Photo: Home in the Calhoun-Ives Historic District, Town of Washington, Litchfield County, CT. The historic district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Photographed by User:Magicpiano (own work), 2016, [cc-by-4.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed December, 2016.
The Calhoun-Ives Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
The 475-acre Calhoun-Ives Historic District is composed of 28 properties fronting on Calhoun Street and Ives Road in the Washington Depot section of the Town of Washington, Connecticut. There are 53 buildings and structures in the Calhoun-Ives Historic District, of which 43 are contributing. The Calhoun-Ives Historic District begins at the intersection of Calhoun Street and Baldwin Hill Road and runs for about a mile north and then west up Baldwin Hill. The change in elevation is almost 500 feet. The district is rural, characterized by narrow roadway flanked by stone walls and 19th-century frame farmhouses and their outbuildings. Nine properties are larger than 10 acres, two larger than 40 acres. While farming continues to be a major pursuit, several houses now are second homes for owners whose principal residences are elsewhere.
The oldest house now standing in the district, the James Calhoun Place, 156 Calhoun Street, ca.1765, is a one-story five-bay central-entrance central-chimney clapboard house with 12-over-8 sash. Its gable ends have typical small attic windows near the eaves. Small in scale, and austere in proportions and details, it stands on part of the original square mile purchased from Native Americans by David Calhoun in the 1730s. The Hickox Homestead, 87 Calhoun Street, ca.1790, also dates from the 18th century. It is a larger two-story version of the Colonial/Georgian style, with shallow overhang at first and second floors. Fine interior wall stenciling is original. Alterations in the 1930s were designed by Richard Henry Dana, Jr., a Washington resident.
The Hickox Tenant House, 79 Calhoun Street, ca.1800, is the first of the 19th-century homes. It is a small 1-1/2-story gable-roofed building covered with weathered wooden shingles. The Daniel Calhoun Homestead, 119 Calhoun Street, 1810, incorporates a 1794 ell behind the main block, which is only one room deep. The entrance pilasters and double-tiered transom reflect both the Federal style of the period and the skill as a joiner of the owner/builder, Daniel Calhoun. A barn and carriage house from the 19th century are among the outbuildings. Richard Henry Dana, Jr., made alterations in 1926.
The Youngs Elliot Place, 110 Calhoun Street, ca.1825, is the earliest of the Greek Revival style houses in the Calhoun-Ives Historic District and one of the last still to have a large farm acreage — 40.9 acres. Its barns on the east side of the road south of the house are an integral part of the resource. The three-bay pedimented gable front house shows the Queen Anne influence of later in the century by its turned posts for the added front porch.
The Averill Homestead, 250 Calhoun Street, 1831, a large (31'x 62') Greek Revival stone house, is the only masonry home in the Calhoun-Ives Historic District. Like the Youngs Elliot Place, it is associated with a large working farm; the Averill family owns 250 acres, not all within the district. The barns across the street are actively used in the working farm still operated by the same Averill family who built the house. The three-bay gable front of the house, with plain doorway is in the west bay, faces north toward a proposed street, perpendicular to Calhoun Street, that never was built. The long wall of the house parallel with and visible from Calhoun Street is the side elevation. Windows are now 12-over-12. In the long side of the house parallel with the road there is a recessed two-story side porch that once may have been supported by columns, but seems rather shallow for that design. The stone construction is rubble walls faced with flat fieldstone. The private Averill Family Cemetery, whose entrance is flanked by substantial stone piers and stone lions, provides burial ground for several dozen members of the family. A majority of the stones date from the 19th-century.
Many extant barns and sheds testify to the farm background of the Sheldon Calhoun Homestead. The unpainted 19th-century outbuildings are south of the house, which was built, ca.1835, in the Greek Revival style with a well-defined recessed pediment, and which has received several additions over time. The two-story Italianate wing to the north, probably ca.1880, projects toward the street under a low pyramidal roof.
Perhaps the most stylish Greek Revival house in the Calhoun-Ives Historic District is the Bryan Ives Homestead, 12 Ives Road, which has more elaborate details than others. The front door is protected by projecting pilasters which support a full entablature, while the roof-line frieze encircles the house. In the front elevation the rectangular pediment window is surmounted by carved anthemion in panel. The later small side porch is an example of Victorian; its slender turned posts, delicate sawn brackets, and sawtooth cornice molding set it apart from any other feature in the district. The last of the Greek Revival homes was the Burr and Abel Calhoun House, 164 Calhoun Street, ca.1846. It is different from the others because it has the full temple form of central block flanked by wings, although it is not clear that the wings are original.
The one example of a house in the Italianate style, other than the addition to 129 Calhoun Street, is the Hallock House, 214 Calhoun Street. Here an earlier building was enlarged to the present 2-1/2-story four-bay cubical mass under projecting roof overhang, now with one-story recessed wing to the south.
The farmsteads of houses and associated outbuildings are widely separated from one another by the open fields. The fields are often visible in rolling vistas because of the 500-foot change in elevation from south to north. The farmsteads and fields jointly establish the character of the agricultural district. The houses with their many barns, sheds, and other outbuildings are the built environment which joins with the open environment of the fields to constitute the district. Two examples of farmsteads, both with outbuildings, which continue to fulfill their traditional function are the Burr and Abel Calhoun House and the Bryan Ives Tenant House. In the latter case the outbuildings are attached to one another in a range, with the wooden silo at the southern end.
In two cases, 19th-century barns have been converted to homes. One conversion, made in 1932, is the Burr and Abel Calhoun Hay Barn, 144 Calhoun Street; the other is more recent, 1988-1990, the Hickox Barns, 86 Calhoun Street. The age of barns is difficult to determine because usually their dates of construction are not noted in the Assessor's records and visual examination from a public way is inadequate. There is a good chance that most in the Calhoun-Ives Historic District were built in the 19th century.
New construction has occurred in the 20th century, most of it in a vernacular Colonial Revival style. An exception is 175 Calhoun Street, 1989, designed in the Post Modern idiom.
The Calhoun-Ives Historic District is significant historically and architecturally because it documents the farming practices and building designs of a well-preserved rural agricultural community from the 1730s to the 20th century. The agricultural landscape, consisting of houses and outbuildings which form farmsteads, and their related cultivated and open fields remain largely intact.
The Calhoun-Ives Historic District is significant historically because of the record it provides of the evolution of farming in northwestern Connecticut, particularly during the 19th century. The area was settled, ca.1730s, when the district was partially in the Town of Woodbury and partially in the Town of Kent. Land was purchased from Native Americans and subsistence farming begun. The Calhoun, Ives, and Averill families were among the early arrivals.
In the early agricultural economy each household grew what it needed for its own consumption, such as dairy products, animals for slaughter, and grain. This pattern continued into the early 19th century, when a new trend began to develop in which sheep, cattle, cows, pigs, corn, oats, and tobacco (said to be the first crop raised for commercial purpose) became the chief products. The change in output strengthened in its commercial orientation to become all-important as the century progressed. Pursuant to the era's general trend in Connecticut, century-old subsistence farming gave way to farming driven by market forces, calling for a reorientation in the way the land was managed. The change is reflected by the buildings. Barns and silos for storage of dairy herds, equipment, and crops became the norm.
The change in the nature of the agricultural economy was hastened by the introduction of a new transportation system, the railroad. Rail transportation brought the new opportunity of shipping to metropolitan centers, not possible until that event. In 1872 the Shepaug Railroad was built through Washington Depot, thereby opening up new markets for products of the district's farms and dictating corresponding changes in crops grown. The importance of hay and dairy products increased measurably.
The 19th-century changes in farming practices may be followed by study of the Averill Barns which, built between 1825 and the 1880s and repeatedly modified, reflect the successive activities of the farming community. The oldest remaining barn was built for hay storage in 1828 by Samuel Averill, a member of the fourth generation to farm the property. An addition soon was constructed and a second adjacent hay barn put up before 1850, probably related to the new Averill commercial venture of raising and fattening cattle for market. A horse barn from the 1830s also remains. Later in the century these closely spaced barns were connected to create a basement-level cow stable facing west onto the barnyard behind, prompted by the availability of rail transportation of dairy products to the city. This work and the contemporaneous construction of an icehouse document the transition of the Averill farm to dairying in the late 19th century. Fruit orchards also became an important component of the products grown.
Similar changes were made up and down Calhoun Street and Ives Road, as seen in the various barns. In several instances their continued use for their agricultural purpose at the present time is in extension of the farming way of life which has been pursued in the district since ca.1730s.
Efforts to continue the agricultural landscape and way of life are ongoing, in one instance by action on the part of the State of Connecticut through its Farmland Preservation Program, which acquired development rights to 183 acres of Averill-owned land in 1994. Under the terms of the accompanying restriction, the property cannot be subdivided and can be used only for agriculture.
The Calhoun-Ives Historic District is significant architecturally because it contains well-preserved examples of farmhouses and their outbuildings, largely from the 19th century, and their accompanying agricultural landscape. The houses and outbuildings display the design and details of farm architecture in their original condition and in their original relationship to one another, set in a well-preserved agricultural landscape.
While most of the early houses have been altered and added onto, their original configuration is clearly evident. The one-story five-bay house at 156 Calhoun Street is typical of its genre, conforming to the prototype widely followed by English settlers throughout New England, here executed without frills in a straightforward manner. The largest stylistic grouping of buildings follows the pattern of frame Federal/Greek Revival styles, often with the three-bay temple front toward the street. Exceptions to the group are a five-bay Federal home and a large stone house, which nevertheless has the three-bay Greek Revival front elevation.
By and large, active construction in the district decreased coincidentally with the decline in popularity of the Greek Revival style in the mid-19th century. An Italianate wing at 129 Calhoun Street (Sheldon Calhoun Homestead) and the Italianate house at 214 Calhoun Street (Hallock House) are the only strong examples of that style, while the Queen Anne is represented only by porch details, as at 110 Calhoun Street and 12 Ives Street.
Presumably, there were more outbuildings at the height of 19th-century farming activity than exist at present. And the outbuildings have changed. Silos were a late-19th-century innovation. In the 20th century two large barns have been converted to residences, and therefor are in the best state of maintenance and upkeep of any of the barns. Details have changed; for example, while the Burr and Abel Calhoun Hay Barn continues to display its Victorian-era roof monitor prominently, a similar roof feature seen in a historic photograph of the Averill Barns at 249 Calhoun Street no longer is in place. Nevertheless, the overall compelling sense of the Calhoun-Ives Historic District continues to be one of 19th-century agricultural landscape and associated buildings.
The anonymous 19th-century designers and builders of the houses perhaps were the owners themselves or local men with the necessary skills who helped out their neighbors. It is known that Daniel Calhoun was a master carpenter who in addition to building his own home (119 Calhoun Street) did other work such as the interior of the Congregational Church on Washington Green. Little is known of A.H. Pierce, who is credited with the Italianate house at 214 Calhoun Street, but the restoration architect of the 1920s, Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (1879-1933), grandson of authors Richard Henry Dana and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was well-known. He eventually took up residence, and became professionally active, in Washington. He designed the Topsmead Estate in Litchfield, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
New construction in the 20th century has been modest in quantity and generally restrained in design, leaving the integrity of the Calhoun-Ives Historic District intact both with respect to its architecture and its agricultural landscape of undisturbed farmland, fields, vistas, and wooded hills which are chief character-defining features of the resource.
Jay Dippel, Director of Farmland Preservation Program, State of Connecticut, conversation, May 19, 1995.
Alison Gilchrist, Calhoun-Ives Street Historic District Study Report (Washington, Connecticut: Washington Historic District Commission, 1989).
Town of Washington Assessor's field cards and maps.
‡ David F. Ransom, consultant and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Calhoun-Ives Historic District, Washington Depot, Connecticut, nomination document, 1995, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Calhoun Street • Ives Road