Date of Award

Spring 2014

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Major

Art History

First Advisor

Kathleen A. Curran, Ph.D

Abstract

This paper aims to delineate the stylistic history of Wethersfield, Connecticut’s domestic architectural culture from the time of its founding in 1634 by Massachusetts adventurer John Oldham through the completion of the Hubbard Community in the mid-1930s by visionary developer and historic home restorer Albert G. Hubbard, originally of Simsbury, Connecticut.

Due to its status as the oldest town in Connecticut, Wethersfield has the advantage of having at least one example of each major style of home building from the mid-seventeenth century age of settlement to the birth of the streetcar suburb and a class of corporate commuters and automobile owners. A relatively unique position, though one that is not entirely uncommon in the Northeast, Wethersfield has devoted itself to preserving the finest examples of historic homes. This paper seeks to bring to light the history, context, and a concise summary of major restorative efforts, including challenges and setbacks, of and to these homes.

The Buttolph-Williams House (c. 1686), the Silas W. Robbins House (1873), the Joseph Webb House (1753), and the Hubbard Community (1912-1938) were chosen as benchmarks in the domestic architectural history of Wethersfield not only for their relative fame, but for their idiosyncrasies as well. These houses may not represent the average home of the day—few residents of the town, after all, could have afforded to build a house as grand as Robbins’s Second Empire mansion—but they symbolize points of great change, or phases of growth in the town’s history. The Buttolph-Williams House, considered a mansion for its time, represents a later phase of the tradition of Medieval English vernacular housing styles that were preserved until about 1750 as (in Wethersfield, mostly Puritan) settlers arrived to the New World and began to forge lives for themselves. The Webb House, a splendid Georgian gambrel house, is one of rather many of its kind on Main Street, though few are so well-preserved. Its solidity, but also its elegance, show the development of the town from the fearful, modest settlement it had been in the seventeenth century to a small, busy place of some sophistication, and, as will be seen, a spot of particular interest for the American Revolutionary War. As mentioned above, the Robbins House especially represents nothing of the norm of Wethersfield, but instead serves as an example of the prowess of entrepreneurship, particularly in agriculture and the seed industry specifically, that ruled the town’s upper class. Finally, the Hubbard Community will be discussed. This area is interesting not only because it shows the intentional imitation of the rhythmic eclecticism of various housing styles standing side-by-side as a result of centuries of change, but also because it is the first automobile-enabled, strategically planned suburban community in Connecticut. Comprised of over two-hundred craftsman, Jacobean Revival, and English Manor style homes, the Hubbard Community was a twenty-five year project resulting in a close-knit, unified community of well-built homes of various designs, completed using local materials and construction teams to ensure quality and affordability.

Comments

Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Art History.