The Jefferson Historic District is a development of 9-11 unit row homes over a 5-block area in the northern part of the borough, just south of Route 13.
Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from National Register of Historic Places - Historic District Nomination, submitted to Department of Interior in 1987.
The Jefferson Land Association Historic District contains five blocks of virtually identical row houses and commercial buildings constructed in 1917 and 1918. The district is architecturally significant as an unusual local response to working class residential requirements. The uniform, cohesive, eleven to nineteen-unit rows that comprise the district are atypical of Bristol's other working class housing which is characterized by single family residences or duplexes with few rows containing as many as four or five individual buildings. The historical significance of the district stems from the fact that these rows comprise one of only two large residential developments constructed in Bristol in response to working class housing shortages that arose following the United States' entry into World War I.
The Jefferson Land Association was a speculative real estate venture organized in 1890 by a number of prominent Bristol businessmen including Joseph R. Grundy, owner of the Grundy Mills, the largest industrial enterprise in Bristol. Shortly after its organization the Association purchased several largely undeveloped tracts of land on the northern edge of the borough and laid out streets and building lots. Many developers during this period bought up one-time farmland with the intention of subdividing it into residential lots. Research in historic maps, land records, newspapers, and other sources suggests that the Jefferson Land Association constituted perhaps the largest real estate venture of this type in Bristol. The Land Association did not build on the lots that comprise the Jefferson Land Association Historic District until 1917-1918, at which time they constructed the present rows of residences and stores.
The Jefferson Land Association left little trace of itself in the historical record and the available evidence fails to provide any explanation for the Association's decision to leave its property undeveloped for more than twenty-five years. The development of the property in 1917-1918 appears, however, to be linked to an increase in the demand for worker housing associated with the mobilization of local Industries for wartime production. The Jefferson Land Association buildings and the government-built shipyard worker housing at Harriman, were the only two large residential developments in Bristol constructed explicitly in response to this demand. The Jefferson Land Association development is unique in that, unlike Harriman, it was financed and built solely by private investors.
Historical research has failed to reveal whether or not the Jefferson Land Association development was constructed in response to the needs of a single local industry or factory. It is possible, however, given Joseph R. Grundy's Involvement in the Jefferson Land Association, that the development provided housing for workers employed at Grundy's nearby worsted mills. A thorough investigation of available historical records, including deeds, tax records, census material, maps, and other documents, has failed to reveal any firm evidence to either prove or disprove this theory.
The architectural treatment of the Jefferson Land Association blocks represents one of several possible responses to the perceived needs of workers during this time period. The buildings represent a middle ground between the stark, uniform brick rows constructed by the Standard Cast Iron Pipe & Foundry Company In the Harriman Historic District and the more generously proportioned and articulated housing erected in Harriman by the United States Shipping Board's Emergency Fleet Corporation. The brick buildings constructed by the Jefferson Land Association utilize the same traditional, economical row house construction techniques found in the Standard Cast Iron Pipe & Foundry Company buildings, but, unlike those rows, are articulated with bay windows and deep, continuous porches. These architectural details provide the buildings with minimal amenities and serve to differentiate the individual residences in a manner similar to the Shipping Board's buildings in Harriman.
The construction of the Jefferson Land Association buildings at one time, by a single developer, stands in sharp contrast to the traditional pattern of working class housing construction in Bristol. Most housing of this sort, with the exception of the government-built project at Harriman, consists of single family residence, duplexes, or small rows of four or five individual buildings. These buildings are generally simple, vernacular style buildings with few, if any, architectural details. The porches, bays, and massing of the Jefferson Land Association buildings set them apart from other privately financed working class housing In the community.
The Jefferson Land Association Historic District Is a unique example of large-scale rowhouse construction In Bristol. The district's buildings display a cohesive, uniform design, and an arrangement in block-long rows, that represents a major departure from Bristol's traditional approach to working class housing. The buildings' architectural amenities mark them as occupying a middle ground between the simple, rather stark, residences that comprise most of Bristol's working class housing and the more generous, fully articulated, buildings constructed by the United States Shipping Board in Harriman. Privately constructed in response to the housing demands that arose as Bristol's factories and mills expanded their operations to a wartime footing, the district's buildings are historically significant as a unique local example of privately financed wartime housing construction. The government-built shipyard worker housing at Harriman was the only other large scale housing development constructed in Bristol during World War I. The buildings that constitute the Jefferson Land Association Historic District are a unique historical and architectural resource in Bristol.
Source: adapted from National Register of Historic Places, Historic District Nomination, submitted to Department of Interior in 1987.
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