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West Goshen Historic District

Goshen Town, Litchfield County, CT

The West Goshen Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]


The West Goshen Historic District comprises residential and commercial properties on the Marshapaug River in West Goshen, a hamlet located approximately one mile west of Goshen Center on Route 4. Twenty buildings and nine associated outbuildings are included in the West Goshen Historic District, all but three of which are greater than fifty years old and contribute to the character of the district. Three historic archaeological sites associated with water-powered industries are also included in the West Goshen Historic District, along with a stone and concrete bridge.

The West Goshen Historic District comprises all of the surviving historic buildings in the early industrial village of West Goshen, as depicted on Richard Clark's Map of Litchfield County of 1852. The buildings are clustered in the valley of the Marshapaug River as it crosses Route 4 approximately one mile south of its source at Tyler Lake, and on adjacent hillsides along Route 4.

The buildings include houses and outbuildings, such as barns and shops, which were constructed by mill owners, merchants, and tradesmen associated with the development of the village during the early nineteenth century, as well as buildings which originally served as a schoolhouse, a Methodist parsonage, an inn, a carding mill, a general store, and a worker's tenement house. Although the buildings range in age from the late eighteenth century through the 1880's most were built during the first half of the nineteenth century, with the expected concentration of Federal and Greek Revival influences.

Houses in the village, particularly those which line Route 4, tend to share a common scale, two-story height, and gable-end-to-street orientation, creating rhythms. Such features as granite slab foundations and five- and six-light transoms are also common in the earlier village houses built between 1810 and 1830. The houses are generally vernacular and functional in character, revealing Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Queen Anne style influences.

Nearly all of the houses as well as the store have seen some alterations, most of them minor. Several have been aluminum-sided. Several houses were remodelled during the late nineteenth century, and at least one outbuilding was moved. One major building, the former Kellogg carding mill, is currently [1987] being restored but most of the structures have been maintained with few changes since the late nineteenth century. The overall appearance of the village, despite losses due to attrition, particularly among mills and shops along the river, is very little changed since the early part of the century.[1]

Among the structures which define the character of the village are the former West Goshen Store at 330 Route 4 West, and the former Kellogg carding mill and West Goshen Creamery at 331 Route 4 West. These two non-residential structures, located across the road from one another in the hollow of the valley where Route 4 crosses the Marshapaug River, are larger in size than the surrounding houses and form the visual center of the village with its only public spaces.

The West Goshen Store, which has been in continuous commercial use since 1814, is an example of a vernacular Federal period store. Its gable end is aligned toward the street, with an articulated pediment and cornice returns. Windows are 12-over-12. The store was doubled in size by a rear addition. Ground-floor display windows have been altered, but significant interior features remain, including a 6' wooden pulley in the attic, with hooks for conveying bags of feed from the lower floors.

The former carding mill, constructed in 1818 and currently [1987] being restored, is a two-story clapboard structure with post-and-beam frame, built on a foundation of massive granite slabs. The building retains original pegged window frames as well as panelled doors, one of which is fitted with a large Suffolk latch of wrought iron. Beneath an addition to the west lies the stone-lined headrace and flume which originally channeled water from the river, and which extend under the road from the north side of Route 4.

At the south end of nearby Mill Street is a somewhat altered two-family house built in 1813 for hands at Walter, Cobb & Company's woolen mill. The rear of the house, rather than the front facade, faces Mill Street and the high stone basement with a central batten door suggests a possible ancillary use for the basement as warehousing.

The best example of an individual style is the John Osborn House, originally an inn erected in 1810. The five-bay front facade of this Federal house faces west and is balanced, with central entry with trabeated doorway surround consisting of architrave, frieze, and cornice. The building's gable end, which faces the road to the north, is fully pedimented, with an elliptical window in the tympanum and a formal doorway in the west end bay of the first story which matches that of the main facade, with the addition of a fanlight with leaded spider web muntins in place of the transom.

The Ethan Walter House on Milton Road, the westernmost house in the village, was built about the same time and also displays Federal stylistic features. The building is a classic I-house, with a front section one-bay deep parallel with the road, and a longer two-bay kitchen ell which extends perpendicular to the rear. The front section has a boxed cornice with returns in the gables, and a recessed trabeated entry which is the house's visual focal point, with two freestanding, fluted, Roman Doric columns which flank a five-panel door with Suffolk latch.

Typical of the village's Greek Revival-influenced houses is the 1829 Leverett Kellogg House at 302 Route 4 West, a three-bay gable-end-to-street house with a five-bay one-and-a-half story ell which extends perpendicular to the west. The main or eastern section of the house features a lunette window in the gable and a trabeated entry with characteristic Doric pilasters, high frieze, and cornice, enframing sidelights and a six-light transom. This house also retains original door hardware.

During the Victorian period few houses were built in the village, but several older structures were remodelled, particularly on the interior. The most significant remodelling was that of the Hosea Crandall House, originally built as a simple four-bay, two-story farmhouse in 1845. In 1895 the house was enlarged with a street-facing gable on the east end which created an L-shaped floor plan. The second story was shingled, and an Eastlake style wraparound porch with spindle trim and turned posts and railings was built across the north and west elevations, surmounted at the northwest corner by a pediment emblazoned with the letter "G."

In addition to buildings, there are several sites in the West Goshen Historic District associated with water-powered mills and industries. One, located at 331 Route 4 West, is the foundation of a nineteenth-century tub shop and an intact headrace of granite slabs which originally carried water under the highway to waterwheels on the south side of the road. The walls of the raceway are composed of stones up to 25 feet in length, up to 3 feet in height and depths ranging from 12-18 inches. Lintel and ceiling stones are large irregular but nearly square slabs approximately 1' thick and 6-8' wide and long. On the same property is another site, identified as the West Goshen industrial complex, with fieldstone ruins of buildings, wheel pits, and dams which served late eighteenth century mills, which included a gristmill, a sawmill, and a linseed oil mill. A third site, located approximately one-fourth of a mile to the south, is comprised of a fairly well-preserved cut-granite dam and the foundations of buildings associated with an early nineteenth-century woolen and cotton mill.[2]


The West Goshen Historic -District is significant as an example of an early nineteenth-century industrial village. It contains a concentration of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings of the early decades of the nineteenth century, with good examples of the Federal and Greek Revival styles. The presence of dams, flumes, wheelpits, and mill foundations may yield information on water-powered industry during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

West Goshen, also known locally as Canada Village, grew up rapidly during the early nineteenth century around mill sites on the Marshapaug River which had been utilized since the early eighteenth century. The quarter mile descent of the Marshapaug was the most promising waterpower site in Goshen, and attracted an early town resident, Benjamin Frisbie, in 1740. Frisbie's repeatedly stated intentions of moving to Canada prompted the place's early tongue-in-cheek nickname. Frisbie developed a gristmill and sawmill and built a house, no longer standing. He sold his holdings in 1751, and a succession of other mill owners, all of them absentees until the settlement of the Kellogg family in the 1780s, ran these and other water-powered industries. The Kelloggs established a fulling mill and an ironworks, and were instrumental in the establishment of Methodism in Goshen in 1797.

The West Goshen Historic District, however, was entirely isolated until completion of a primitive highway which connected Goshen with Cornwall to the west around 1770. The improvement of this road during the early nineteenth century into the Goshen and Sharon Turnpike, which connected at the New York State line with another turnpike to Albany, stimulated a more intensive utilization of waterpower sites in the district. At the same time, President Thomas Jefferson's 1807 embargo on foreign goods and the introduction to this country of Merino sheep gave impetus to domestic cloth production. The cloth manufacturing firm of Walter, Cobb & Company, which was established on a mill site south of those previously developed, exploited the large production of wool in Goshen. The organization in 1810 of the company, a concern which eventually employed 50 hands, led to the rapid development of Canada into a village.[3] Housing for mill owners and for millhands, as well as stores and several other cloth processing operations such as the Kellogg carding mill, were built in rapid succession between 1810 and 1820. The West Goshen Store was built in 1814 by mill owner John Collins, who compelled his hands to trade there.[4]

West Goshen's assumption of a coherent and separate identity as a village coincided with its emergence as an early center of Methodism in Litchfield County. The Kelloggs and other early families were receptive to the first Methodist missionaries who preached in the area during the 1790s. A church was built in 1809, serviced by circuit-riding preachers, but in 1827 the village became the center of a new circuit covering most of Litchfield County. A parsonage was built in 1822 at 311 Route 4 West, and a new church, now destroyed, was built in 1835. West Goshen was frequently the site of revival meetings which attracted people from nearby towns.

West Goshen began to decline after the Civil War as water-powered industries became obsolete and the village populations began to dwindle due to migration The textile mill, which up to 1876 produced knitting cotton for A.T. Stewart's prestigious New York department store, went bankrupt, its equipment was auctioned, and the building was left to collapse.

However, buildings such as the inn, store, parsonage, schoolhouse, and several of the mills continued to contribute to the economic, social and spiritual life of the community. The West Goshen Store became a distribution point for locally made cheese, while the Kellogg carding mill was acquired by the Goshen Creamery, a cooperative of village residents and local farmers whose products, particularly butter, gained a wide reputation for quality around the western part of the state. The building was used by Goshen Grange #143 between 1894, when the group completed the two-story western addition to the building, and the 1960s as a grange hall which was the focus of social life in rural Goshen. A sawmill was the town's major sawmill into the early twentieth century.

While the emergence of West Goshen as a village was intimately connected with the rise of the Walter, Cobb & Company woolen mill, the architecture of the West Goshen Historic District reflects the occupancy and use of a prime rural waterpower site over a period of more than a century and a half.

Eighteenth-century development is represented by the fieldstone mill and dam foundations of the gristmill, sawmill, and oil mill, and by the Clement Squire House, 346 Route 4 West, built originally in 1796 as the home of a mill owner.

Increasing technical sophistication in the use and subdivision of available waterpower for a variety of uses, not limited to mills but extended to serve tradesmen and small manufacturers, is revealed in such structures as the stone headrace at 331 Route 4 West. This granite slab structure, individual members of which measure up to 25' in length, was one of two flumes constructed during the early nineteenth century which carried water from a millpond on the dammed Marshapaug River on the north side of the Goshen Sharon Turnpike, under the road to power several waterwheels on the opposite side of the river. The proliferation of users of water rights made possible by this kind of engineering was a factor in village diversity and stability, contributing to the permanent residence of artisans who owned or occupied housing independent of the textile mill. Houses were built for some of these artisans, such as that of clockmaker Amos Sanford at 9 Mill Street, and that of wagonmaker Nelson Wadhams at 306 Route 4 West. Moreover, owners of mills other than Walter, Cobb & Company constructed housing in the village for rental, including 341 Route 4 West, constructed by owners of a nearby tannery along the Marshapaug River, and 327 Route 4 West, which housed a series of blacksmiths who labored at a forge to the rear of the Kellogg carding mill at 331 Route 4 West.

These houses and several of the others in the village are modest and vernacular, reflecting common building techniques of their time and little style influence. However, common features such as scale, size, building height, proportions, gable-end-to-street orientation, multi-light transoms, and granite slab foundations give the West Goshen Historic District a sense of cohesion. Good individual examples of particular styles are represented in the village, including the Federal style John Osborn House at 345 Route 4 West. This house features a balanced five-bay facade with trabeated entries in both the east-facing front and the street-facing north elevations, and such Federal ornamental features as an elliptical gable window and a fanlight with spider-web muntins. The West Goshen Store, with its pedimented gable facing the road, is also a good example of Federal commercial construction, while the Kellogg carding mill is a well-preserved mill of its period. The Leverett Kellogg House at 302 Route 4 West is a good vernacular example of the Greek Revival. All of these buildings retain original cast and wrought iron hardware, including latches and hinges.

Remodelling during the Victorian era transformed a simple vernacular farmhouse at 315 Route 4 West into the village's best example of a Queen Anne-influenced residence, with a shingled gable, an Eastlake style wraparound veranda, and an L-shaped plan.

Surviving outbuildings also contribute to the character of the West Goshen Historic District. Most of those involved with the mills and water-powered shops and industries were part-time farmers. In addition to several good vernacular examples of English style barns, there is the massive, Italianate-influenced dairy barn in the rear of 315 Route 4 West, with its English style hay barn and attached basement cattle barn. There is also, among the collection of outbuildings in the rear of 346 Route 4 West, an excellent example of an early nineteenth century Neo-Classical office or shop building, two bays deep with a closed pediment.

Archaeological Potential

Disturbance of all the sites is minimal, as no agricultural activities have taken place there. However, the ravine at one site has been used for trash disposal, and a scatter of trash covers the foundations there.

The three historic archaeological sites identified in West Goshen supplement documentary research in local land records and maps to contribute to our understanding of the development of small water power sites during the initial phases of industrialization in Connecticut. Documentary research as well as the architectural record indicates that over a century West Goshen developed from a small, almost unpopulated mill settlement into a larger, highly differentiated and diversified industrial village. The greatest period of activity occurred between 1810 and 1820 when construction of the Goshen and Sharon Turnpike, now Route 4, made delivery of goods to a wider market possible and encouraged the proliferation of larger, specialized mills as well as small artisans' operations, all of which derived power from the Marshapaug. As the more easily-utilized dam sites had been developed for earlier grist and sawmills, advanced dam and raceway construction utilizing quarried granite slabs made multiple usage possible at newly developed sites. Details of construction and the technology and scope of these water-power systems are very well-documented in these sites. Such surviving structures as the raceway and the woolen mill dam and foundations provide important clues to how this intensification of use of a single water power source was accomplished.


  1. Interview with Richard Kobylenski, April, 1984.
  2. West Goshen Archaeological Survey, 1981.
  3. "West Goshen History" by Frederick A. Lucas, undated newspaper clipping at Torrington Historical Society.
  4. Ibid.


Assignee's Sale Auction Catalog, 1876, at Torrington Historical Society.

Dikeman, Rev. Cornell S., "Historical Sermon Delivered in the Methodist Episcopal Church," West Goshen, May 27, 1877, unpublished manuscript at Goshen Historical Society.

Hibbard, Rev., A.C., History of Goshen, Hartford: Case, Lockwood and Brainard, 1897.

Lucas, Frederick A., "West Goshen History," undated newspaper article at Torrington Historical Society.

Norton, Lewis Mills, Goshen in 1812, New Haven: Acorn Club of Connecticut, 1947.

Walter, Cobb and Company Account Book, 1817-1824, at Litchfield Historical Society.


Beers and Company, F.W., Atlas of Litchfield County, New York, 1874.

Clark, Richard, Map of Litchfield County, Philadelphia, 1852.


Richard Kobylenski, April, 1984.

‡ William E. Devlin, Torrington Historical Society and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, West Goshen Historic District, Goshen, CT, nomination document, 1987, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Beach Street • Mill Street • Milton Road • Route 4 West