Discovering Connecticut's Historic Stone Structures
Old Stone Buildings
The New England state of Connecticut has a long and storied history, and evidence of that history is still visible today in the form of stone structures and buildings. From Cedar Hill Chapel and Gateway, built in 1882, to the Kent Iron Furnace, a remnant of Connecticut’s colonial iron industry, and the Rye House, a 2 ½ story stone fortified estate, these historic stone structures are reminders of the past that still stand the test of time.
Let’s look at these stonemason works of craftsmanship.
Stone architecture has a long and varied history. From the earliest times, stone was one of the most popular building materials due to its durability and strength. We can find stone structures around the world, from ancient ruins to modern cathedrals. One of the most popular styles of stone architecture is Gothic Revival. This style is characterized by elaborate stonework, such as pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses. In addition, they often decorated the exterior of Gothic Revival buildings with intricate carvings and sculptures which add to the overall aesthetic of the structure.
A classic example of Gothic Revival stone architecture is the red sandstone chancel arch in the Church of St. Mary’s in the village of Swallowcliffe, England. The chancel arch is constructed from red sandstone and is decorated with carved tracery, including gothic arches, columns and other trim elements. The church also features rough cut granite blocks which add to the rustic charm.
Another example of stone architecture is the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. The Colosseum was built in the first century AD and is one of the most iconic buildings in the world. It is made entirely of stone and features three tiers of arches which were used to support the stadium’s wooden seating. The Colosseum is an excellent example of how stone architecture can be used to create grand and impressive structures which stand the test of time.
“Skilled stonemasons believe that natural stone should be a top priority when preserving structures due to its historic, sustainable, and aesthetic qualities.”
Tudor Revival architecture is a style of architecture that was popular during the 19th and 20th centuries. Its roots lie in the romanticized architecture of the late medieval period. Tudor Revival architecture is characterized by its steeply pitched roofs, half-timbered frames, and large windows. It also features intricately carved door and window frames, as well as stone or brickwork detailed exteriors.
The interiors often featured dark wood paneling, ornate fireplaces, and ornamental plasterwork. We often see Tudor Revival architecture in public buildings such as town halls, post offices, and schools, as well as private estates. Its popularity continues to this day, with many newly built homes featuring a modern take on the traditional style. The Tudor Revival style is truly timeless and its enduring popularity is testament to its beauty and versatility.
Stone masonry is a timeless and beautiful form of art. From Gothic Revival churches to the structures in this article, we have used stone structures for centuries to create stunning and enduring buildings. Stone structures will continue to be an important part of building design for many years to come.
Architects of the Time
Architect George Keller
George Keller was a renowned American architect and engineer whose career was marked with remarkable success. He was sought after for his designs of bridges, houses, monuments, and public buildings. Among his most famous works in Connecticut are the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Hartford, Connecticut, and the Northam Memorial Chapel and Gallup Memorial Gateway.
George was an Irish immigrant. He accepted a role as an engineer at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the Civil War. When the war was finished, he moved to Hartford and began designing monuments as his new job.
Keller has several “Soldier and Sailor” themed monuments to his credit.
Notable Projects Including:
- Civil War Monument, located at East Granby Road, Granby, Connecticut
- Soldiers’ National Monument, Gettysburg National Cemetery, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- U.S. Soldier Monument, Antietam National Cemetery
- Major General John Sedgwick Memorial, Cornwall, Connecticut
Base of Lafayette Equestrian Statue, Lafayette Circle, Capitol Avenue & Washington Street, Hartford, Connecticut
Wilson Eyre Jr.
Wilson Eyre Jr., an American architect, teacher and writer, is renowned for his idiosyncratic and inviting country homes, as well as his inventive Shingle Style architecture. Operating mainly in the Philadelphia area, Eyre left an indelible mark on the architectural scene. Before Frank Lloyd Wright gained fame, Eyre was likely the most well-known domestic architect among foreign architects in the United States.
Born in Florence, Italy to American parents, Eyre was educated in Europe and Newport, Rhode Island. He later enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study architecture. After the death of James Peacock Sims in 1882, Eyre took over his Philadelphia office. In 1911, Eyre partnered with John Gilbert McIlvaine and opened a second office in New York City. This firm, Eyre & McIlvaine, stayed in operation until 1939.
He was a key figure in the founding of House & Garden magazine. His passion for garden design was evident in his own creations, which connected the indoors with the outdoors in a harmonious manner. He also wrote extensively on the importance of a seamless transition between rooms and gardens.
Although most of Wilson’s works were in Philadelphia, he has two notable Connecticut projects including:
- E.S. Sands mansion, Southport, Connecticut (1905)
- Rye House, Litchfield, Connecticut (1910)
Learn More About Wilson Eyre at https://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/ar_display.cfm/25852
Northam Memorial Chapel and Gallup Memorial Gateway
Established in 1864, Cedar Hill is a 270-acre rural cemetery designed by Jacob Weidenmann (1829-1893) in the open lawn plan. It is located in the southwestern corner of the city of Hartford, as well as the adjoining towns of Wethersfield and Newington. Two small Gothic Revival granite buildings, the Waiting Room and Office, collectively known as the Gallup Memorial Gateway (1889) designed by George Keller (1842-1935), flank the main entrance wrought-iron gate.
The Northrup Memorial Chapel (1882), also designed by Keller, is connected to the Waiting Room by a wall and is located south of it. The gateway and chapel were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, while the frame Revival Superintendent’s House is located to the north of the gateway.
The majestic Northam Memorial Chapel stands proudly as a Gothic Revival stone structure, boasting a slate roof and a small bell tower. Upon entering, one is immediately captivated by the polychrome tile floor, cherry pews, and large exposed wooden trusses that support the roof. The chancel arch and other trim elements are of a stunning red sandstone.
At Cedar Hill, there are thousands of monuments made from marble, brownstone, and granite, some adorned with bronze figures and plaques. Notable monuments include those of George Beach, Sr., Samuel Colt, and J.P. Morgan. Each summer, an extensive conservation program is conducted to clean, treat with a consolidant, and occasionally restore the stone monuments.
Cedar Hill boasts twelve mausoleums, each with a distinct architectural style – two of the most noteworthy being the Governor Edward Denison Morgan and Caine-Marvin mausoleums. Additionally, the Cedar Hill landscape is home to many unique trees, including the largest Bitternut Hickory in the entire state
Learn More about this place at the National Park Service.
Kent Iron Furnace
The Eric Sloane Museum, located on a hilltop overlooking the Housatonic River to the west, has an iron furnace situated down the slope. This stone structure stands 32 feet (9.8 m) tall, with its base measuring 29 feet (8.8 m) wide and sloping inward as it rises. Its three faces have pointed-arch openings, two smaller ones found on opposite sides.
Rough cut granite blocks, held together with iron plates and tie rods, were used to construct the furnace without any mortar. This structure was originally built as a cold blast furnace in 1826 and utilized iron ore from a quarry in South Kent, primarily for the construction of railroads. In 1846, it was reconstructed as a hot blast furnace, and later enlarged to its current size in 1870.
During its operational period, which ended in 1892, the furnace would have been surrounded by wooden structures to facilitate operations and protect the main structure. These wood structures were temporary in nature due to the risk of fire.
Who is Eric Sloane?
Explore the works of renowned Connecticut artist and author Eric Sloane at the Eric Sloane Museum in Kent. View his paintings and illustrations, as well as an extensive collection of early American hand tools, a tribute to American artisanship. Experience a recreation of an early 19th-century dwelling from his most famous book, Diary of an Early American Boy, in the Noah Blake Cabin. Take a stroll around the museum’s scenic grounds near the Housatonic River, where you can also find the ruins of the Kent Iron Furnace and picturesque walking trails. The museum building was donated to the State of Connecticut in 1969 by the Connecticut-based tool manufacturing company Stanley Works.
You can visit the Kent Iron Furnace at:
Eric Sloane Museum & Kent Iron Furnace
31 Kent-Cornwall Road (Route 7)
Kent, CT 06757
Rye House is a historic summer estate property located in the town of Litchfield, Connecticut. Developed in 1910 for a wealthy New York City widow, the estate is an excellent example of Tudor Revival architecture and is a prime example of the trend of grand country estate development that has taken place in the region. Since its completion in 1910, Rye House has been an iconic landmark in the town of Litchfield and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Featuring beautiful gardens and a grand Tudor-style mansion, Rye House is a stunning piece of history that still stands proudly in Litchfield today.
The estate is an impressive sight, with a grandiose main house, sitting on 52 acres, it stands out amongst the surrounding landscape. The main house has been lovingly crafted out of stuccoed stone, giving it a timeless and elegant feel. Inside, the house contains 18 rooms which total 10,127 square feet. The landscaped gardens surrounding the main house are a sight to behold, with a formally landscaped garden area to the west and a lush lawn extending south. Additionally, the estate also boasts an Olympic-sized swimming pool and tennis court. The gardener’s cottage, located near the entrance, is also a substantial construction and has a charming bungalow/craftsman style.
You may like our article on the Historic Building Litchfield
The estate was developed by Isabella Douglass Curtis, the widow of a wealthy New York City banker who died in 1895. She named the property in memory of her previous estate in Rye, New York. The house was designed by Wilson Eyre in 1910, and the gardener’s cottage was designed by Wilder and White and was built the following year. The Curtis Estate is a beautiful place and is a testament to the hard work and dedication of Isabella Douglass Curtis.
This estate has been sold and some of the owners have been actress Karen Shaw and Anderson Cooper purchased it in 2014.
The home is presently privately owned and can not be seen.
We hope you found this article informative. As stone masons, McAree Masonry, enjoys our craft in working on historic buildings, walls and structures and Connecticut is full of them. We hope to bring you more informative articles and solutions in the future. If you like this article feel free to rate it or comment below. Thank you.