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.
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.
The last stop we will see at the stunning Seaside Sanatorium campus in Waterford, Connecticut is the former Superintendent’s Residence. Built in 1936, the home is elegantly sited at the waterfront, which would have provided amazing views for the man in charge of running Seaside, the Tuberculosis hospital for children here. Like the Maher Building, Nurse’s Residence, and Duplex Residence previously featured, this building was designed in the Tudor Revival style and is also credited as a work of architect Cass Gilbert. The Superintendent’s Residence is interesting as it has two completely different facades. The campus-facing facade features an L-shape with a garage wing and projecting entry pavilion in stone. Above, a diamond-pane window would allow natural light into what may be the stairhall. At the waterfront, a large open porch (since boarded up) and large windows at the first floor, would provide natural light and air into the building, along with amazing views of Long Island Sound. Additionally, a catslide roof extends from the rightmost bay and covers a recessed porch with basketweave brickwork above. I would for sure live here, could you?
Another of the handful of original structures extant on the Seaside Sanatorium campus in Waterford, Connecticut, is this gorgeous Tudor Revival style duplex constructed for medical staff housing. Like the Main Building and Nurse’s Residence, this duplex is credited as a design by the great Cass Gilbert. While the building was constructed after Gilbert’s death in 1934, the plans were likely all drawn up at the time the Maher (main) building was in 1933. The duplex residences feature a symmetrical facade with two main entranceways, located in slightly projecting pavilions, and are set within basket-arched openings, detailed with alternating brick and granite voussoirs. There are three-part windows above the doors which project from the wall plane and have cross-braced faux balustrades of wood below. Identical sun porches are recessed at either end of the house. The small associated garage to the
immediate northeast has a simple design, but one that reflects the style of the houses. Like the other buildings on the campus, this structure is vacant and is slowly rotting away. So sad to see.
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…
One of the most entrancing and clearly haunted places in Connecticut is the Seaside Sanatorium on the coast of Waterford, CT. It’s founding dates back to the early 1900s, when tuberculosis killed 252 of every 100,000 people living in the state, making it the leading killer in the state early in the century. When Connecticut Tuberculosis Commission members, including Chairman Dr. Stephen J. Maher, a New Haven physician, began hearing of success in Europe with exposure not only to ocean air, but to strong sunlight, they began pushing for a new location in Connecticut to treat children with tuberculosis. The first Seaside was established in Niantic in 1918, which was outgrown, and a newer, modern facility on the coast was needed. The State found a site on the coast of Waterford and hired world-renowned architect Cass Gilbert to design the complex in the Tudor Revival style, a departure from the Colonial or Classic Revival styles favored at the time for such projects. When the facility opened, children would spend as much time as possible exposed to the sun’s rays as part of their treatment here. They played sports, took lessons, ate, read, and played music outside year-round, either on the beach, the lawns, or the three levels of south-facing porches. By the early to mid-1950s, tuberculosis became curable with antibiotics that required limited bed rest and could be given in a regular hospital setting. After its use as a TB facility ceased, the state re-opened Seaside as a hospital for people with mental illness, which too closed in the 1990s. The massive campus has sat vacant since, rotting away as a State Park. Apparently the State has been looking for a developer to revitalize the campus as a hotel or other use, but sadly, nothing has materialized.
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.