New Listings on the National Register
The wide-ranging changes that many Connecticut communities have experienced over time are seen in three historic districts recently nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. Two of the districts have been listed; the third was not, due to objections by a majority of property owners. The summary descriptions are taken from the nominations, all prepared by Cunningham Preservation Associates.
The Glastonbury-Rocky Hill Ferry Historic District encompasses a significant and well-preserved historic vernacular landscape on the banks of the Connecticut River. Shaped and differentiated by a unique natural and cultural history, the farmers of Nayaug in South Glastonbury and the merchants at the Rocky Hill landing exploited the natural resources of their riverine communities and remained linked together by the oldest continuously operating ferry in the United States. Although little remains of a distinguished shipbuilding tradition that once prevailed on both sides of the river, much of this historic legacy is preserved in the homes of district shipbuilders. The historic maritime focus of the Rocky Hill Landing is expressed in the surviving nearby homes and stores of merchant traders, which include several examples of the Colonial and Italianate styles. Of particular architectural interest are the well-preserved farmscapes of the Great Meadows in South Glastonbury that still display historic land-use patterns that date back to the 17th century. Broad expanses of cultivated fields and pastures radiating out to the river's edge provide an authentic historic setting for a fine collection of Colonial and Greek Revival farmhouses, which are enhanced by an impressive array of associated outbuildings.
In Norwich, the Greeneville Historic District is a historically significant industrial village that was created to support and sustain water-powered industry from 1828 to about 1940. Much of the enduring success of this industrial enterprise can be attributed to the entrepreneurial vision of industrialist William P. Greene (1795-1862). His development of this planned community and a company to deliver a centralized power system, combined with significant technological infrastructure improvements in the late 19th century, supported the largest industrial presence in Norwich. Although nominally a part of the City of Norwich after 1875, from its creation in 1833 until after World War I Greeneville remained a relatively independent and self-sufficient, working-class community-an evolution fully expressed by the district's large, cohesive collection of generally well-preserved domestic, institutional and commercial architecture. While much of the architecture has the vernacular character expected in a mill town, the district also includes representative examples of the major styles of the period, including Greek Revival, Second Empire, Italianate, and Carpenter Gothic.
Not listed in the Register but declared officially eligible is the Avon Center Historic District in Avon. This district became controversial when the Town of Avon objected to the inclusion of some of its properties and presented the novel argument that town-owned properties could never be considered "contributing properties" in a National Register district (see CPN, November/December 2004). That question became moot when a majority of property owners objected to listing.
Cunningham writes that the Avon district illuminates the transformation of a rural crossroads in the Farmington River Valley into an institutional and commercial town center. During this 150-year evolutionary process, the economic, social, demographic and environmental character of the district was directly affected by 19th-century advances in canal and rail transportation and the significant presence of the Ensign-Bickford Company, a 20th-century leader in the safety fuse industry.