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.
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.
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.
Next to the Maher Building at Seaside Sanatorium, the Nurse’s Residence building (1935) sits in the same sad state but retains a lot of its architectural character and charm. The Nurse’s Residence was built for… you guessed it, housing for the nurses who worked at the Seaside Sanatorium and treated the young children with Tuberculosis. Like the main building, this structure was designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert in the Tudor Revival style. In designing the buildings, Gilbert met the requirements of the sanatorium to have a self-contained hospital for the children and a large separate dormitory for the nursing staff, but adapted an essentially domestic architectural
style to de-institutionalize their appearance through the use of applied, decorative detail and an extraordinary wealth of materials. The Nurse’s Residence is constructed of brick and is capped with a polychrome slate roof which is lined by 15 dormers on each slope, alternating in size. The end gables, which are similar to those of the main building and in surprisingly decent condition given the circumstances, are covered with decorative tile and add a punch of architectural intrigue. Oh too see these buildings restored one day…
This gorgeous stone house was built circa 1877 by Phillip M. Powers (1814-1889), who served as President of the Millstone granite quarry in Waterford, Connecticut. The home is said to have been built off an earlier 1700s home, but all was constructed in ashlar granite to showcase Mr. Powers’ quality stone. It is said that Phillip went bankrupt not long after the construction of this home. In 1930, the house was purchased by Beatrice H. Rosenthal and her husband. Ms. Rosenthal served as both a delegate and as a committeewoman of the Democratic National party, and a staunch advocate for women’s rights. She was also active in women’s educational institutions around New England. The old home and barn are now available for rentals for events or overnight stays.
Waterford was once part of New London, but it separated in 1801 as the area desired its own town government which took agricultural interests more seriously. In the 19th century, much of the town’s economy was centered around agriculture, with many residents running sheep farms. During the 20th century, sheep farms were replaced by dairy farms. Between 1920 and 1960, there were about 100 dairy farms in Waterford. After WWII, suburbanization occurred and many wealthy residents of nearby New London moved to Waterford for more space. The oldest surviving public building in Waterford, Connecticut is this Colonial-era schoolhouse which was likely built in the 1730s. The Jordan Schoolhouse was built as a rural schoolhouse as farmers wanted their children to be taught writing, reading, arithmetic, and religion, even if they followed their parent’s footsteps in farming. The gambrel-roofed Georgian building was used as a school until the mid-19th century and it was converted to a private home for Asa and Eliza Gallup and their family. The schoolhouse was eventually moved to its current site on Jordan Green in 1972 and is operated as a museum space for the Waterford Historical Society.