeowners who then built (or had built for them) their own houses on the land. This was the same plan of development that Garvan had followed on Garvan Street. Surprisingly, there is considerable similarity of style in the houses built on Carroll and Tower roads. Later subdivisions generally showed this type of similarity because the developer built the house on the lot, then sold houses and land. In the case of Carrolls' subdivision, the similarity may be accounted for by a common builder after the land was purchased, quite possibly a member of the Carroll family itself.
The Carrolls' lots were uniformly divided and numbered, so that a parcel of several lots could be identified in the deed as (e.g.) "being lots 35, 36 and 37." The building line on Tower Road was only 15 feet, but the houses intended in the later 1920s were much less likely to use deep porches like the Queen Anne and stacked duplex styles had. There is some suggestion that porches were allowed to intrude beyond the building line. The deeds for Chapel Road from the Flynn heirs (the west half of the street) actually acknowledge this fact, specifying that the "front wall" of the building should be 30 feet back from the street, excluding "steps, verandas, windows, and porticos." Chapel Street deeds from the Flynn heirs also restricted the purchaser to the construction of "no building other than a two-tenement dwelling house." The deeds from the Congregational Church (the east end of Chapel Street) required a 15-foot building line, mentioning no exceptions for steps or verandas, and a dwelling house worth at least $4,000 to be built within a year.
There had been three other local side street subdivisions planned and sold off by the time Joseph O. Goodwin wrote his history of East Hartford in 1879 — Woodbridge and Central avenues and Ranney Street — but this type of development did not immediately appeal to the public. In the early 1890s the population of the town grew by 44 percent. At this time, several more side streets of suburban houses were opened up. Garvan Street represents one of the most nearly intact of these streets. One reason for this growth of suburban development was the discontinuation of the toll on the bridge to Hartford in 1889. East Hartford had battled with Hartford over the toll on the only bridge to Hartford since its construction in 1811. In the mid-1800s land owners in the areas which would become West Hartford had effectively campaigned for the continuance of the toll so that their land would be more appealing to Hartford workers than East Hartford land across the expensive bridge. Court battles raged throughout the 19th century, at one point resulting in a $12,000 fine for East Hartford.
In 1889 the trolley, called the "Street Railway," was approved by the town and the first tracks laid. Service began the following year. In 1891 the town voted against the electric trolley cars, but they came to town anyway in 1892. That was the year that Garvan divided up the Pitkin parcel to create Garvan Street. The trolley facilitated travel to Hartford, as evidenced by the number of clerks and insurance workers who settled on these street over the next several decades.
A further indication of the impact of transportation on the development of the area can be seen in the garages behind most of the houses in the district. The earliest surviving garages are carriage sheds, located behind numbers 28, built in 1897, 84, built in 1903, 19, built in 1892, and 89, built in 1907. At the turn of the century, horses and carriages were the method of transportation. The bulk of the garages behind the other houses in the district were early 20th-century types, often with hip roofs, and sometimes with swinging doors rather than the later overhead doors. Few of them seem later than 1940.
The Garvan-Carroll Historic District continues to effectively reflect both its late 19th-century genesis as a streetcar suburb and its gradual development during the early decades of the 20th century as an automobile-oriented suburban residential neighborhood. Today (1991), it forms one of the best and most intact representatives of this pattern of residential development found in East Hartford, featuring an unusually high proportion of buildings which meet the historic district registration requirements.
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‡ Doris D. Sherrow, East Harford Town Historian and P. Loether, Connecticut Historical Commission, Garvan-Carroll Historic District, East Hartford, CT, nomination document, 1991, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Carroll Road • Chapel Street • Garvan Street • Prospect Street South • Tower Road