Photo: Cheney Hall, ca. 1867, 177 Hartford Road, Manchester Historic District, Manchester, CT The Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 & 2001. Photographed by Ben Cody (own work), 2007, [cc0-by-1.0 (creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed November, 2017.
The Manchester Historic District [‡, ‡] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.The boundaries were extended and listed in 2001.
The Manchester Historic District covers 500 acres in downtown Manchester. Encompassing most of the large residential and industrial area west of Main Street, the district extends from Center Street and Center Spring Park on the north to Hartford Road on the south, which parallels Interstate 384. The Main Street Historic District forms the eastern boundary and the district continues west almost to Campfield Road.
The Manchester Historic District expands upon the existing Cheney Brothers National Historic Landmark District established in 1978, which focused on the Cheney Bros. Company mill complex and its immediate residential neighborhood. The landmark boundaries extended across Main Street to include a small section on the east side of town. The latter area is not included in this nomination. The present Manchester Historic District almost doubles the size of the earlier district [not including the 2001 boundary increase below] and contains 992 resources. The vast majority of the resources (878 or 91 percent) contribute to the historic architectural significance of the district. The 114 non-contributing resources are mainly modern commercial or secondary structures, such as garages, built after 1945, as well as a few extensively altered historic buildings.
The inter-connected residential neighborhoods, the largest component of the Manchester Historic District, contain 557 historic houses, which, together with 243 associated outbuildings, comprise 63 percent of the contributing resources. Among the contributing outbuildings are 31 barns, carriage houses, or sheds; most of these were converted to garages, but have retained their essential integrity. The rest are garages which were either built at the same time as the houses, or added to the historic properties between 1920 and 1940. The remainder of the contributing resources include the historic mill complex, churches, schools, stores, and a park.
The Manchester Historic District can be divided into sections; each has its own distinctive historic character. The industrial core occupies the center of the southern half. Directly east of the mills are the larger houses of the mill owners, which are situated on open sloping lots that run uphill from Hartford Road to Forest Street. A few of these properties are found along the north side of Forest Street, also the location of a brick apartment complex constructed in 1944 just behind the historic commercial buildings on Main Street.
The rest of the Manchester Historic District is laid out in a rectangular grid of streets for single and multifamily dwellings. The first area to be developed by the Cheneys was directly north and west of the mills. As shown on the historic map of 1879, at that time most of the district was open farmland, divided in half by the right-of-way for the railroad that once served the mills. As the district spread out to the north, the first area to be developed was between the railroad and Main Street. There the rigid geometry of the streets is relieved by Chestnut Street, which winds down from Main Street to the mill area. Although single-family houses predominated in this middle-class neighborhood, it also contains multifamily dwellings, most of the schools and churches in the district, as well as the municipal park along its northern border. It was the area designated for company-built supervisors' houses, but professionals and Main Street store owners also made their homes there. The working-class neighborhood to the west, which also developed after 1890 and extended to the south along the western border of the mills, contains the highest concentration of multifamily houses.
Almost 60 percent of the houses in the Manchester Historic District can be differentiated by plan and form rather than style, in essence the definition of vernacular architecture. To describe and analyze such a large body of vernacular architecture in any meaningful way requires some attempt at classification. In the initial stages of the field investigation, there appeared to be as many as 12 different house types. This typology was refined and reduced to four basic types, which range from simple rectangular duplexes to the more complex massing of H or I plans that housed as many as four families. Variety within types was achieved by the location of open porches, an almost universal feature, the use of different roof forms or orientation, and a limited amount of stylistic detail. Individual vernacular houses relied mainly on intersecting- or cross-gable plans and occasionally used half of one of the multifamily plans. Several of these vernacular types persisted through the historic period and were used both for Cheney Bros. workers' housing as well as privately built homes.
For purposes of the Manchester Historic District, 209 of the nearly 350 vernacular houses in the district have been classified into one of the four types. All of these types were utilized for multiple family dwellings; Type D also includes single houses. The remainder, which do not readily fit into these type classifications, are listed as simply vernacular.
One of the more obvious is Type A, duplexes that utilize a simple gabled rectangular plan, reminiscent of the Colonial style. Roughly 22 percent (45) were designed in this manner. They usually have a ridge-to-street orientation, with a full facade porch and twin brick chimneys (28 Church Street and 17-19 Gorman Place). The 1886 Gorman Place example shown here has retained its original scroll-sawn porch brackets and imbricated shingled gables, which have round-arched windows. In the 1880s Cheney Bros. built several minor variants of this type: adding a second-story overhang (54 Walnut Street); or a pedimented wall dormer in the center of the roof (44 Pine Street). Type A was still in use in 1917 on Cooper Hill Street, where the plan was rotated to have the gable end of every other house face the street. This version features docked gables and twin facade porches (117-119, 123-125, and 127-129 Cooper Hill Street). In the 1920s Cheney Bros. built yet another version at 9-11 North Fairfield Street, which has bay windows at the first floor and pedimented porches on the end elevations.
Type B has a more complex plan, with projecting facade pavilions connected by a two-story hyphen with a centered porch, a design used for 20 percent (42) of the houses. An 1883 example at 86-88 Linden Street typically displays the Queen Anne influence in its imbricated shingled gables. A more detailed 1902 house at 13-15 Newman Street has a full-facade Colonial Revival porch with a pediment, as well as a gabled dormer in the main roof. Its projecting bays at the first floor there have cutaway corners. The 1890 Johnson-McKinney House at 89 Laurel Street and the 1893 Machett-Mercer House at 9-11 Church Street are just two of a common variant of this type, in which the bay windows are full height with eave brackets and drops. In four-family Type B houses, which usually have a steep hipped roof, the main block is extended with additional porches at each end, the form and plan of both houses at 9-13 and 10-14 Short Street. Single-family examples include the Albert Bidwell House, a fully detailed Queen Anne at 31 Laurel Street, and the Bantley House at 93-95 Walnut Street, which utilizes just half of the vernacular plan.
Type C is basically a U or H plan with lower massing; projecting wings on either end, which may be gambrelled or gabled, have the appearance of individual houses. Twenty-eight (10 percent) of this type were built for three or four families on the streets on the west side of the district during and after World War I. They have three porches, one in the center and two on the wings. The gambrel-wing form was the most popular at 49-51 and 86-88 Fairfield Street, although there are several triplexes with gabled wings there and on Cooper Hill Street. In some versions of Type C, asymmetrical gabled wings are flush with the facade and the entrance porches on the end elevations are under the longer slopes of the roofs (57 Fairfield Street and 27-29 West Street). The wings of an unusual variant of this type on Fairfield Street have long sloping front roofs that extend out over integral front porches and incorporate recessed shed dormers (19-23 Fairfield Street). Matching wall dormers are located on either end of the central main block. In several cases, a free-standing wing of this kind, which features exposed rafter ends, served as a single-family cottage (143 Cooper Hill Street and 21 West Street).
Type D, which has a cross- or intersecting-gable plan, was used for almost half of the vernacular multifamily and single houses. For some of the cross-gable duplexes, a full facade porch wraps around to matching recessed wings on either side, the case with the Anderson House at 37-39 Edgerton Street. On other examples, corner porches at the outside bays of the main block return to the wings, which is the case for all the houses at 13-15, 14-16 and 22-24 Laurel Place. One of the best preserved of the latter arrangement is the 1901 Sadrozinski House at 50-52 Ridge Street, which has imbricated docked gables and hipped-roof Colonial Revival porches. On the Love-Addy House at 39-41R Garden Street, only the front gable is docked and has a full cornice return and different facade fenestration. The decorative truss of the facade gable pediment distinguishes another example at 151 Center Street. A 1920 house at 23-25 Edgerton Street has open pediments. One of the several examples of this type on Laurel Street has a more complex gable on hipped roof and a pedimented main dormer (60-62 Laurel Street). A particularly large Colonial Revival quadruplex of this type at 113-119 West Street was built by Cheney Bros. in 1920.
Many single-family houses in the Manchester Historic District are based on a cross-gable plan. They range in size from one-story cottages like the nicely detailed one at 35 Pleasant Street, which has eave brackets with drops, to two-story houses, such as the two on Ridge Street (22-24 and 30 Ridge Street). Although built almost 20 years apart, both have Queen Anne detailing. The later 1901 house displays decorative bargeboards and bracketed cutaway corners on the wing. Steeply pitched roofs and other Carpenter Gothic details, such as slanted window hoods with brackets, are found on four examples on Pine Street built between 1878 and 1883 by Cheney Bros. (105, 113, 188 and 131 Pine Street). The company may also have constructed the similar cottages of this style on Pleasant Street (69, 75 and 97 Pleasant Street).
Style takes precedence over form and plan for the rest of the houses in the Manchester Historic District. Over 200 single and multiple dwellings were built primarily in the Queen Anne, Foursquare, and Colonial Revival styles, along with a few examples of the Italianate or Second Empire, and a number of Capes built in the early 1900s. The Cheney homes, which are discussed as a group below, were designed or remodeled in Tudor Revival, Neoclassical Revival, and Colonial Revival styles.
Some of the more stylish larger homes in this period were built by or for skilled weavers or foremen at the Cheney mills, such as the Aaron Johnson House at 62 Linden Street or the Adolph Krause House at 94 Cooper Street, which have Colonial Revival porches. An occasional late nineteenth-century house displays a tower or turret, such as the one on a Shingle style example built in 1894 at 87 Church Street or a Queen Anne at 12 Winter Street.
Among the several styles adapted for multifamily housing is the remarkable Second Empire duplex built by Cheney Bros. about 1880 (58 Cooper Hill Street). Much more common was the Foursquare, which was easily adapted as a duplex by the firm or private owners. They may have recessed entrances and corner porches, like 29-31 Edgerton Street, or full-facade porches, like the numerous examples on Summer Street (53-55, 58-60, 66-68 and 70-72 Summer Street). The porches there may have been enclosed originally. A Shingle style Foursquare with a double-decker porch (one of the very few in the district) is found at 15-17 Ridge Street. On Winter Street, a Foursquare was extended as an eight-bay quadruplex, with entrance porches at each end of the facade and on the end elevations (19 Winter Street). Among the several fine Foursquares built by individuals are a Colonial Revival version at 29 Park Street and one at 9 Laurel Street, which is influenced by the Craftsman style.
The last style employed for individual Cheney workers' houses was the Cape Cod. Company-built Capes have been identified on Cedar, Division, High, North Fairfield, and Walnut streets, with the highest concentration on High Street (144, 146, 149, 150, 155, 156, 159, 165-167 and 173 High Street). Variety was added to these streetscapes by rotating the plan, or the use of a gambrel roof or various types of dormers and pediment entrances. These early twentieth-century houses were the forerunners of the numerous Capes built after World War II to the west of the district. The last domestic architecture associated with the company is the Manchester Garden Apartments, a collection of nine brick Colonial Revival buildings erected as wartime emergency housing in 1944. Seven are located on St. James Street or Garden Drive (22 and 36 St. James Street; 14, 17, 28, 31 and 34 Garden Drive); and two others step down to 15 and 25 Forest Street. Doorways are detailed with pilasters, dentils, blind fans, or split pediments.
The Cheney mill complex encompasses 1.3 million square feet of industrial space and covers 36 acres at the heart of the district. All built of brick with slow-burn construction (plank floors and wood beams with cast-iron posts), the mills were constructed from 1870 to 1924. One of the earliest, the Spinning Mills at 63 Elm Street, consists of four parallel three-story mills joined along the south facade, which features an ornate clock tower. A large power plant with a tall stack served the entire complex and was incorporated at the north end of these mills; nearby are several storage buildings. Brick corbeling and saw-tooth monitors distinguish the 1914 Velvet Weave Shed on Pine Street, which is joined to the Yarn Dye House to the south by stair towers; both buildings are connected by covered overhead passageways to the Velvet Mills across the street (182, 190 and 185 Pine Street). Just to the north is the Ribbon Mill of 1907-1909 (150 Pine Street). One of the last buildings, the Dressing or Yarn Mill to the south, was built in two sections between 1911 and 1924 (210 Pine Street). It has stair towers along its 400-foot length and an arched brownstone entrance on Pine Street. Among the many auxiliary buildings are the Machine Shop (175 Pine Street) and two specialized storage facilities near the railroad siding at the north end of the complex. One used to store silk goods awaiting shipment has three stories, with vault doors instead of windows, and loading docks at each level (110 Elm Street). The other was designed to secure an entire loaded freight car (180 Park Street).
Other Cheney buildings in the vicinity predate the extant mills, including the 1867 Cheney Hall (177 Hartford Road), a mansard-roof brick community center for employees, and an early Gothic Revival school (126 Cedar Street) constructed of wood in 1859. A Neoclassical Revival stone and brick office for the company was built at 146 Hartford Road in 1903.
Six historic churches and their related parsonages and/or schools were built in the Manchester Historic District between 1896 and 1923. They range in size and style from the wood-framed Gothic Revival building erected for the Concordia Evangelical Lutheran Church (2 Winter Street) to the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church built in the Colonial Revival style for the German-American community in 1896 at 86 Cooper Street. A traditional Neo-Gothic Revival style stone edifice was built for the Swedish Emmanuel Lutheran congregation (60 Church Street). Started in 1914, it was not completed until 1923 because of the war. The parish of St. James Roman Catholic Church, which is located on Main Street, erected a convent at 85 Park Street and a school at 73 Park Street in the district. The latter is an institutional Colonial Revival structure detailed with limestone trim; its recessed central entrance bay is flanked by parapeted facade gables. The Colonial Revival also was selected for Washington School at 94 Cedar Street, a public school donated to the town by the Cheney family. It is distinguished by an Ionic order doorway with doubled columns, an arched roof pediment, and parapeted end gables. Although the present St. Mary's Episcopal Church at 49 Park Street was built in 1956, its 1885 Community House at 51 Park Street and 1926 Parish Hall and Rectory at 41 Park Street still stand. Temple Beth Shalom, a Colonial Revival-style synagogue on Linden Street also was erected just after the historic period of the district.
The Cheney family complex occupies a park-like setting on about 70 acres in the southeastern part of the Manchester Historic District. It includes the original c.1780 Cheney Homestead at 106 Hartford Road, now a museum run by the Manchester Historical Society, and the Mary Cheney House at 48 Hartford Road, an unusual Second Empire executed in grey brick and detailed in the Italianate manner. The garden there and the gardens and Neoclassical Revival house for Frank Cheney, Jr. (20 Hartford Road), near the homestead, were designed by Charles Adams Platt. The hipped-roof main block of the house features a pedimented pavilion with a Palladian window and a round portico. Two designed by Platt overlook a broad greensward to the south, which is punctuated by ancient oaks and known locally as the "great lawn." The H-plan brick and limestone Philip Cheney House at 50 Forest Street has high cross-gable roofs and projecting pavilions, which feature semi-octagonal bays surmounted by round-arched windows. The gardens there were also designed by Platt. The Clifford D. Cheney House at 40 Forest Street next door is a stuccoed building with a center pavilion and balustraded entrance portico. One of the two more visible neighbors to the west, which also overlook the great lawn but have a Hartford Road address, is the Austin Cheney House at 99 Hartford Road. It features open balustraded porches and projecting gables with exposed purlins and decorative bargeboards. Farther west is the Charles Cheney House, one of two homes in the complex built or remodeled in the Tudor Revival style with faux half-timbered stuccoed facades (131 Hartford Road). Massive paneled brick chimneys rise above its gabled and hipped roof.
The Cheneys and the Hillards, another industrial family from North Manchester, donated the land for the 85-acre Center Spring Park in 1915. Located between Main and Edgerton streets, it was designed in stages. Most of the residential neighborhood between Valley Street, which forms the southern border of the park, and Center Street was in place when the park was founded in 1921. That year Bigelow Brook was dammed at the west end to create a 12-acre pond, but it was not until 1929 that Thomas Desmond, a landscape architect from Simsbury, was hired to design the park. Among the network of pathways that wind through the wooded park is one that crosses the stream on a stone footbridge. The present Park Lodge nearby is a 1990 replacement for a 1932 building that burned.
The Manchester Historic District, the legacy of a century of family-based welfare capitalism, stands today as a testament to the enlightened self-interest and "engaged presence" of three generations of the Cheney family. The world-renowned silk mills of the Cheney Bros. Company were the centerpiece of a model industrial town nationally acclaimed for its visionary ideology and humanist approach. Much of this community is represented in the Manchester Historic District, which encompasses a remarkably well-preserved, cohesive collection of domestic, institutional, and industrial architecture, distinguished by a large body of vernacular workers' housing that displays exceptional variety and superior architectural integrity.
Historical Background and Significance
Cheney Bros., a company that grew from a single water-powered mill in 1838 to become the largest producers of silk velvet in the world, reigned over Manchester for nearly a century. All eight sons of George W. and Elizabeth Cheney were associated with the development of the company: six actively engaged as managers; the elder two, who were artists, invested in the firm. A privately held family business, Cheney Bros. not only responded to the challenges and complexities of the Industrial Revolution, but prospered long after similarly structured companies failed or were swallowed up by national conglomerates. At the height of its success in the early 1920s, when annual revenues reached $23 million, the company employed 4670 Manchester residents and possibly supported as many as 130 members of this prolific family. Among the many factors that contributed to this extraordinary growth and stability was a single-product focus, bolstered by sophisticated technological development, and an unswerving commitment to the social welfare of the workforce.
The 1838 factory, which made silk thread from raw silk cocoons, was located in a small wood-framed mill on Hop Brook, which runs below the south side of the district. Known as the Nebo Silk Manufacturing Company, it was incorporated for $50,000. Waterpower for the silk factory was provided by the tailrace from an earlier Cheney saw- and gristmill upstream. So that the company would not have to depend on imported raw silk from China, the Cheneys tried raising silk worms on the leaves of native-grown mulberry trees. They invested heavily in the mulberry mania that swept the country in the 1830s, with planting fields in Manchester, New Jersey, and Ohio. Although the price of mulberry saplings rose dramatically from $4 to $500 per hundred by 1839, two Cheney brothers went bankrupt when the market eventually collapsed from overproduction and blight soon killed most the trees.
Despite this inauspicious beginning, the Cheneys reorganized and went on to solve many of the technical problems associated with the manufacture of silk thread. One of the first in the business to import raw silk from Japan, the firm specialized exclusively in this product through the antebellum period. In addition to a new larger mill on Hop Brook, the company had a factory in Hartford. In 1847 Frank Cheney patented a new spinning machine to make the stronger thread for sewing machines just coming into general domestic use. He also invented a new process to recover waste silk from damaged cocoons in 1855. By 1860 the firm had 600 employees and generated $550,000 of business annually in Manchester and Hartford.
After the Civil War, Cheney Bros. consolidated in Manchester and introduced new products, including silk ribbon and woven silk cloth, adapting weaving machinery imported from Germany. Benefiting from high protective tariffs and a skilled immigrant labor force largely recruited from northern Europe, Cheney Bros. became the largest producer of silk in the country. Starting in the 1870s, new steam-powered weaving and spinning mills were built at the present industrial site. Looms and other specialized equipment were fabricated in the Cheney Machine Shop (175 Pine Street). The associated Carpenter Shop, which made such items as bobbins, spindles, and furniture, was also responsible for maintenance of workers' houses. Velvet production, for which the company was famous, was located in a series of mills on Pine Street in the early 1900s.
The company began building reservoirs to supply the mills in 1872, when its generating turbines came on line. By 1899 there were four on the outskirts of town that also provided fire protection for the mills and supplied the Cheney-owned municipal water company, which had a water treatment plant in the district by 1916 (49 Cooper Hill Street). Other municipal utilities provided by the company were gaslight, made by burning coal, followed by electricity, produced at the company's generating plant.
Direct access to rail transportation was provided by the South Manchester Railroad, a two-mile spur line built to connect the mills to the north Manchester station of the Hartford, Providence, and Fishkill Railroad (HPFRR). Chartered by the General Assembly in 1866, with the Cheney family the only stockholders, the line was completed in 1869 and sold to HPFRR. A decade later, Cheney Bros. Company bought the line and added a roundhouse (no longer extant), two more miles of siding, and a number of storage buildings. The silk and railroad car vaults were constructed in 1919 following an attempted robbery of a silk shipment. Although primarily a freight line, there were 18 passenger trains a day by 1881, carrying workers to the mills from North Manchester and Manchester students who attended high school in Hartford.
Cheney Bros. relied mainly on the local native-born labor pool until the company closed its Hartford mill and consolidated operations in Manchester. In the mid-1860s, when England began to import duty-free silk from France, English weavers and throwers who lost their jobs were hired by the Cheneys and provided with housing. By the 1870s skilled workers were actively recruited in Germany, Switzerland, and France. The last two decades of the nineteenth century saw an influx of workers from the Scandinavian countries. Immigrants from the industrial cities of northern Italy were the predominant group in the early 1900s. Although there were ethnic stores in the district, such as the Park Hill Grocery owned and run by a Swedish family (9-13 Chestnut Street) and a number of ethnic churches, there were no exclusively ethnic neighborhoods. Landlords might rent to members of their family or others of the same nationality, but in general the various immigrant groups were dispersed throughout the district. By 1920, out of a total population of 18,000, it is estimated that Cheney Bros. employed two-thirds of the town's adult population. At that time, 60 percent were listed as foreign born, with about half Irish or English and one quarter of Italian origin.
The Cheneys' labor relations policies were aimed at attracting skilled workers and maintaining the stable work force so essential to the success of the company. Chief among them was employee housing. In addition to building and maintaining tenant houses for most of its history, the firm encouraged employees to become homeowners and landlords. Low-interest mortgages were provided by the company's Manchester Building and Loan Association, founded in 1891, and the Manchester Savings Bank, also run by the family. It is not known exactly how many houses were built by the company, but a separate housing division was created.
The Cheneys were among the first industrialists to subsidize workers' benefits, including on-site medical care, insurance, death benefits, and pensions. They also went to great lengths to provide social and recreational facilities, including playing fields and after-school programs for workers' children and a bathhouse at 27 Pleasant Street. Cheney Hall, built in 1867 as a meeting place for employees, was also used for company trade shows (177 Hartford Road. Although Cheney School was built primarily for the family's own use, public education was not neglected. The company built Washington School (94 Cedar Street) and other schools not in the district, along with a female teachers' boardinghouse with accommodations for 100, and a training school for future textile workers. One of the most unusual educational facilities was a Cheney-sponsored c.1909 Open Air School for tubercular children, first held in a tent and later in an open wooden structure, once located on Main Street just north of the South Methodist Church. Among the other Cheney philanthropies was the fire station in the district (230 Pine Street) and the public library on Main Street, a gift to the town from Susan Cheney. Land was donated for most of the ethnic churches in the district, including the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church on Cooper Street that served the German American community.
Despite all these efforts, employee turnover remained a problem. Although Cheney Bros. had a core of loyal employees — about 30 percent had stayed with the company for more than 20 years — by the early 1900s, fully a third quit within four years. Certainly some of the turnover can be attributed to the work environment. Textile mills, even under the best management, were hot and noisy. Employee compensation was another factor. Although well paid by the standards of the day, a piecework and bonus system was company policy for most of its history. Undoubtedly, there also was some resentment of the new scientific production methods introduced by the Cheneys, who had hired some of the first experts in the fields of industrial management and psychology to improve job performance and the pace of production. Although such policies were lauded in labor journals, the first strike, a walkout of the weavers, occurred in 1902. More serious strikes took place in 1923 and 1934, but Cheney Bros. resisted unionization until it was mandated by the federal government in the 1935.
By then the company was bankrupt. From the $23 million banner year of 1923, sales dropped to $10 million in 1931. The decline, which had begun in the 1920s and accelerated during the Depression, was primarily due to competition from the new synthetic fabrics, which were much cheaper to produce, but overproduction was also a factor. The company, which had always maintained high inventories of raw silk and finished goods, suffered substantial losses when the bottom fell out of the silk market. In just three months in 1929, the value of goods on hand dropped by $6 million. Loans from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), a federal agency established to assist businesses during the Depression, wholesale divestment, which included the sale of the gas and light subsidiaries to private state companies and closing down the railroad, failed to halt the downward spiral. Restructured under the new federal bankruptcy laws, the firm was required to retire some family members in executive positions and dismantle the rest of its empire. All non-industrial holdings went on the block. By then most of the Cheney-built housing in the Manchester Historic District was in private hands, but 247 residential properties (747 housing units) were auctioned off. Utilities still under Cheney control were sold to the town.
A brief recovery during World War II, when Cheney Bros. retooled to weave synthetics and manufactured nylon parachutes, was followed by another decline. The company sold out to J.P. Stevens in 1954; second and third generations Cheneys still associated with the firm left town. Predictably, J.P. Stevens, like most textile manufacturers at that time, relocated the more profitable divisions to the South and closed down the Manchester operation. After standing vacant for many years, today some of the buildings have industrial tenants and three have been converted to residential use.
Much of the significance of the Cheney architectural legacy resides in its collective portrayal of the idealized, even romantic view of the Industrial Revolution that prevailed in the last half of the nineteenth century. Their "industrial park," a term the Cheneys used interchangeably for the mill complex and the community as a whole, apparently was modeled on this visionary ideal, which arose from the need to reconcile the obvious benefits of technological progress with the values of the natural agrarian world. A major theme in nineteenth-century American literature, it was often expressed by artists of the period in bird's-eye maps, etchings, and paintings, in which factories were conventionally depicted in a sylvan landscape. The underlying rural-urban dialectic was, of course, much more nuanced, but these "machine in the garden" images persisted and did much to convince the public of the inherent superiority of rural industry.
When Henry Loomis Nelson, editor of Harper's Weekly, described South Manchester as a virtual workers' Utopia in 1872, not surprisingly, the artistic conventions noted above were employed in the accompanying illustrations. One lithograph featured the newly built Cheney Hall, surrounded by giant elms, with strolling workers and their families dressed in their Sunday best pausing to admire the building. Except for a train pulling into the station in the background, no other signs of technology intruded upon this bucolic scene. More telling was one of the Clocktower Spinning Mills in a park-like setting complete with pond and fountain, with happy farmers haying in the foreground. That these images were not intended to be realistic portrayals of the village at that time is obvious. And yet, as the village developed rapidly in the coming decades, contemporary authors recognized that the "Cheney World" incorporated much of the spirit of this ideology.
By 1890 Editor Nelson was convinced that South Manchester was "in many respects...the most attractive mill village in the country." He was impressed with the park-like atmosphere, the cleanliness, the absence of fences, pigsties, and chicken coops, and especially noted that "every phase of the spirit of rural architecture" was represented. A turn-of-the-century description of the village in a brochure published by the American Manufacturers Association entitled "Miracle Workers" also captured the essence of the community, could stand for the district today.
"The silk mills are located in a beautiful park. Nearby in the same park are the residences of the owners of the mill. Well kept lawns, adorned with fine trees and shrubbery, surround the mills and form a pleasing view from the large mill windows. Smooth, winding drives and walks lead from the entrances to the residence sections. Even outside the parked grounds, the shaded streets, the smooth sidewalks and the pleasant homes of the workers, ornamented with vines and shrubbery, give the entire community an air of comfort and prosperity rarely found in an industrial town."
The integrity of this historic architectural setting is remarkable. From the basic infrastructure to the housing, much of the Cheney plan remains in the district today, including the original layout of roads and the size and arrangement of the lots.
Residential areas still reflect the humanist planning principles of the late nineteenth century, which add to the Manchester Historic District's cohesiveness. As was the case in the first planned suburbs or even in the streetcar neighborhoods on the perimeter of cities, Manchester was a walking community. Although the elms the Cheneys planted around the mills and Cheney Hall are gone, shaded tree-lined streets bordered by sidewalks are found throughout the district. Interaction between neighbors was fostered by porches that still adorn practically every home. Historically, there were no structural barriers, even around the Cheney family grounds; even today few fences have been erected, a circumstance which helps maintain the open quality of district neighborhoods. Several other factors contributed to the spaciousness of the district. Since most of the village was developed on Cheney land, the company could afford relatively large lots. Instead of vertically stacked housing, the double and triple-deckers common in a more urban environment where land was at a premium, the Cheneys generally favored horizontally massed units.
The amazing variety of the district's workers' housing is perhaps the most significant feature, certainly one that set the Cheney village apart from other historic industrial communities. Even more remarkable is the fact that so many have survived virtually unchanged. A few houses have been demolished, and here and there a porch has been enclosed, but the majority have retained their historic fabric and architectural detail and are well maintained.
Although lauded for their rural style by the Harper's Weekly article, the Manchester Historic District's houses are quite urban in character and display an exceptionally sophisticated stylistic range. Certainly the Second Empire and Foursquare styles were rarely adapted for workers' housing as they are in the district (58 Cooper Hill Street, 29-31 Edgerton Street and 33-35 Edgerton Street). An uncommon amount of Queen Anne detailing is employed on several vernacular house types (9-11 Church Street, 86-88 Linden Street and 151 Center Street). Even in streetscapes composed of relatively plain houses, such as Type A, or the common Cape, variety was achieved by manipulating the floor plan, the location of porches, or the use of dissimilar roofs (117-119, 123-125, 127-129 Cooper Hill Street; 155 and 159 High Street). Another effective device was the placement of corner houses at an angle on the lots, the case with a number in the western part of the district (54 Fairfield Street).
The obvious similarities of form and plan between company-built vernacular houses and those constructed by private owners certainly suggests that Cheney Bros. exercised some control over housing design in the district. For the architectural historian the source of these plans is a central question. Some may have been derived from pattern books that proliferated in the late 1800s, but a perusal of reprint editions has failed to find similar designs. The origins of Type A, with its rectangular gabled form, was certainly derived from colonial precedent. Although not common, the Type B house was built in limited numbers in the industrial cities of Naugatuck and Middletown, and the cross-gable plan of Type D is, of course, a common nineteenth-century type quite often associated with the Queen Anne style.
The origin of Type C, however, is clear. In its massing and materials, the gambrel-roofed version (86-88 Fairfield Street) is identical to workers' houses designed by Stanford White for Echota, New York, the planned industrial village created by McKim, Mead & White at Niagara Falls White's plans, drawn in 1890 and built in the district in the 1920s, were published in a 1902 labor journal, putting them in the public domain. There may have been a more direct connection since White knew the family and had designed two houses for them in Manchester, which, unfortunately, have not survived. Type C triplexes on Fairfield Street which have recessed dormers have been compared to the so-called "turtle houses" designed by McKim, Mead & White for another village in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, but that attribution seems less likely (19-23 Fairfield Street).
The work of Charles Adams Platt (1861-1933) is well represented in the Manchester Historic District. The son of Mary Elizabeth Cheney Platt, he had a national reputation in landscape and residential architecture. An Impressionist landscape painter of some renown prior to entering the architectural field, he had studied at the National Academy of Design. In addition to the Cheney homes and gardens in Manchester, Platt was the designer of the Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C., campus buildings for the Phillips and Andover academies in Massachusetts, and closer to home, the Maxwell Public Library in the nearby industrial community of Rockville.
The most striking characteristic of the Cheney family homes, including those designed by Platt, is their lack of pretension. Certainly, they represent the pinnacle of architectural style in the district, but most are country estate houses, rather than the mansions one might expect. Partly due to the fact that a number were remodeled around the turn of the century, few exhibit strong stylistic definition. A major exception is the fine Georgian Revival that Platt designed for Frank Cheney, Jr. (20 Hartford Road). It is an especially well-integrated design that includes all the typical style indicators, such as the Palladian window. His other designs utilize similar forms, such as projecting pavilions, but have no overriding central stylistic theme (40 and 50 Forest Street). Among the other houses, only the Tudor Revival is well articulated, displaying the characteristic half-timbered and stuccoed walls common to this style in the Charles Cheney House (architect unknown; 131 Hartford Road). Despite Platt's reputation as a landscape architect and the fact that he designed several Cheney gardens, apparently he was not responsible for the layout of the entire complex. While today the landscaping is somewhat overgrown, the great lawn, the central element of the naturalized park-like setting, still has considerable definition.
Most of Thomas Desmond's plan still exists, including his groves of hemlock, birch, and beech, and, with few exceptions, the placement of playing fields and parking spaces around the perimeter. It was reported in the Manchester Herald that Desmond also approved the designs of park structures, which included the original skating lodge built from timbers salvaged from the Cheney Open Air School.
Given the care and attention paid to the architecture and layout of the silk works, it is obvious that for the Cheneys, the mills were the real heart of the district. Certainly well built and more stylish than the usual textile mills, they are elaborated with corbelling, pilasters, and nicely designed entrances. A case in point is the clock tower on the first Spinning Mill (63 Elm Street). But even later buildings such as the Dressing Mill have nicely composed arched and pedimented doorways (210 Pine Street). What is of greater interest perhaps is the arrangement of the buildings. Invariably they present the shorter facades to the streets, thereby diminishing the massing to human scale. In fact, the sheer mass and scale of these buildings is not readily apparent except in aerial views.
Nearby Cheney Hall, the company's architectural showcase, was the gathering place for the employees, and even the scene of Cheney family weddings (177 Hartford Road). Designed by Hammatt Billings (1818-1875) of Boston, and fully restored to its original glory, this exceptionally distinguished Second Empire building embodies many of the tangible and intangible qualities that contribute to the significance of the Manchester Historic District. The most expressive symbol of the "engaged presence" of the Cheney family, Cheney Hall established the high architectural tone of the district and the future course of an enduring architectural legacy.
The Manchester Historic District Boundary Increase encompasses most of the large residential neighborhood on the east side of Main Street. It extends from East Center Street on the north to Charter Oak Street on the south, which parallels Interstate 384. The boundary increase, locally known as the East Side, connects to the original existing Manchester Historic District at the southern end of Main Street and includes properties on both sides. This connector and the initial blocks of School and Eldridge streets are part of the Cheney Brothers National Historic Landmark District established in 1978.
The East Side was laid out in a rectangular residential grid, with Spruce Street as the central north-south thoroughfare. Most of the east-west streets connect to Main Street on the west. On the east and southeast, the streets rise with the terrain, the beginning of an area once known as South Manchester Heights, a twentieth-century development that is not part of the expansion area.
The Manchester Historic District boundary increase, which more than doubles the size of the original existing Manchester Historic District, contains 1083 resources, 915 (84 percent) contributing and 168 non-contributing. While most of the historic resources are domestic in character and include 601 multi- and single-family houses with associated secondary structures, there are four historic schools and two churches. Of the 362 outbuildings in the boundary area, 304 contribute to its historic character. The remaining 58 non-contributing outbuildings are primarily garages built after 1945. Most of the historic commercial development was limited to small stores, connected to, or part of a dwelling, but there are four exclusively historic commercial buildings. Although there is no industrial core like the Cheney Mill complex in the existing district, there are several historic factories on the outskirts. The rest of the non-contributing resources are modern houses and/or business establishments.
The pattern of stylistic development on the East Side is comparable to that of the existing district. Roughly half the houses can be characterized as vernacular in character, while the rest include major styles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Three of the four vernacular types identified in the existing district are found within the boundary increase. Although most of the houses were built by or for people who worked at Cheney Bros., only a limited number were actually built by the firm. Another major difference is a substantial increase in the number of double- and triple-decker workers' houses.
Almost 75 percent of the 315 vernacular houses in the Manchester Historic District boundary increase can be differentiated by plan and form rather than style. In the existing district only 60 percent could be classified in this manner. As was done in the original nomination, each type has a letter designation (A, B, D). (Type C found in the district is not present here.) They range from simple rectangular duplexes to the more complex massing of H or I plans that housed as many as four families. Some variety within types was achieved by the location of open porches, an almost universal feature, and the use of different roof forms or orientation, as well as a limited amount of stylistic detail. Houses that do not readily fit these type classifications are listed as simply vernacular. They include an exceptional row of cottages at 48, 54, 58, 62, 68, 71-73 and 72 Eldridge Street, which have a gable-to-street orientation. Some still display original eave brackets and porch detailing. Although there were a few extant houses on the East Side before the Civil War, these cottages are among the earliest known workers' housing constructed there by the Cheney Bros. Company.
One of the more obvious duplex types, designated "A", utilize a simple gabled rectangular plan, reminiscent of the Colonial style. Roughly 40 percent of the vernacular houses (99) were designed in this manner. They usually have a ridge-to-street orientation, with a full facade porch and twin brick chimneys. The two-over-four-bay 1896 Davidson-Bogini House at 102 School Street has retained its original porch with scroll-sawn brackets. On another example built about 1890 at 64-66 Holl Street, the doorways are placed at either end of the facade and sheltered by individual gabled porches. An expanded version of this type with a six-bay facade was built in 1886 (64-66 School Street). It is likely that this quadruplex once displayed bracketed door hoods on the facade doorways as it does on the side entrances.
Type B has a more complex plan, with projecting facade pavilions connected by a two-story hyphen with a centered porch, a design employed for just 12 percent (29) of the classified houses. Four-family Type B houses usually have a steep hipped roof and gable or hipped dormers. The brackets on the cutaway corners of the pavilions on the c.1900 example at 14-16 Knighton Street indicate some Queen Anne influence and the slender columns of the two-story porch are Colonial Revival. A similar house at 19-21 Florence Street utilizes turned posts for porch supports; the railings are not original.
Type D, which has a cross- or intersecting-gable plan, was used for almost half (122) of the vernacular multifamily and single houses. Most of the variety displayed in this type comes from the placement and detailing of the porches. For some of the cross-gable duplexes, a full facade porch wraps around to matching recessed wings on either side. Such is the arrangement of the Victorian porches on the c.1910 Grezel-Olson House at 69-71 Foster Street and its neighbor at 73-75 Foster Street, and the John Johnson House at 48-50 Clinton Street built the following year. The later porches are Colonial Revival in style. Facade porches, some with a centered eave pediment, are a common variant, such as the one on the Oritelli House at 88-90 Wells Street, which also displays a decorative truss in the front gable. Several Type D examples have round-arched Italianate style windows in the gables. Among them are the c.1870 Cignetti House at 57-59 Oak Street, which also has the full pediment and door surround of the Greek Revival style. A c.1890 duplex at 43-45 Birch Street combines this Italianate feature with a later Colonial Revival wraparound veranda. An unusual porch with a sweeping roof and decorative spandrel is found on a single-family house of this type at 79 School Street.
Most of the other single-family houses that utilize this plan are classified by style rather than type. Often more highly detailed in the Queen Anne manner, in some the intersecting gables project only a few feet beyond the plane of side elevations, or simply terminate in an oversize wall dormer. Paneled bargeboards and gable peaks distinguish two identical houses built by George Islieb at 20 and 24 Madison Street. A docked-gable version at 72 Bissell Street features an arched two-story wall panel on the main gable, elaborated with imbricated shingles. The Hawley-Warnack House at 31 Madison Street, one of the several larger Queen Annes with a more complex gable on hipped roof and a decorative porch, is completely sheathed with shaped shingles.
The Foursquare became the predominate style by the turn of the century. Often expressed in the Colonial Revival style, this form was even more popular on the East Side than it had been in the original existing district. The majority are duplexes, some with entrances porches at the outside corners such as the Ansaldi House at 138-140 Maple Street, or paired doorways in the center sheltered by a facade porch (25-27 and 29-31 Florence Street). A particularly stylish Foursquare duplex at 122-124 Birch Street has distinctive shaped pediments highlighting the porch entrance and facade dormer. A notable group of single-family houses of this style with subtly different Colonial Revival porticos were built at 36, 37-39 and 42 Maple Street about 1920.
The Colonial Revival influence extended to other forms, such as the gambrel-roofed house at 129 Wells Street, one of several examples of this type. On many of the 43 double-deckers of this style, the second-story half-width porch rests on the lower facade porch roof, the configuration used on one such example at 104 Hamlin Street. Typically, wood shingles differentiate the upper level from the first floor and a small Queen Anne window lights the stairwell. Triple-deckers with Colonial Revival porches may also be influenced by the Queen Anne, as found in the windows of the facade bays on the Thibodeau House at 36 Clinton Street and the Schultz House at 38-40 Clinton Street.
Although rare in the existing district, the Bungalow style was popular on the East Side both before and after World War I. As shown by the exposed rafter ends at 16 Cottage Street, Bungalows were also influenced by the Craftsman style, or the Colonial Revival, as demonstrated at 19 Hamlin Street. Another version, in which the integral porch is contained under the main gable roof, shows evidence of both styles (78 Florence Street).
As is the case in the Manchester Historic District, the expansion area contains a number of larger formal homes, which were owned by local businessmen and Cheney Bros. managers. Although there are a few Queen Annes and Italianates, most were designed in the Foursquare and/or Colonial Revival styles. While the majority are concentrated along East Center Street, one exceptional example was built at 24 Eldridge Street in 1901 by Charles Stenberg. A formally balanced building with essentially a Foursquare form, it is embellished with eave brackets and a Palladian window with tracery in the gambrel roof dormer. The Kenneth B. Blake House at 178 East Center Street has a similar plan but omits the second-story porch; both dwellings are shingled at the second floor. The wraparound veranda with columns and an entrance pediment is found on two nearby houses, the first built in 1901 (172 East Center Street), the second in 1910 (142 East Center Street). The porch of the latter house features a dentil course and a foliated applied detail in the entrance pediment. Across the street at #113 is an unusual combination of a Foursquare with Craftsman-style brackets and doorhood.
Several houses were designed in a more traditional colonial manner. They include a clapboarded example at 201 East Center Street, which has a Federal Revival portico and tripartite window, and pediment roof dormers. Similar dormers are found on a brick house to the east, which is set well back from the street (257 East Center Street). Its detailing is more boldly delineated and approaches the Georgian Revival style.
Much of the institutional development in the boundary increase is located on lower Main Street, the bridge to the existing district. The earliest example is South Manchester High School, an imposing Colonial Revival brick building erected in 1904 on the west side of the street (1146 Main Street). No longer used for education, it has been converted to apartments. To the south are the Late Gothic Revival South United Methodist Church at 1208 Main Street and its Georgian Revival rectory at 1180 Main Street. The church, which was constructed in 1924, is an imposing stone structure with buttresses, pointed-arched windows, and a castellated bell tower. Across the street are Franklin and Barnard Schools, now known as the Elizabeth Bennet Middle School. Erected prior to World War I by Cheney Bros. and historically known as Education Square, this Colonial Revival style complex was composed of three detached brick buildings (now connected) arranged around a quadrangle open to the south, one of which was the East Side Recreation Center. The educational component consists of Franklin School at 1151 Main Street, which faces Main Street, and the nearly identical Barnard School on Vine Street. The company also constructed a heating plant for the school in 1916 at 39 School Street, also the location of the Cheney Bros. Trade School of 1925 at 41-45 School Street. Nathaniel Hale School at 160 Spruce Street, although somewhat modernized, retains its fine pedimented and arched doorway with quoining.
Across the street from Hale School is the 1923 Hose Company #3, one of two fire stations on the East Side (153 Spruce Street). Hose Company #4 was built in 1918 at the beginning of School Street (19 School Street).
Virtually a mirror image of the existing Manchester Historic District, the boundary increase expands upon the district's significant historical and architectural themes and completes the picture of the nationally acclaimed model industrial town that the Cheney Bros. Company created in South Manchester between 1860 and 1945. More than half of the residential development that accompanied the rapid expansion of the Cheney silk industry in this period is encompassed by the new boundaries, as well as some of the more architecturally significant institutional buildings that the Cheney family donated to the community. Developing in tandem with the western neighborhoods, the East Side also produced a generally well-preserved, cohesive collection of domestic architecture, most of which reflects and complements the vernacular types and architectural styles of the existing district. Of particular architectural note is the large body of vernacular workers' housing, which derives further significance as an embodiment of the ethnic history of the community as a whole.
Historical Background and Significance
The Cheney Bros. Company, largest producers of silk velvet in the world, reigned over Manchester for nearly a century. A privately held family business, Cheney Bros. not only responded to the challenges and complexities of the Industrial Revolution, but also prospered long after similarly structured companies failed or were swallowed up by national conglomerates. At the height of its success in the early 1920s, when annual revenues reached $23 million, the company employed 4670 Manchester residents. Among the many factors that contributed to this extraordinary growth and stability was a single-product focus, sophisticated technological development, and an unswerving commitment to the social welfare of the workforce. The firm's later decline, which was accelerated by the Great Depression, resulted in bankruptcy, the forced sale of company-owned utilities, and the auction of company houses in 1937. After a brief recovery during World War II, Cheney Bros. eventually sold out to J. P. Stevens in 1954.
The industrial engine that drove the residential development of the Cheneys' industrial village created architecturally similar neighborhoods on both sides of Main Street. However, the underlying cultural context of the East Side was not predicated on the implicit social contract between the workers and the company so evident in every aspect of village life in the district. Social, economic, and residential development was largely self-generated, rather than company-sponsored. Until the 1920s, there were no ethnic churches or other centralizing institutions built or supported by Cheney Bros. A host of corner stores and coffee shops scattered through the East Side served as the community's social centers until various ethnic clubs were organized by the residents. Although residential growth was stimulated and supported by company policies, unlike the district, Cheney Bros. was not the principal landlord. Yet, the expansion area contained more multiple-family dwellings and a historically higher percentage of rental properties. To explore the reasons for these differences will contribute to a greater understanding and appreciation of the special role that the East Side played in the growth of the Cheney village.
The East Side was the first home for many of the immigrants hired by the company. Just as the first arrivals, English, Irish, Germans, and Scandinavians, had settled in the Manchester Historic District, succeeding waves of skilled workers came here from France, Sweden, Northern Italy, Russia, Poland, and other eastern European countries and settled in this more ethnically diverse neighborhood. Several boardinghouses were available for single female workers, but most families rented part of a multi-family house. Although a few places were company-owned, more often than not, their landlords were other Cheney employees, who had arrived earlier. In time many of these newcomers invested in a home and put down permanent roots on the East Side.
Whereas in the Manchester Historic District the Cheney family owned much of the land, laid out the streets, and provided a substantial amount of company housing, most of the East Side was in private hands. Nineteenth-century farmers such as Daniel Eldridge and Frances Cowles, together with entrepreneurs Samuel U. Brown and William Bidwell, a carpenter, gradually subdivided and sold off their property for residential development, a process continued by their heirs in the twentieth century. For example, after Brown's death, his widow transferred their remaining undeveloped land on the eastern end of Eldridge Street to the Holl Realty Company, which created a small subdivision known as the Eldridge Street extension. It was this type of private initiative combined with new company housing policies that produced most of the housing stock on the East Side after 1900.
Recognizing the home ownership would contribute to a stable workforce, Cheney Bros. provided low-interest mortgages through two family-owned enterprises, the Manchester Building and Loan Association, founded in 1891, and the Manchester Savings Bank. Workers were encouraged to use these loans to build duplexes and larger multifamily homes so that rental income would offset their mortgage payments. On the East Side, this policy resulted in a dramatic increase in house construction, much of which was tenant housing. As a result, although Cheney Bros. erected worker's housing in the district up through the historic period, the firm stopped building on the East Side, after having erected only about 40 houses between 1865 and 1890, which represents only ten percent of the firm's total housing stock. Of these, 26 are still standing, mainly in the southern part of the expansion area, where the Cheneys owned some land.
Research in land records and city directories for the architectural surveys of this area reveal that many skilled workers took advantage of this policy to build not only their own homes but additional homes for rent, especially after 1900. Such was the case with William Shields, an Irish-born weaver, who built two rental duplexes on School Street, a Foursquare in 1914 and a Type B duplex in 1917, and also rented out the half of his own home built in 1893 across the street (136-138, 140 and 137-139 School Street). Among the many residents who owned two properties was William Islieb, who built the two matching single-family Queen Annes at 20 and 24 Madison Street.
Occasionally a second house was built at the rear of the same lot, as was the case with Vietch-Saimond duplexes at 137R and 139-141 Oak Street. Robert Vietch, a second-generation Irish American and a Cheney employee, had bought the lot from the heirs of Daniel Eldridge, as did many others on this street. Although built around 1900, his first house was a Colonial Revival Type A, the one at the rear a cross-gable Type D. In 1905 both houses were sold to Paol Saimond, an Italian-born mason, and they remain in the hands of his descendants.
A few employees bought their lots directly from Cheney Bros. Such was the case with the 1896 Type A duplex built by William Davidson at 102 School Street. In 1918 the property was sold to Guglilo Boggini, a velvet weaver from Italy, and the family has lived there ever since. Cheney Bros. also sold the lot for two houses built by John Mahoney in 1886 and 1911 at 60-62 and 66-68 Maple Street.
While workers' houses built by Cheney Bros. generally remained in company hands until the auction of 1937, starting in 1890 individual Cheney family members began to dispose of their property on the East Side. For example, Frank Cheney, the first president of the company, owned several lots with a house on Charter Oak Street, which he sold to Peter Mioz, a silk dresser from France. Mioz lived in the extant house at #160 and built two more houses for investment (160, 170-172 and 176-178 Charter Oak Street). Farther east on this street were four duplexes owned by the company (208-210, 218-220, 224-226 and 238-240 Charter Oak Street) and others that are no longer standing. Richard Cheney, a member of the board of directors, owned two Type B duplexes on this street which he sold in 1906 (96 and 98 Charter Oak Street). They remained rental properties until 1922, when they were purchased by the Pantulak and Saverick families from Russia. Richard, who had also acquired a house on Wells Street from a local realtor in 1891, held on to that investment until 1923, when it was sold to an Irish-born silk weaver, Mary McConville (63 Wells Street). John S. Cheney, another board member, also had two rental units on this street, both built about 1880 (88-90 and 89 Wells Street). They were sold in 1891 to James Wartley, an Irish-born weaver. The Wartley family lived at #89 and rented out the duplex next door until 1913, when Wartley's Austrian-born widow Anna, also a weaver, sold it to Oswald Schultz, a weaver from Germany. Knight Dexter Cheney, who succeeded Frank as president, sold his land on Oak Street to one of the few out-of-town developers in the village. All but one of the homes built on that subdivided property were Foursquares (140-142, 146, 150-152, 154 and 155 Oak Street).
Cheney foremen and managers presumably took advantage of the mortgage programs to build or buy houses on East Center Street. Among them were Kenneth Blake, an assistant supervisor (178 East Center Street) and Arthur Helm, who lived in the Queen Anne at #156-158 in the 1920s. Some of their neighbors were Main Street business owners, such as Justus Hale, who had a department store there (172 East Center Street), and George Allen, who had a local carriage and concrete company in town (142 East Center Street). In 1938 it was purchased by the Watkins Brothers, a undertaking business founded in 1874, and it still serves in that capacity.
Italian-Americans were responsible for most of the commercial development on the East Side. Some started in a small way with a store in a front room of their homes, and a number eventually added storefront additions or built separate stores on their properties. Among them was the Farr family who owned several houses and stores on Charter Oak Street (114-116, 120, 125-127 and 131 Charter Oak Street). The Cignettis built a house with a store at 55 Oak Street; the family lived next door (57-59 Oak Street) in a duplex erected about 1870. Vincenzo Iuliano opened a bakery and pastry shop on Spruce Street where Vincent Gervaso once ran a macaroni factory (207 Spruce Street). Pasquale Geoealo had his home and shop at the corner of Eldridge and Spruce streets. In the old-country tradition, these establishments also served as neighborhood meeting places. In 1914, Italian Americans organized the Sub-Alpine Athletic Club, a social and benevolent society, and built a clubhouse at 135 Eldridge Street.
Other immigrants showed similar initiative on Spruce Street. Despite his name Harry England was born in Ireland. Once employed by the Rogers Paper Company, he opened a grocery store there in 1914 (252 Spruce Street), a business carried on by his son. The Burkes, another Irish family, owned two houses, one with a general store, just up the street (277 and 281 Spruce Street). After Austrian-born William Oswald purchased a tenant house at #183, he added a storefront for his grocery. The house had been the property of Ernest Borst, a German silk weaver who lived on the corner at 99 Oak Street. Harry Scranton, one of the few native-born residents, opened a tea and coffeehouse at 302 Spruce Street by 1900 and lived nearby at 307-309 Spruce Street
Charles Stenberg, one of the leaders of the Swedish community, married the daughter of Samuel Brown, a major landowner on the East Side. Stenberg succeeded to the ownership of Brown's livery stable and grocery on Eldridge Street (no longer extant) and built his fine Foursquare next door in 1921 (24 Eldridge Street). Swedish Lutherans had their own church in the district; on the East Side, the Swedish Congregational Church was erected in 1892 (43 Spruce Street). The Sega Swedish Benevolent Society was one of the many organizations that met in Orange Hall on East Center Street, part of the Main Street Historic District.
By World War I Cheney Bros. began to take a greater interest in the welfare of the East Side. Since there was nothing comparable to the 1867 Cheney Hall, the company showplace and community center in the district, plans were made to include the East Side Recreational Center in the Franklin and Barnard School complex on lower Main Street (1151 Main Street). Equipped with a swimming pool and gymnasium, it also was used by adults after school. The complex, built on the site of the Ninth District School that had burned down, was donated to the town. It was part of a major philanthropic effort on the part of the Cheneys to improve educational opportunities in the community, which, not incidentally, assured the company of an educated labor pool. In fact, the curriculum at the trade school called for on-the-job training at Cheney Mills. They had built and donated South Manchester High School in 1904, which of course, served the whole community (1146 Main Street). Prior to that time students attended high school in Hartford, commuting every day on the Cheney-owned South Manchester Railroad. Having built Washington School in the district in 1920, the company built Nathan Hale School at 160 Spruce Street in 1922. Both elementary schools are located in the center of their respective neighborhoods.
The architectural development of the East Side expands upon the significance of the Manchester Historic District in several respects. The large body of domestic architecture, which includes a significant vernacular component, as well as an important collection of institutional buildings, all have their counterparts in the district. While there is a remarkable congruence in the quality and variety of architectural types and styles, the East Side as a whole exhibits some subtle differences. Most obvious is a greater population density, a more predictable street pattern, and the lack of dedicated open space, all evidence of the absence of the Cheney master plan that prevailed in the district.
As was the case in the district, it was the remarkable variety of the East Side housing stock that created, in the words of a company recruiting brochure, the "air of comfort and prosperity rarely found in an industrial town." While in the Manchester Historic District, interesting streetscapes were largely achieved by deliberate design, on the East Side it was the very randomness of development that produced the same effect. As each streetscape developed over time, initial blocks might contain the full range of indigenous vernacular types, but they were often interspersed with later examples of these types, as well as the newer styles and forms of the twentieth century.
One of the most striking aspects of the East Side domestic architecture is the extraordinary popularity of the Foursquare form and style. Once introduced about 1900, it became the style of choice throughout the expansion area. Cottages, duplexes, and rather grand single-family homes were produced in this form and no two are exactly alike. While workers' duplexes with Victorian and Colonial Revival porches are similar to some in the district, there is nothing to compare to some of the stylish individual expressions of this style erected in working-class neighborhoods on Birch and Eldridge streets.
Although somewhat less in evidence, Bungalows are another distinguishing feature of the East Side. Either interspersed at random on some of the few remaining vacant lots, or erected in larger numbers as they were on Florence Street, this new form added considerable variety to the predominate two-story rhythm of the streetscapes.
Major architectural firms were commissioned to design the two schools that form such a strong institutional bridge between the residential neighborhoods on the west and east sides of the downtown. Hartwell, Richardson, and Driver of Boston, the firm responsible for South Manchester High School of 1904, created a formally balanced H-plan typical of school construction of that period (1146 Main Street). However, from its exceptionally fine front portico to its classically derived facade, it is a highly sophisticated rendition. The ascending stories are reduced in height and delineated by different embellishments and window treatments. Conversion of this handsome building to elderly housing did not substantially affect its exterior integrity.
A more modern approach is seen in Education Square across the street. As designed by Carrere and Hastings of New York, the complex was composed of four Colonial Revival style buildings, organized around a quadrangle, an arrangement more typical of a college campus. The fourth building, a library, was omitted as construction costs mounted. The simply designed brick connectors that now join these buildings do not detract from the original concept. Both Franklin School, which faces Main Street, and Barnard School on Vine Street have nearly identical designs with projecting parapeted pavilions and recessed Doric-order entrances with fanlights, as well as other Neoclassical motifs. Together with South United Methodist Church, this complex frames the southern gateway to downtown Manchester. With its tower and pointed arches, the church, designed by Arthur Eaton Hill, is an exceptionally well-integrated and representative example of Late Gothic ecclesiastical architecture (1208 Main Street).
Buckley, William E. A New England Pattern: A History of Manchester, Connecticut. Chester, Connecticut: Pequot Press, 1973.
Cheney Expansion Survey, Phase Two. Connecticut Historical Commission and the Town of Manchester Planning Department, 1982.
Historical and Architectural Resources Survey of Manchester, Connecticut Main Street and East Side Neighborhood. Connecticut Historical Commission and the Town of Manchester Planning Department, 1993.
(The) Miracle Workers. Manchester, Connecticut, Cheney Bros., 1916.
Morgan, Keith N. Charles A. Platt: The Artist as Architect. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1985.
Nelson, Henry Loomis, ed. "An Industrial Experiment at South Manchester, Connecticut." Harper's Weekly (November 1872).
________. "The Cheney's Village at South Manchester, Connecticut." Harper's Weekly (February 1890).
Preservation and Development Plan for the Cheney Brothers National Historic Landmark District. Anderson Notter Finegold, Inc. 1980.
‡ Adapted from: Jan Cunningham, Cunningham Preservation Associates and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Manchester Historic District, Manchester, CT, nomination document, 1999, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
‡ Adapted from: Jan Cunningham, Cunningham Preservation Associates and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Manchester Historic District (Boundary Increase), Manchester, CT, nomination document, 2000, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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