Colchester Historic District

View of the Village Center Green, Colchester; Source- NRIS 94000254
Historic/Common Name:
Colchester Village National Register Historic District
Town:
Colchester »
Year of Establishment:
1984
Historic Designation:
LHD, NRHD, SR
District Authority:
Historic District Commission
Nature of Authority:
Regulatory
District Character:
Town Center
Eligible for Historic Home tax credits:
Yes
General description:

The area represented by the Colchester Historic District served in some ways as Colchester's center even from the earliest years of settlement. Incorporated in 1698, Colchester grew steadily in the 18th century as early settlers and their descendants cleared large tracts of land for farms. Because the first Congregational meetinghouse (no longer extant) and the town burying ground were located there, the area that is now the village center became the focal point of the growing community, a role reinforced by the presence of at least one tavern. Most of the buildings in the Colchester Historic District preserve their original form and much of their original detailing. Overall, alterations mostly consist of changes made during the period of significance, such as the addition of Federal style details to 18th-century houses in the early 19th-century, and Victorian remodeling, such as the addition of carved woodwork and porches. Although some buildings have shifted from residential to professional office or commercial use, alterations have generally been confined to side or rear portions so that the original residential appearance is maintained. Colchester's Green is divided into two sections by the intersection of Route 85. A large spacious rectangular section of land lies between Hayward Avenue and Main Street and a smaller narrow triangular-shaped section lies north between Broadway and Main Street. Planted with tall shade trees, a large portion of the Green was created in 1850 as a result of a gift to the Town of Colchester from Nathaniel Hayward, who donated an extensive section of land west of his house on 35 Hayward Avenue. A baseball field and bleachers occupy the southeast section of the Green, while a modern gazebo is situated near the center. [NR]

Significance of the district:

Architecture, Community Planning and Development, Ethnic Heritage, Landscape Architecture: Colchester Historic District is significant because it illustrates an important aspect of the physical development of Connecticut towns, the emergence of village centers. Taken together, the historic buildings, sites, and objects in the Colchester Historic District document its long-standing and evolving role as the town's political, commercial, educational, and religious center. In the 18th century, Colchester's widely dispersed farm families journeyed to the town center to attend weekly religious services at the Congregational Church and to participate in town meetings. A tavern was also located in the area. In the 19th century, part of the center was developed as a town green, around which clustered the meeting places of social and religious organizations, a growing number of small businesses, and a greater concentration of houses. Public institutions, including a district school and a town hall, were also established in the village center. Despite several episodes of economic downturns, the area continued to evolve as a town center well into the 20th century, as attested to by an elegant public library and several commercial buildings.The Colchester Historic District also has ethnic-heritage significance, since many buildings have direct associations with the early 20th-century influx of Jewish immigrants, a episode of migration that greatly transformed the cultural landscape of Colchester and surrounding towns.The Colchester Historic District has architectural significance because many of its buildings are well-preserved examples that embody the distinctive characteristics of particular architectural periods and styles. The Federal and Greek Revival styles of the early and middle 19th century are particularly well-represented, with numerous finely detailed cornices, fanlights, porticos, and pilasters typical of those styles. Finally, the Colchester Town Green has landscape-architecture significance as an illustration of the mid-19th century movement that created park-like public open spaces to serve as visual and ceremonial centers for New England towns. [NR]

District Boundary:

The district includes the Colchester Village Center Green and its surrounding properties along the following major roads- Hayward Avenue, South Main Street, Main Street, Norwich Avenue; as described in the district ordinance.

Features:

Buildings, Green, Open Spaces, Cemetery, Monument

Use:

Residential, Religious, Commercial, Education

Architectural Style:

Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival

Era:
18th Century, 19th Century, 20th Century; Period of Significance- c. 1702-1935
Sources:

[1] District information retrieved from the town website http://www.colchesterct.gov/pages/index.
[2] Colchester Historic District, Report of the Historic District Study Committee, 1984, SHPO Library, Hartford.
[3] List of the designated properties and parcel IDs obtained from the Historic District Commission, Colchester.
[NR] Cloutte Bruce and Cronin Maura, Colchester Historic District, National Register Nomination Number- 94000254 NRIS, National Park Service, 1993 - http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/94000254.pdf; http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Photos/94000254.pdf.

Notes:

The local historic district is contained within the much larger National Register historic district.

Links:
Map:

Map of the local historic district retrieved from the Historic District Committee report, 1984.

View PDF
Disclaimer:

The list of the designated properties and parcel IDs have been obtained from the Historic District Commission, Colchester. For further information on the district, the user is urged to contact the respective district authority.

Date of Compilation:
12/15/11
Compiler:
Manjusha Patnaik, CT Trust for Historic Preservation