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Frederick S Sanford House

Bridgewater Town, Litchfield County, CT

The Frederick S. Sanford House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]


The Frederick S. Sanford House (also known as Glover and Frederick Sanford House) is located on the north side of Hat Shop Hill Road, approximately one-half mile west of the center of the Town of Bridgewater, a rural community in western Connecticut. Remodelled about 1850 as an Italian villa around the original house on this site, it sits on a slight rise above the street facing south. It has retained its original historic setting: a large, sloping landscaped lot with broad expanses of lawn, bordered by hedges and rock walls. Mature maples and a hickory tree frame the house; some are 48" in diameter. Modern additions to the building include a two-car garage about 1950, attached to the rear of the house by a small ell. The present [1988] owners have added a second story to the garage and an open porch to the east of the ell.[1] An asphalt driveway runs along the west side of the lot to the garage, bending away from the house to preserve its setting and view from the street. A small modern barn is located to the rear and north of the house.

The Frederick Sanford House was remodelled several times in the 19th century before it achieved its final form and appearance. These changes were both structural and stylistic, taking a one-and one-half story building (20'x 24'), possibly a Cape style house, to a two-story, cube-form Greek Revival, and finally to the Italian villa that exists today.

The present main block of the house is almost square in plan (34'x 28'). Two stories in height, it has the cube form and slightly pitched, hipped tin roof. Its wood frame is sheathed with clapboards and rests on an exposed cut granite foundation with a granite watertable around the rear and most of the side elevations. A centrally-located tower is flanked by open porches.

Earlier structural changes are visible in the framework of the building. The adzed sill beams in the cellar date from the original configuration. About 1840, the house and its foundation were extended seven feet to the east and west. At that time the first-floor framing was replaced. The replacement joists were sawn rather than hewn and run the full width of the building over the cellar. The former east and west sills then became carrying beams which are currently supported by a series of lally columns. The cellar was not enlarged at this time; the new addition has a crawl space rather than a full foundation. The present hipped tin roof was added over the new front center addition and part of the older house.[2] The seven foot extensions on each side of the roof have flat roofs, pitched for drainage to the perimeter of the hip. A similar extension across the rear slopes away from the house. The sloping rear roof over the kitchen was retained and extended the full width of the house, making the original kitchen an ell to the main block. Although several interior features are typically Greek Revival in style, a wide corner board at the northeast corner, simulating a pilaster, and a frieze board under the eaves at the rear of the main block are the only exterior vestiges of this period of the building's history.

The transformation of the house to an Italian villa was accomplished by the addition of a square, three-stage tower at the center of the facade, flanked by open porches on either side. Italianate style posts support the porch roofs. At this time open, possibly columned, porches at the front corners from the Greek Revival phase were incorporated into the house, creating a double parlor across the front. One-story, projecting bay windows were added on either side of the building in the first bay.

The tower displays tall round-arched windows and contains the main entrance to the house. Five doors open off the vestibule in the tower. In addition to the round-arched and panelled main door, doors open to either porch and into each parlor. Both the entrance and the second-floor windows have projecting Italianate hoods with corner drops. The hood at the second story is further elaborated with scroll-sawn scalloped trim. Carved wooden brackets support the cornices of the tower roof at each corner. The third level of the tower extends completely above the roof and has the appearance of a cupola. A low-pitched center gable forms an eave pediment over an arcade of three stilted-arched windows on each face of the tower. Foliated hand-carved bas reliefs of wood are applied to the wall surface under each pediment, a feature also found on the ceiling of the entrance door hood.

The successive remodellings have created some distinct anomalies in the interior of the house. Interior walls have been moved and rebuilt, most evident in the upstairs hall, where the two rooms on the west side bulge into the hall space, particularly the one on the southwest corner. The outside corners of the plastered walls are curved rather than squared off; the inside corner of the southwest bedroom is squared, the one in the rear bedroom is concave. Similar curved corners are found in other locations, including where the bay windows join the inside wall in the parlors. In the tower, a curved wall returns to the window frame under the narrow stairs to the third level.

Several changes were necessary to accommodate the double parlor across the front of the house. The main staircase, which would have been located more to the front in the Greek Revival period of the house, has been pushed back. As a result, the winders at the top of the stairs are narrow and have more of a rise than the rest of the treads. Two doors from the vestibule into the parlors were required by the location of the double pocket doors which separate the two rooms. These rooms are identical with matching fenestration and wooden fireplace surrounds with a black faux marble finish. The walls and ceilings are canvas over plaster and fully stencilled in Victorian patterns and colors here and throughout the house.[3]

Most of the original trim around the doors and windows in the less formal rooms is plain boards with the exception of the southwest (front) bedroom, which has corner blocks with anthemion carvings. These Greek Revival style surrounds may be a later addition, but it is more likely that the original surround of the west window was moved to its present location when the house was widened. The floorboards in this room show a clear change at about 6.6 feet in from the outside (west) wall. In the more formal rooms, such as the parlors and the dining room, an edge moulding frames the trim boards; similar mouldings have been added to the casework in some of the other rooms.


The Frederick S. Sanford House is an architecturally significant vernacular Italian country villa in an exceptional state of preservation. It has local historic importance for its association with Glover and Frederick S. Sanford, prominent citizens of Bridgewater who ran a successful hat manufacturing business there for 50 years.

Historical Background

Glover and Frederick Sanford, the two members of the family most prominently associated with the house, were descendants of Nehemiah Sanford, who came to New Milford from Redding, Connecticut, in 1772. He and his wife (name not known) had two sons, Liffe and Nehemiah, who married and had families. Liffe Sanford (1750-1815) came with his father from Redding, Connecticut, served in the Revolution for seven years, and returned home to become a farmer. He married Huldah — (1756-1843). Their third son, Glover, born in 1797, was the second member of the Milford branch of the family to enter the hat-making trade. At age eighteen, after his father's death, he was apprenticed to his brother John Sanford, who was already established in business in Brookfield. In 1820 Glover opened his own hat shop in Salisbury and married Betsey Lake of Brookfield (1800-1859) in 1821. He returned to his hometown in 1823, settling in the section then known as Bridgewater, a separate ecclesiastical society of New Milford established in 1802. Glover founded a successful family enterprise, bringing each of his four sons into his hat-making business as they came of age. He bought several acres west of the town center which included an existing Georgian/Italianate style brick house to the immediate west of the nominated property, and quite probably the small house which is the core of the present building.

From 1823 to 1870, when the firm, then known as Glover Sanford and Sons, removed to Bridgeport to be nearer the railroad, the hat factory in Bridgewater continued to expand. Although hatting was a major cottage industry in Bridgewater with five other hatters in town, the Sanfords were the only ones to have their own factory. It was located on a small stream to the east of the nominated property. Nothing remains of the large complex of wood buildings. The firm was exceptionally large for its day, especially in such a small community. It employed 125 men, producing $300,000 worth of hats per year.[4] In 1882 the firm was still in operation in Bridgeport. By this time it was run by the three surviving sons: Charles H., Homer B., and Edwin G. Sanford. Frederick S. had predeceased his father.

All of Glover's sons lived in Bridgewater in houses provided by their father. The nominated property was jointly owned by the father and Frederick, his third son. In 1849 Frederick Sanford (dates unknown) married Adeline Treat of Bridgewater, a descendant of Governor Robert Treat. Their house had probably already been remodelled in the Greek Revival style by Glover Sanford in anticipation of the marriage of one of his sons. It is unlikely that Frederick in his mid-twenties at the time of his marriage would have been in a position to do so.

The Sanfords were active in town affairs. Glover Sanford was appointed postmaster under President Andrew Jackson and held that post for 11 years. After the incorporation of Bridgewater in 1856, he served as one of the original first selectmen. Glover was also one of the original incorporators and directors of the Bank of Litchfield in New Milford, which became the First National Bank of New Milford. His son Frederick represented the town in General Assembly in 1862.

The house was sold in 1873 to the Randall family. In 1895 it was purchased by the Hill family and remained in their possession until Daisy Sanford, a relative by marriage of the original owner, bought the property. In keeping with the family tradition of public service, her husband, David Curtis Sanford, was the first selectman of Bridgewater for many years and also represented the town in the General Assembly. The property was inherited by the Sanford daughters in 1953 and sold to the present owners in 1976.

Architectural Significance

The Frederick Sanford House is a distinguished example of an Italian villa, displaying an unusual degree of sophistication in its exterior architectural detailing. It is the only example of the villa style in Bridgewater, as well as the best example of its type and style in the New Milford-Bridgewater area, towns which are known for their exceptional nineteenth-century architecture. Its architectural significance is enhanced by its unusual building history and the exceptional integrity of its nineteenth-century setting. Well-maintained and preserved, it still conveys a distinct sense of time and place.

The house clearly belongs to the genre of the "country villa," as promoted by Andrew Jackson Downing.[5] One or two examples are found in many New England towns, often the residence of a prominent businessman, as it is here. Typically, they were built in a L-shaped plan with the Tuscan tower connecting the wings. The central location of the tower of the Sanford House is less common, but given the building history of the house, it is in the only possible location.

The somewhat naively developed plan for the last stage of the remodelling belies the sophisticated exterior appearance of the house and suggests that it is the work of a country builder, perhaps the owner, rather than an architect. The unconventional plan adds architectural interest to the building. Those awkwardnesses that do occur in the plan and framing are generally confined to more private spaces and do not detract from the significance of the house.

The Sanford House is an intriguing example of a common nineteenth-century phenomenon. Houses were often remodelled in the Victorian period, but few were changed as dramatically as this example. The rapid response of the owners to changing fashion in architectural style is also exceptional. Within a period of at the most 30 years, the form and style of this house changed completely. The Greek Revival style renovation was discarded almost as soon as it was finished, to be replaced by a very up-to-date villa. Enlarging houses to accommodate a growing family is not unusual. In this case, however, it would seem these radical changes were necessary to demonstrate the improving fortunes of the owners. By this measure, Glover Sanford and Sons was clearly prosperous. Every member of the family in Bridgewater remodelled his house in some variation of the Italianate style. Glover's Georgian style house next door received a pedimented center pavilion; similar variations of the style are found in the houses of his other sons. The family continued to prefer this style even after they moved to Bridgeport, where several of their houses were built in the later Victorian Italianate style.


  1. The composite posts supporting the roof of the new deck were built by the owner to match those of the front porches.
  2. In the attic of the main block, the hip and jack rafters of the second roof have the same saw marks as the first-floor joists that are visible in the cellar, which tends to confirm the probability that the house was raised and extended 14 feet towards the street more or less simultaneously.
  3. The stencilling of the walls and the faux marble finishes are the work of Kit Sagendorf, one of the present owners. Some of the stencil patterns are taken from the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut.
  4. Samuel Orcutt. History of New Milford and Bridgewater, Connecticut, 1703-1882, (Hartford, Connecticut: Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1882), p.443. No archaeological evidence, such as standing ruins, could be found in the probable location of the factory as shown on a mid-nineteenth-century map of Bridgewater.
  5. A.J. Downing, The Architecture of Country Houses, (New York: Dover Publications, 1969). Although similarities occurs the design of the Sanford House is not based on one of Downing's published plans or sketches.


Bridgewater Historical Society. Landmarks of Bridgewater. Bridgewater, Conn., 1958.

Orcutt, Samuel. History of the Towns of New Milford & Bridgewater, Connecticut. Hartford: Case Lockwood & Brainerd Press, 1882.

Sagendorf, Martin and Kit. Personal communication. May, 1988. (Current owners)

________. "Sanford House History." MS.

‡ Jan Cunningham, Cunningham Associates, Ltd. and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Frederick S. Sanford House, Bridgewater, CT, nomination document, 1988, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Hat Shop Hill Road