The simplicity and proportions of old Georgian houses are just so pleasing to me. This c.1765 home was built before the United States of America was even a country, a fact that always boggles my mind when doing research on buildings. These four walls have survived numerous wars, pandemics, families, and storms, and will continue to do so for (hopefully) hundreds of more years in the future. This Canterbury house was built for John Carter (1708-1776) and his family, which included a wife and over 10 children in all. The house retains its double-width doors, 12-over-12 windows, central chimney (though likely reduced in size), and stone foundation.
Extant one-room schoolhouses in New England are scarce, so whenever I stumble upon one, I always stop and take a photo! This little schoolhouse in Canterbury, Connecticut was built around 1850 near the village green, and provided schooling for the rural town center’s children for about 100 years until it closed after WWII. In 1947, the modern, Dr. Helen Baldwin School opened in town, forcing many smaller, outdated one-room schools to close. After this, many were either demolished or adapted to other uses. The Canterbury Green Schoolhouse was adapted to the town’s public library. The building later housed the town’s library until 2001, when a new library building was constructed. In the 2000s, the Canterbury Historical Society and town volunteers gathered funds and restored the building to her former glory and appearance. The school is now occasionally open as a small museum for the town.
I was going through some images on my phone, and stumbled upon some Canterbury, CT buildings I never posted! This Federal style house was built around 1815 for Dr. Andrew Harris one of two physicians in Canterbury in the early 19th century. He was born in Rhode Island and lived on a farm until he took up in the medical profession. He was known throughout eastern Connecticut as one of the most distinguished operative surgeons in the state until his death at the young age of 53. The large home features a Palladian window above the entrance with some Victorian era alterations, including the front porch, elongated 2-over-2 windows at the ground floor, and double-door entry. Oh, and the house is across the street from the iconic Prudence Crandall House.
Another of the stunning buildings on the Harkness Estate is this massive all-purpose building that served a variety of functions, but I will call it the Carriage House. The building was constructed in 1908 and designed by James Gamble Rogers, mimicking the Renaissance Revival grandeur of the main home, Eolia. As previously mentioned, the large, U-shaped building was a multi-use support compound for the Harkness Family and their farm. The South Wing (right) of the building served as a clubhouse for Edward Harkness and his friends, with a billiards room, squash court, and two bowling lanes. This wing has large windows looking out towards the ocean and the large gardens on the property. The central block contained a garage with a turntable to facilitate the parking of limousines, a gas pump and a car wash for Mr. Harkness and his growing automobile collection. The North Wing (left) contained the horse stables, carriage area, tack room, smithy, and even a space dedicated to dog grooming. Upon close inspection you can see small rounded stones near the portals to allow the wheels to hit them rather than damage the building. Perhaps most importantly, the Carriage House was the location for the furnace room with its huge steam boiler. This boiler heated the Carriage House as well as the Mansion via an underground steam line. Apparently the building will soon be undergoing a restoration. Fingers crossed!
One of the most unique buildings on the grounds of the Harkness Estate has to be the most functional, the 1910 water tower. The structure was designed by architect James Gamble Rogers, a really under-appreciated architect who was commissioned by Edward and Mary Harkness to revamp their summer compound. The water tower features a skeletal frame with concrete block tower protecting it, surmounted by a shingled water tank which once had a functioning wind mill on it! Nearby the water tower, a garden designed by female landscape architect Beatrix Farrand frames the tower very well. In that garden sits a 110+ year old Japanese Thread Leaf Maple tree, which is probably the most beautiful tree I have ever seen.
On the sprawling grounds of the Harkness Estate (featured previously), this wood-frame home showcases the more human-scaled farmhouses that many in New England once had. The farmhouse was likely built in the middle of the 19th century and was used until the early 20th century when the farmland (and likely other surrounding coastal farms) were purchased and turned into the massive 237-acre estate. Interestingly, the Harkness Estate was used as a summer house for the Harkness family, but also as a ‘gentleman’s farm’. Gentleman’s Farms were an important element of the upper-class lifestyle in the Gilded Age as they served as formal summer mansions and working farms that often supplied produce and dairy products to the owners’ winter residences. The wide open spaces and ability to have a tranquil lifestyle was appealing to many who lived in dense urban centers for most of the year. While nearly all “gentleman farmers” had servants actually do all the work, they sure loved the idea of living on a farm. At its peak, the Harkness Estate with it’s prized herd of Guernsey cows, 65 employees, 35 of whom were year-round support staff. It is likely the lead farmer and family lived in this building, right in the center of the estate.
Eolia, the Harkness Estate, sits on the shoreline of Waterford, Connecticut and is significant as one of the most complete grand-scale, seaside estates in Connecticut. Similar to Seaside Sanatorium (featured previously), the Harkness Estate is another Connecticut State Park in the coastal town, but is quite opposite as the buildings and grounds are in much better condition and get use! The property was developed as a formal seasonal retreat and working farm in the early 1900s for William Taylor and Jessie Stillman, until it was purchased by Jessie’s sister Mary and her husband Edward Harkness soon after. Edward S. Harkness (1874-1940) spent most of his life managing, with his older brother Charles, a tremendous fortune built up by their father Stephen Harkness, who had had the foresight in 1870 to become John D. Rockefeller’s business partner by investing in the Standard Oil Company. Edward Harkness married Mary Stillman, daughter of wealthy New York attorney Thomas E. Stillman, in 1904. Mary’s maternal grandfather was Thomas S. Greenman, a shipbuilder in Mystic, Connecticut, who co-founded George Greenman & Co shipyard (now part of the Mystic Seaport Museum). As the centerpiece of this summer estate, the premier NY architectural firm of Lord & Hewlett, designed this stunning Renaissance Revival mansion which holds a whopping 42-rooms. Mary hired female landscape architect Beatrix Farrand to design the absolutely stunning gardens on the grounds. In 1918, Edward Harkness was ranked the 6th-richest person in the United States, and the couple decided to give away much of their wealth, including selling off some of their property in Waterford for Camp Harkness for children with polio. Mary and Edward were very private people who avoided public attention and acclaim, unlike many of the rich of today. Mary Harkness’s final gift, was written in her will, that her beloved estate Eolia, would be gifted to the State of Connecticut.
Stay tuned for some more buildings on this stunning estate!
The Beebe-Phillips house in Waterford, CT, was built in the 1830s by Orrin Beebe (though some accounts say it was built for his wife Lydia after his death), and is an excellent example of a traditional full-cape house in Connecticut. The home is a vernacular example of the Federal style with no frills or expensive details. The house was originally located elsewhere in town but was moved to its current site on Jordan Green in 1974 by the Waterford Historical Society, next to the Jordan Schoolhouse.
About a decade after the White Family Estate in Waterford was built, artist Henry Cooke White, a painter, designed and had this summer cottage built on part of his land. The gambrel roofed Shingle style house was likely used by family and friends when they would visit Henry at his mansion on the water, which he spent nearly all his time at painting. The house, along with the other homes built for the White Family, remain in the family’s ownership and are very well-preserved.
Henry Cooke White (1861-1952), the patriarch of an extremely artistic family, purchased undeveloped land on a coastal part of Waterford, Connecticut in 1891. When passing through the area he found a vantage point overlooking the water, he was overwhelmed by the panoramic view of Long Island Sound, writing in his memoirs, “…I was convinced that this was my Promised land.” Not long after, he built a summer cottage on what became known as White Point the following year. The Whites wintered with his parents in Hartford until they built a year-round home in Waterford in 1913, designed by Wilson Eyre, a Philadelphia architect, after he was inspired by Charles Lang Freer’s home in Detroit. The rustic Shingle style house was constructed of ashlar stone masonry with shingles above, which is sited perfectly on the rocky shoreline. Also on the site is a boat house and garage (which I could photograph from the street) in similar detailing. Henry‘s son and grandson both followed his footsteps: Nelson Cooke White (1900-1989), who was born at White Point, and inherited his father’s love of the sea, became a noted marine and landscape painter; and Nelson Holbrook White (1932-) who was taught by his grandfather and later studied in Italy how to perfect his painting.