Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District
The Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document [†] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District in the Danielson section of Killingly consists of over 100 houses and other buildings concentrated along Broad, Main, Academy, and Reynolds Streets. The Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District runs approximately half a mile along Broad Street from Main Street at the northerly end to Dorrance Street at the southerly end and extends to include a small section of Main Street that borders Davis Park. The densely built area is predominantly a residential neighborhood, including two churches and a public park, and is adjacent to the National Register-listed Danielson Main Street Historic District, Danielson's commercial center. Most of the houses in the Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and are generally of wood-frame construction, 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 stories high, and quite large. Most are built in distinct architectural styles, of which the Eastlake, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival styles are the most common, though there are also a few earlier houses in the Federal and Greek Revival styles. The exteriors of most buildings are covered with clapboards, with Victorian period structures having additional exterior variegation in the form of wood shingles; a few buildings are constructed of brick.
The oldest house in the Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District, the Hezekiah Danielson House at 182 Broad Street, dates from c.1825 and is the only example of the Federal style; it features a recessed center entry with sidelights, projecting pediment, and paneled pilasters. Other early houses in the district exhibit typical elements of the Greek Revival style, such as corner pilasters, sidelights flanking the entries, and heavy cornices; an example (with a later Italianate porch) is the Samuel S. Sprague House on Academy Street.
Most of the houses in the Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District embody some aspect of Victorian architecture. The district includes several houses in the Italianate style; they have wide bracketed eaves and cornices, rounded window shapes, and bay windows, such as those found on the c.1860 house at 260 Broad Street. The c.1855 Orvil M. Capron House embodies the Italian Villa mode in its square plan, flat roof, and extensive verandas. The Gothic Revival style is reflected in the gray stonework, pointed-arches, buttresses, and battlements of the St. Alban's Episcopal Church (1891) and the gable bracing and bargeboard of the houses at 212 and 276 Broad Street. The Queen Anne style is particularly well represented in the district; numerous large houses, such as the Erastus W. Scott House and the Charles B. Wheatley House, exhibit the style's irregular floor plans, complex rooflines, overhanging stories, wraparound porches with elaborate spindlework, and multi-textured exteriors.
A number of the houses have been classified as Stick/Eastlake style in the inventory. Simpler in form than the Queen Anne style houses, these also commonly combine shingles and clapboards as exterior covering and have elaborate porch detail. Rather than any particular historical source of ornament, however, they incorporate an eclectic variety of shaped, sawn, and turned architectural motifs, with the gable peak a particular focus of attention.
The Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District's early 20th-century houses are chiefly in the Colonial Revival or Bungalow styles. The former are embellished with early American detailing such as large brick chimneys, small-pane divided sash, balustrades, and fanlights; examples include the Edwin L. Palmer House and the house at 110 Broad Street. The Bungalows exhibit such Craftsman-inspired features as rustic masonry chimneys and foundations, stick braces, exposed rafter ends and purlins, and shingled exteriors. The Bungalows generally have porches formed from the continuation of the front slope of the roof, where there is a central dormer.
A number of the residential properties include period outbuildings that are counted as contributing resources. About two dozen old barns and carriage houses can be found behind the district's houses.
Nonresidential properties in the Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District include the two churches and the former Killingly High School (listed individually on the National Register). A large brick Renaissance Revival style building erected in 1903, it now serves as the Killingly Community Center.
Although some of the Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District's historic buildings have been altered with such modernizations as aluminum or vinyl siding, even most of those retain their characteristic overall form and stylistic detail. The district's few noncontributing buildings include the 1966 Baptist Church of Danielson and some houses and garages of recent construction.
Davis Park, formally known as Randall and Philia Davis Memorial Park, is a two-acre triangle bordered by Main, Broad, and Reynolds Streets. The area is mostly lawn and is landscaped with numerous shade trees, shrubbery, pathways, and benches for public use.
An original feature of the park is the hexagonal-plan bandstand located near the north end. The park is also the site of several war memorials. At the north end is a Civil War artillery piece and the Killingly's Soldiers and Sailors Monument; erected by the Women's Monument Association in 1878, it consists of a bronze standing Union soldier atop a large granite base. Located at the southwestern point of the triangle is the 1933 World War I memorial, consisting of a large bronze eagle with outstretched wings resting upon a granite boulder; a plaque is inscribed with the names of those who fought in the war. Near the center of the park is the c.1950 granite World War II memorial, consisting of a base with three columns supporting an entablature. The most recent addition to the park is a granite memorial honoring veterans of Desert Storm.
The Danielson Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District is significant for the architectural qualities of its buildings, many of which are richly detailed and well-preserved examples of Victorian architecture and for its historical associations with institutions and people important in the development of Danielson. The large ornate houses along Broad Street are typical of the domestic architecture favored in the Victorian period by local elites throughout America; in the case of Danielson, they were originally built by the merchants and industrialists who benefited from Danielson's prosperity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although chiefly known for its textile manufacturing, Danielson in that period was also a commercial center for nearby outlying communities. Davis Park itself is a symbol of Danielson's coming of age in the 1890s; with its bandstand, war monuments, benches, and shade trees, it provided a place of respite, celebration, and remembrance for the growing borough.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries most of what is now Danielson was simply an outlying agricultural area within the Town of Killingly. The eastern end of present-day Danielson was known as Westfield, and the only major highway in the area was Broad Street, a colonial stage road that was later improved as a turnpike.
In 1809 local landowners James and Hezekiah Danielson joined with some Rhode Island entrepreneurs to start the Danielson Manufacturing Company, which erected one of eastern Connecticut's earliest textile factories, a cotton spinning mill. Located on the Five Mile River near its confluence with the Quinebaug River, the Danielson mill took advantage of the area's abundant waterpower. It was soon joined by other mills, including that built by Comfort and Ebenezer Tiffany, on the western side of the Quinebaug within the town of Brooklyn. The town's economic vigor was furthered in 1830, when the Norwich and Worcester Railroad was completed through Killingly. The location of the railroad station, as well as the several mills at the juncture of the two rivers, began to orient the settlement westward, away from Westfield. Hotels and restaurants were built up around the station, then known as "Depot Village," to serve the needs of travelers, and several large business blocks appeared along Main Street in response to a growing commercial sector. In 1848 Danielson began publishing its first newspaper, The Windham County Telegraph, later succeeded by the Windham County Transcript. By the 1850s the area also included an apothecary, a jewelry shop, a barber shop, a bakery, a hardware store, and several other enterprises. The area was also a prime site for professional services; a directory in the 1860s listed the offices of three lawyers, five doctors and dentists, an insurance agent, a photographer, and a civil engineer.
In 1854 the General Assembly approved a charter establishing a separate governing body for the area, named the Borough of Danielsonville. Originally including the west bank of the Quinebaug River within the Town of Brooklyn as well as the east side in Killingly, the borough provided numerous services to its residents, including sidewalks, street improvements, and fire protection, that went beyond those typically offered by town government. (Later charter revisions shortened the name to Danielson and redrew the borough boundary to include only the Killingly part.) Civic improvements continued with gas lighting in the 1860s, an impressive Civil War monument in 1878, public park in the 1890s (which included the earlier memorial), and Killingly High School in 1903.
Textile manufacturing continued to expand in the second half of the 19th century, as the small early mills were rebuilt as much larger operations by outside capitalists. In 1851 Amos Lockwood and other Rhode Islanders built a massive new cotton mill on the site of the Tiffany mill on the west side of the river, and in 1868 another group completely rebuilt the Danielson mill. The population of the borough grew substantially, in large part through the settlement of Irish and French Canadian families to work in the mills. At the same time, other industrial enterprises appeared, some connected to textiles such as the Jacobs Manufacturing Company (which made loom harnesses and leather roller coverings) and the Aspinock Knitting Mill, and others entirely separate, such as Erastus Scott's buggy whip-socket factory.
As a consequence of Danielson's economic prosperity in the 19th century, the borough's middle and upper classes built large, richly detailed residences in the latest architectural styles in the Broad Street-Davis Park area. The area had the advantage of being close to both the factories along the river and the hustle and bustle of Main Street, but not too close. It was also substantially elevated above the level of the river terrace, giving the neighborhood fine views and protection from floods. The area had its origin in 1827, when Hezekiah Danielson traded his shares in the family's cotton mill for all remaining family-owned farmland and proceeded to sell off house lots along the former turnpike road. At the time, only a few scattered houses then stood on this land, two of which are Hezekiah Danielson's c.1825 and c.1835 houses. Danielson and fellow landowner Harvey Chamberlain donated land to the town in 1850 for proper streets to be laid out, thereby improving access for existing residents and for their remaining property as well. In addition to the residences of many of Danielson's leading businessmen and professionals, the Broad Street neighborhood later became the home of such institutions as St. Alban's Episcopal Church and Killingly High School.
Danielson's economic base was severely affected by the decline of the New England textile industry in the early decades of the 20th century, and many of the large houses along Broad Street are now divided into apartments or turned to institutional use. Nevertheless, the concentration of large, stylish, well-preserved houses, along with St. Alban's Church, the Old Killingly High School, and Davis Park, remain to remind present and future generations of Danielson's industrial, commercial, and civic growth during the 19th century.
The establishment of neighborhoods of the families of wealthy businessmen, with "stylish and commodious houses commensurate with their socio-economic status," has been identified as an important historical theme for the large towns and cities of eastern Connecticut in the late 19th century.
The houses in the Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District constitute a prime example of that particular settlement pattern. Nearly all are associated with families that played a large role in Danielson's economic and civic history. Textile entrepreneur and land-developer Hezekiah Danielson is represented by two houses, the Federal style house at 132 Broad Street and the Cape style c.1835 house at 120 Broad Street. Other textile related houses include those of mill-supplies manufacturers Edward H. and Frederick A. Jacobs (227 Main Street and 162 Broad Street), cotton-waste dealer Orvil Capron (267 Main Street), and the house at 33 Reynolds Street, occupied successively by woolen-mill owner Timothy E. Hopkins and Charles Phillips, who ran the Quinebaug Mills company store. People who made their fortunes from non-textile enterprises also lived in the neighborhood: real estate/investment agent Edwin L. Palmer (150 Broad Street), jeweler Frank T. Preston (204 Broad Street), storekeepers Charles B. Wheatley and Frederick E. Bitgood (222 and 135 Broad Street), lumber and coal dealer John A. Paine (312 Broad Street), and buggy whip-socket maker Erastus Scott (232 Broad Street). Long-time Windham County Transcript editor J.Q.A. Stone lived in a house in the district (4 Spring Street), as did physician Rienzi Robinson (301 Main Street) and attorney and Probate Judge James H. Potter (231 Broad Street).
Davis Park, created in 1890, added an important amenity that benefitted not only the immediate neighborhood but also the entire town. It was named in honor of Randall and Philia Kies Davis, the parents of Edwin Davis, who donated the major part of the land in 1889. Like so many other small-town philanthropists, Davis had left his boyhood home to make his fortune elsewhere, leaving Danielson and eventually settling in Iowa. Bandstands are not commonly found in New England village parks; the Davis Park bandstand, which early views show to be original, may reflect Edwin Davis's exposure to Midwestern town squares.
The Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District has architectural significance because it is an exceptional concentration of richly detailed, well-preserved Victorian buildings. A number of the houses rank among the most elaborate examples of their respective styles in eastern Connecticut, such as the c.1855 Italianate style Orvil M. Capron house, an early example of the Italian Villa mode; the rambling Queen Anne style Erastus Scott House, built about 1885; and the c.1895 Colonial Revival style Edwin L. Palmer House. However, the architectural significance of the Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District goes beyond the individual houses; taken as a whole, the district illustrates the wide variety in historical stylistic precedents, materials, plans, ornamental details, and degree of elaboration that characterized Victorian and early 20th-century architecture.
The number of unique architectural styles in the Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District reflect the eclecticism that characterized the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when architects and builders ranged far and wide in their search for inspiration. In addition to Greek Revival style holdovers from an earlier age, such as the Samuel Sprague House on Academy Street (equally notable for its later porch detailing; the district includes houses in the Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Craftsman styles. For every style, the Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District presents well-preserved examples that illustrate the style's distinguishing characteristics. Buildings such as the Capron House or the house at 270 Broad Street exhibit the elaborate cornice brackets, bay windows, and fanciful porch embellishment that are the hallmarks of the Italianate style. The Gothic Revival's key features — steeply pitched roofs, pointed-arch openings, and medieval details — are embodied in the 1891 St. Alban's Episcopal Church, with its stone exterior, battlements, and buttresses, and the Richard S. Lathrop House, 276 Broad Street, with its gable cross-bracing, pointed-arch dormer windows, dormer bargeboard, and steep-roofed tower; the Paine House is also Gothic in detail, though its massing and corner tower give it a Queen Anne style asymmetry as well. The Second Empire style is epitomized by the mansard roof, embellished cornice, and foot-scrolled dormers on the house at 33 Reynolds Street.
Many of the largest houses along Broad and Main Streets have significance because they display the characteristic features of the Queen Anne style. Typical features include wraparound porches, towers, large dormers, overhanging stories, complex rooflines, multi-texture exteriors combining clapboards with one or more varieties of wood shingles (and occasionally other materials such as board-and-batten), and decorative spindlework in the porches and gables detail, all of which combine to produce the asymmetrical, picturesque appearance that was so valued in the period. In addition to the already-mentioned Erastus Scott House, the Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District includes numerous other examples that embody all of the style's defining elements, such as the Charles Wheatley House, 222 Broad Street.
A number of the Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District's houses built in the late 19th century exhibit no consistent stylistic influence, but they nevertheless are notable because they feature a rich variety of Victorian architectural detail, including porch turnings, face rafters decorated with grooves and applied bosses, and bracing and decorated panels in their gable peaks; most also have some variegated surface texture. Closely related to contemporary furniture designs, these details, when applied in sufficient profusion, merit the name "Eastlake" for the house's overall style, and a number of houses in the district fall into this category. The Frank T. Preston House, 204 Broad Street, is typical, with its several kinds of shingles, small cornice blocks, face-rafter bosses, gable bracing, and wheel-of-spindles peak ornament. Other houses, termed simply "Victorian" in the inventory, are too plain to classify as Eastlake, but they too exhibit characteristic Victorian millwork in their porch turnings and use of patterned shingles; a typical representative of these houses is at 126 Broad Street.
The Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District's well-preserved early 20th-century buildings include several Colonial Revival style houses. The origin of the style as simply another variety of Victorian eclecticism is evident in the Edwin L. Palmer House, 150 Broad Street, in which the "Dutch Colonial" gambrel roof, swags, pulvinated friezes, broken pediment, and balustrades are Early American details grafted onto a Queen Anne form. Although clapboarded, the house is closely related to the Queen Anne-Colonial mode of what has been termed the "Shingle Style." The simplification of the style in the early 20th century is illustrated by houses such as that at 110 Broad Street, which has a symmetrical hipped-roof form, plain porch columns, and front eyebrow dormer that are mildly Colonial in inspiration. The aesthetic principles of the Craftsman movement — expression of structure, "natural" materials, utilitarian form — are embodied in the district's several Bungalows, two of which rank among the most extensively detailed and well-preserved in the town.
Like other large New England communities, Danielson had a number of talented builders who could produce the latest architectural forms and details. The Capron House may well have been the work of Thomas Evans, a carpenter who built two similar villas with oversized brackets in nearby Dayville. At least one of the houses on Academy Street was owned by the builder George Truesdell, who designed and built both the Dayville and Westfield Congregational meetinghouses. Other contractors who lived in the district and may be presumed to have erected houses they owned include mason George J. Clark (33 Reynolds Street, a large brick Second Empire House) and carpenters Hiram Tanner (285 Main Street) and Charles F. Coon (147 Broad Street). Many of the largest and most elaborate houses are said to have been built by contractor C.C. Pilling, who illustrated his advertisements with a large Queen Anne style house with a tower and porches not unlike those on Broad Street. The manufacturer Erastus Scott is said to have had a large influence on the overall design and detailing of his house, which one contemporary commentator referred to as "munificent [in] style...one of the finest specimens of architecture in Danielsonville." In the 20th century, builders of French-Canadian heritage, such as the Poitras and Boulais families, joined the pool of local contractors who could erect anything from a mill tenement to a mansion.
Local Danielson resources are known to have been supplemented by others that were national in scope. The Frederick A. Jacobs House, described in the local newspaper as "a unique and beautiful Queen Anne cottage," is a mirror-image version of a design shown in George Barber's New Model Homes (1890), and much of the details appear to have been taken from that pattern book as well. The Gothic Revival style John A. Paine House was built from plans supplied by J.H. Daverman and Son, a large mail-order firm headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Danielson had at least two woodworking enterprises that could produce not only building lumber, but also architectural woodwork such as clapboards, patterned shingles, and porch turnings. The density of ornamentation in Victorian architecture derived in part from that period's overall aesthetic, but it was also predicated on the means to satisfy the desire for dense detail. Steam-powered sawmills, equipped with a host of mechanized sawing, turning, and shaping machines, made available ornament such as bargeboard, brackets, spindles, sunbursts, cut-out panels, and columns of various designs to a broad middle-class market. Coupled with up-to-date local contractors and the influence of nationally distributed architectural designs, the millwork industry allowed America's prosperous entrepreneurial class to live in neighborhoods of beautiful, stylish homes such as Danielson's Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District.
Arnold, H. V. Birds-eye View of Danielson Borough: An Explanation of the Conant Painting of Danielson. Larimore, N. D.: priv. pr., 1926.
________. Memories of Westfield. Larimore, N.D. : priv. pr., 1908.
________. The Making of Danielson. Larimore, N.D.: priv. pr., 1905.
Bayles, Richard M. History of Windham County, Connecticut. New York: W. W. Preston & Company, 1889.
Dowe, Marshall P. "The Borough of Danielson," The Graphic, II, no. 2 (1897). Moosup: C.F. Burgess, 1897.
Larned, Ellen D. History of Windham County, Connecticut. 2 vols. Worcester: priv. pr., 1874, 1880.
Lincoln, Allen B. A Modern History of Windham County, Connecticut. vols. Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1920.
Weaver, Margaret. Miles of Millstreams. Killingly: American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, 1976.
Directories and Biographical Sources
Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties, Connecticut. Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co., 1903.
Connecticut Business Directory. Boston: Mercantile Publishing, 1851-1900.
Danielson, Connecticut, Directory. Providence: C. DeWitt White Company, 1921.
Historical, Statistical and Industrial Review of the State of Connecticut. New York: W.S. Webb and Co., 1884.
Illustrated Review of Northeastern Connecticut. New York: Sovereign Publishing & Engraving Company, 1891.
Leading Business Men of Webster, Southbridge, Putnam and Vicinity. Boston: Mercantile Publishing Company, 1890.
Taylor's Directory of Putnam & Danielson. Putnam: William H. Taylor, 1900.
Windham County, Connecticut, Business Directory. West Killingly : Windham County Transcript Office, 1861.
Maps and Views
Aero view of Danielson, Connecticut, 1913. New York: Hughes & Bailey, 1913.
Conant, Albert. "Danielsonville," Pen and ink bird's-eye view, c.1864, Bugbee Memorial Library, Danielson.
Danielsonville, Connecticut, 1877. Bird's-eye view. Boston: O.H. Bailey, 1877.
Gray, O.W. Atlas of Windham and Tolland Counties. Hartford: C.G. Keeney, 1869.
Map of Windham County, 1855. Philadelphia: E. P. Gerrish, 1856.
Sixty Glimpses of Danielson. Danielson: McEwen & Hopkins, 1908.
Previous Surveys (All Deposited with Connecticut Historical Commission):
Historical and Architectural Survey. Phase 1: Residential Areas in Danielson, Dayville, Attawaugen, and Rogers. Historic Resource Consultants, 1982.
Historical and Architectural Survey. Phase 2: Main Street Extension in Danielson. Historic Resource Consultants, 1984.
Statewide Survey of Historical Sculpture. Connecticut Historical Commission, 1995.
Survey of Connecticut Town Greens. Connecticut Historical Commission, 1994.
† Bruce Clouette and Hoang, Tinh, Consultants, and John Herzan, Connecticut Historical Commission, Broad Street-Davis Park Historic District,, nomination document, 1997, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.