House and Garden: New Listings on the National Register
Four Connecticut houses ranging from the 18th
to the mid-20th centuries are among the sites recently listed on the
National Register of Historic Places. In each case, the landscape adds greatly
to the house’s appeal and livability (although in one case the landscape does
not relate to the house’s designated historic significance).
Washington. Gideon Hollister, a leading early resident of Washington,
built this house about 1765 for his son Preston.
In addition to farming, the enterprising Gideon operated a sawmill, a trading
post, and a potash works; he also held civic and military posts. Succeeding
generations of Hollisters occupied the house until the middle of the 20th
century and continued to be important in Washington.
Open fields, barns and other outbuildings on the property witness to the
homestead’s ongoing use as a farm. In the latter part of the 20th
century the house became, like many other Litchfield County
farmsteads, a weekend home.
Because Washington was still remote in the mid-18th
century, the house’s architecture is simple. Its saltbox form is uncommon in
the region (only three exist today in Washington),
and the finishes are plain. Later additions maintained this overall simplicity.
Although it is not old enough to
contribute to the homestead’s historic significance, the garden is noteworthy. Built
by then-owner George Shoellkopf beginning in 1975, its English design, with a
series of individual ‘rooms,’ complements the historic buildings and the topography.
The property is owned by The Garden Conservancy, which opens the garden to the
public on summer weekends (see: www.hollisterhousegarden.org).
Rock Hall, Colebrook.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, wealthy New
Yorkers established country estates in western Connecticut. One of these was Rock Hall, begun
in 1911 for Jerome Alexandre, the heir to a shipping fortune. Alexandre
apparently chose Colebrook, rather than a more fashionable location, such as Norfolk or Sharon,
to avoid snubbing: while still a college student, he had scandalously married a
Alexandre’s architect, Addison
Mizner, is best known for luxurious Mediterranean Revival estates in Palm Beach, Florida,
where he moved in 1918. For Rock Hall, Mizner employed a simplified version of
16th-century English design, which he called ‘Tudor’ and which
reflected the Anglophilia of the American upper class at the time. The exterior
is a severe composition of rubble stone and stucco, achieving visual effect
from contrasting textures. The interior is more elaborate, and in an eclectic
mix of styles—English, French Renaissance, and Georgian—characteristic of
Mizner’s work. In the landscape are curving drives, allées of trees, a rustic garden
pavilion, and a balustraded terrace which, before the trees grew up, would have
provided scenic views. Rock Hall continued to serve as a summer home until
2007, when it became a bed-and-breakfast.
house, New Haven. Born into a prominent
Elizabeth Hooker was able to devote her life to progressive causes,
particularly women’s right to vote. Other interests included the Visiting Nurse
Association and the birth control movement; environmental protection,
particularly for the Sleeping Giant in Hamden; and, through the Colonial Dames
and the Daughters of the American Revolution, historic preservation.
Hooker’s house occupies a large lot on Edgehill Road in New Haven’s most fashionable neighborhood. It
was designed by the firm of Delano
and Aldrich, among whose works were country estates, town houses, and
institutional buildings, including several at Yale.
Hall, the Hooker house is based on historical precedents, but has an exterior
so simple as to be almost style-less. This choice was perhaps rooted in the
English Arts and Crafts movement, which, more than its American version,
emphasized a progressive view of society and the importance of social reform.
The varied textures—brick walls, bluestone and rough wood trim, tile roofs, and
leaded windows—provide a subtle richness and help the house to blend with its
gardens. These were designed to be relatively formal near the house and
naturalistic farther from it. Jim and Martha Alexander received a Connecticut
Preservation Award in 2009 for restoring the house and gardens.
Allen house, Westport.
Officially known for its current owners, the house was built in 1957 for Ernst
Herrmann, a furniture designer, and his wife, Marcia, to plans by Leroy
Binkley, a Chicago architect who designed several
houses in Westchester and Fairfield
Binkley studied under Ludwig Mies
van der Rohe, but the Herrmann house also has a number of elements that
resemble the work of Mies’ contemporary, Marcel Breuer. One is the H-shaped footprint,
which Breuer called ‘binuclear’ and promoted as a way of separating public and
private uses. Cantilevers and fieldstone walls also resemble Breuer’s work. However,
the dramatic sloping end walls that support the cantilevered deck and screen it
from the street, are Binkley’s own.
Binkley sited the house for views
to a pond and to capture sun for both light and heat—compensating for the heat
loss through the glass walls. Unfortunately, the house also gains heat in the
summer, and the Allens have installed screens and awnings to control the summer
Another element of the relationship
of the house to its surroundings was landscaping by Frank Okamura, of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Much of this has been
lost, but a small, Zen-style garden of stones and gravel remains.