The Marion Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination documetn. [‡]
The Marion Historic District is a historic residential community located along Marion Avenue in the southwest corner of the Town of Southington; it also includes two buildings in the Town of Cheshire. The Marion Historic District comprises approximately 38 acres and 82 resources. There are 34 primary buildings, 12 outbuildings, and one site that contribute to the historical and architectural significance of the district, and together these comprise 57 percent of the Marion Historic District's total resources.
Of the 34 primary contributing buildings, 6 date from the 18th century, 23 from the 19th century, and 5 from the 20th century. Their breakdown by styles is Colonial 4, Georgian 2, Federal 4, Greek Revival 9, Italianate 4, Queen Anne 1, 19th-century vernacular 5, Colonial Revival 3, American Foursquare 1, and Bungalow 1.
The activity center of the Marion Historic District is the intersection of Marion Avenue and the Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike, the location of the Marion post office and firehouse. Buildings within the Marion Historic District are well spaced from one another along tree-lined highways. Scattered throughout the Marion Historic District are newer homes, built between World War II and the present, on what was formerly farmland. These are generally integrated with the historic streetscape in scale, setback, and style. Many of the houses in the Marion Historic District stand on long deep lots of several acres, which has preserved the rural ambiance of the district, and a few houses still retain their 19th-century barns. One operating farm, a small tree farm, remains at 1371 Marion Avenue.
Perhaps the oldest house in the Marion Historic District to retain its original form is the Miles Upson House, 1316 Marion Avenue. The one-story house is unusual for the period because its central entrance is located on the gable end, which faces the street. On its south side is a recessed porch sided with wide beaded vertical boards and facing a well. Other examples of colonial architecture in the Marion Historic District include 1070, 1433, and 1896 Marion Avenue, all small simple one-story structures. The two-story James Porter House, 1325 Marion Avenue, and the Harman Merriman House, 1084 Marion Avenue, share the center-hall plan of the Georgian style. The Merriman house gained a number of Italianate and Stick-style additions in the 19th-century, including an elaborate two-story front porch with quatrefoil frieze, two-story bay windows, and radial struts in the gables.
Adamesque detailing appears on two Federal style houses, 1896 Marion Avenue and the Philo Barnes House at 1177 Marion Avenue. The Barnes House has bands of alternating horizontal and vertical ellipses running above the windows and door and as a frieze under the eaves. On 1896 Marion Avenue, a delicate dentil course runs above the second-floor windows, and similar detailing marks the frieze board and the cornice of the gable pediment. There is an elliptical window in its tympanum.
Two later Federal houses show some influence of the Greek Revival style. The massing, window caps, and absence of corner pilasters of 2309 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike are characteristic of the Federal style, while its end-gable pediment and front entrance flanked by pilasters that support an entablature are Greek Revival features. Next door, 2283 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike has similar Greek Revival detailing surrounding its recessed entrance.
The Greek Revival style is represented in the greatest number of houses in the district, 9. These houses generally have received additions or have been covered in aluminum siding, but are, nonetheless, clear examples of their style.
Most of the Greek Revival houses in the Marion Historic District are two-story, three-bay, temple-form clapboard structures, some with full gable pediments, such as the Levi B. Frost House at 1089 Marion-Avenue, others with simple gable end returns, as in 1352 Marion Avenue. One of the earliest examples of the style may be 2344 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike, with its entrance on the long side and a gable pediment facing the street. An unusual Greek Revival design is the one-story house at 697 Burritt Street, which has six bays along its side and is built into the side of a hill. Although cited by the WPA Census as built in 1805, its 6-over-6 windows, gable end returns, and original doorway (located at the fourth bay and since removed) with pilasters and entablature are typical Greek Revival features.
The DeWitt Upson House at 1401 Marion Avenue is another variation of the Greek Revival temple form, with a two-bay facade and wide paneled corner boards supporting plain entablatures. One-story porches to each side, which provide access to the doors, have their precedent in the flanking wings of a Roman Doric temple.
The district has four fine examples of the Italianate style. One of the best is the James Upson House at 1422 Marion Avenue. The house's hipped roof is extremely shallow, with wide eaves overhanging a wide frieze with rectangular attic windows and a wrap-around porch with square posts, molded capitals, and sawn brackets. The Ira Frost House, 1070 Marion Avenue, is an L-shaped version of the same design. A more unusual Italianate house is the Sutliff House at 1273 Marion Avenue, square in plan with a hipped roof with wide eaves, a three-bay facade, and a large elliptical window over its central doorway. The house has a stark appearance that may be symptomatic of unknown alterations over its history. A brick version of the Italianate style in its later years is 1237 Marion Avenue, built originally as a church. Now a firehouse, the building has lost its second-floor entrance but retains its tall arched windows, roof brackets, and brick dentiling. The bank of earth into which it was built has been removed to provide at-grade access to the basement level for fire trucks.
The Marion Historic District has one fine Queen Anne house, located at 1166 Marion Avenue. The house's irregular massing, steeply pitched roof, and three-story tower with pyramidal roof are typical of the style. Its barn is also intact.
The Colonial Revival style gained popularity in the Marion Historic District in the 1930s. The house at 1305 Marion Avenue is similar to a New England Colonial house in its design and has an off-center chimney, steeply pitched gable roof, and a central entrance with pilasters and sidelights. A more vernacular example of the early twentieth-century period is the Marion Schoolhouse, 1135 Marion Avenue, a long one-story building with a row of windows running across its facade.
The Marion Historic District has one industrial building, the former L.B. Frost and Sons bolt factory at 1108 Marion Avenue. Now covered in aluminum siding, the building is a two-story plain rectangular block with 8x3 bays. It once was connected to a long building which ran along Judd Brook (now Humiston Brook) to its north.
The contributing site in the Marion Historic District is Lot 82 on Marion Avenue, a small 25'x52' park with a monument commemorating General Jean Baptiste Rochambeau's encampment on the site ("French Hill") in 1781. A 40"x41" bronze plaque of Rochambeau is mounted on a granite slab, which replaced, in 1971, the 7'x9' concrete die on which the plaque was originally mounted in 1912. To the rear of the park is a marble block commemorating Southington men who fought in the Civil War.
The architecture of the Marion Historic District is significant as a collection of well-preserved buildings dating from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries which together reflect the historical development of the Marion community of Southington. Particularly noteworthy within the Marion Historic District are several fine Federal, Greek Revival, and Italianate residences.
Three periods in the development of the Marion area of Southington are represented by the Marion Historic District's architecture: early agricultural development, 1770-1842; 19th-century industrial activity and community growth, 1842-1900; and early suburban growth, 1914-1938.
The lands of the Marion area were first surveyed and divided in 1739. At that time Southington was part of Farmington, and the Marion area was known as "Little Plain," an area which swept from a bluff, later called "French Hill," south to the Cheshire line (then south of its present location). The first settlers of the area included families whose names have long been prominent in Marion's history, including Barnes, Upson, Cowles, Langdon, and Newell.
The soil of Southington was sandy and generally not well adapted to intensive farming except for the lands skirting the mountains. As Little Plain lay just east of a high ridge, several farms were established there in the 18th century along the road now called Marion Avenue, a north-south route from Bristol to New Haven. In 1813, the Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike was completed and ran east to west through the center of the area.
One large landowner, Asa Barnes, established a tavern in his home at 1089 Marion Avenue around 1765 and entertained officers of the Revolutionary War troops of General Jean Baptiste Rochambeau, who were camped nearby on French Hill in 1781. Much of the house burned in 1836, was rebuilt in the Greek Revival style by Levi B. Frost, and is listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places. A monument commemorating Rochambeau's encampment was erected nearby on French Hill in 1912 by the American Irish Historical Society, which conveyed the site, located at 1038 Marion Avenue, to the Town of Southington in 1927.
Growth in the Marion Historic District, gradual during the first half of the 19th century, was due in large part to families dividing their lands among their many children. Levi B. Frost had four sons, Reuben, Ira, Lewis, and Levi D., all of whom lived in proximity to one another at 1070, 1073, 1084, and 1089 Marion Avenue. The Upson family owned hundreds of acres south of the Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike and is responsible for several of the houses in the Marion Historic District, including 1897, 1422, 1401, 1316, and 1273 Marion Avenue. One long-time resident, Asahel Upson (1783-1867) had nine sons, some of whom ran a business in Marion, Alabama, as did the son of Perry Langdon, an Upson neighbor. When the district was to have its first post office in the mid-19th century, the area was named Marion in their honor.
The growth was also due in part to the development of small industries in the area. 1108 Marion Avenue is the site of the one of the original factory buildings of L.B. Frost and Son, a manufacturer of carriage bolts and nuts. Levi B. Frost got his start as a blacksmith, and embarked in the bolt business on the site in 1842. Seven years later, he bought out the bolt business begun by Micah Rugg of Marion, who invented bolt cutting machines which revolutionized the carriage bolt industry. In 1866, L.B. Frost's business passed on to his son, Levi D., who manufactured carriages and wagons at the site in addition to bolts.
The cornerstone for the Marion Chapel at 1237 Marion Avenue was laid in 1874 by the Marion Chapel Association, a group of neighbors who built the church to avoid the long travel to established churches. From the time of its completion until after the turn of the century, building activity in the district was sparse.
In 1914, a trolley line was laid through Marion from Waterbury to Southington and opened the area to its first suburban development. The automobile replaced the trolley for travel by the 1930s, and additional suburban residences were built in the district at that time. Suburban growth in the Marion Historic District has continued steadily to the present, with a marked increase in recent years.
The Marion Historic District is one of Southington's best collections of rural historic architecture of the late 18th and early and mid-19th centuries. The Marion Historic District has experienced two recent decades of intense growth and development in the area, but most of its original buildings have been left intact, and new infill of generally modest houses has not interrupted the rhythm of the streetscape in proportion or setback.
Many of the earliest houses surviving in the Marion Historic District were built as small, relatively simple structures, and remain so. One of the best preserved is the Miles Upson House, 1316 Marion Avenue, which is particularly noteworthy as the only example in Southington of a Colonial house with its unusual gable-end plan and recessed porch. The other Colonial houses in the Marion Historic District, such as 1433 and 1896 Marion Avenue, have had subsequent additions but are significant as survivors from Marion's early period.
Among the Marion Historic District's Federal houses, two are noteworthy for the fine Adamesque detailing retained along their friezes and window lintels, 1897 Marion Avenue and 1177 Marion Avenue. The latter has been carefully rehabilitated after undergoing several unsympathetic alterations earlier in this century.
The Greek Revival and Italianate styles were in fashion during the district's period of greatest growth, 1840-1875. Fine houses in these styles collectively form the Marion Historic District's most architecturally significant resource. The Levi B. Frost House at 1089 Marion Avenue is a well-preserved house typical of many of the Greek Revival residences in the district. It is characterized by a full gable pediment, 3-bay facade, and left entrance surrounded by pilasters and entablature. Juxtaposed against the formal Greek Revival houses are the more fanciful Italianate residences. Two homes with excellent integrity in the style are the James Upson House, 1422 Marion Avenue, and the Ira Frost House, 1070 Marion Avenue, both with shallow hipped roofs, wide eaves, and wrap-around porches. An Italianate house design not found elsewhere in Southington is the Louis Sutliff House, 1273 Marion Avenue, with its large elliptical window at the second-floor level.
Although some alterations were made when it was converted to a firehouse, the Marion Chapel, 1237 Marion Avenue, is a good example of the Italianate style applied to ecclesiastical architecture.
The Marion Historic District's architecture also reflects the onset of new stylistic influences in the area. For example, 2283 and 2309 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike, both built in the 1820s, show characteristics of both the Federal style and the emerging Greek Revival style. The Greek Revival style Lewis Frost House, 1073 Marion Avenue, has the broad eaves of the emerging Italianate style. Likewise, the DeWitt Upson House, built in 1848 at 1401 Marion Avenue, displays classic Greek Revival features but the tall narrow profile and side entrances common to Italianate houses.
While the Marion Historic District has only one house built in the Queen Anne style, 1166 Marion Avenue, it is an excellent example of the style and adds to the district's stylistic variety. Its roof peaks and square tower are echoed in the design of its large barn, contemporary with the house, with its multiple gables and square pointed monitor. Both house and barn are well preserved.
The Harmon Merriman House, 1084 Marion Avenue, exemplifies the trend in the Victorian era to embellish older houses with modern porches and detailing. Many of these additions, like those on the Merriman House, have become significant in their own right. Another example is 1371 Marion Avenue, a formal Greek Revival house enlivened with a late 19th-century wraparound porch.
The Marion Historic District contains good examples of 20th-century architectural styles which emerged as Marion began to function as a suburb, among these 1154 Marion Avenue, a Bungalow, and 1226 Marion Avenue, an American Foursquare. Two well-preserved Colonial Revival residences are 1276 Marion Avenue and 1305 Marion Avenue. The latter is important as a design of Kelly and Kelly, in which J. Frederick Kelly was a partner. Kelly was Connecticut's leading architect/scholar of Colonial architecture and author of Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut.
The L.B. Frost and Son factory at 1008 Marion Avenue is significant as one of the last surviving examples of known industrial architecture in the Marion Historic District. Still visible are traces of the stone walls lining Humiston Brook (formerly Judd Brook) in the area where the company dammed the brook for power. A former tinner's shop remains behind the James Upson house at 1422 Marion Avenue. James Upson's grandfather started a small business making tin utensils in the early 19th century.
The site of Rochambeau's encampment, now marked by a small park just north of 1038 Marion Avenue, is significant both for its connections to the historic events which took place there and for the design of the monument standing at its center. The monument's bronze plaque was sculpted in 1912 by James Edward Kelley. Kelley, born in 1855, studied at the National Academy of Design and became an illustrator for such magazines as Scribner's, St. Nicholas, and Harper's, but after 1881 devoted himself exclusively to sculpture. Among his other works related to military history are the Monmouth Battle Monument, 1885, and the 6th Calvalry Monument at Gettysburg, 1890.
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‡‡ Janice F Eliott and David F. Ransom, consultants, and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Marion Historic District, Southington Connecticut, nomination document, 1988, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.