Jonathan Sturges House

The main house with its later additions, View north; Source- NRIS 84000247.
Historic/Common Name:
The Cottage
Address:
449 Mill Plain Road
Town:
Fairfield »
Year:
1840
Historic Designation:
LHP, NHL, NR, SR
Property Authority:
Fairfield Historic District Commission
Nature of Authority:
Regulatory
Eligible for Historic Home tax credits:
Yes
General description:

The Jonathan Sturges House, also known as 'The Cottage', consists of four sections: the main house (1840), and major additions constructed in 1846, 1883 and 1890. As designed by architect Joseph Collins Wells and built in 1840, the Gothic Revival style cottage features a steeply pitched flanking-gable roof with an intersecting gable centered on the facade and north (rear) elevation, and a lower two-story ell and single-story lean-to attached on the west side. A first-floor veranda with segmental-arch bays, latticed trim and wood cresting shelters the first floor on the front and rear elevations of the main house. Painted cast-iron urns flank a small wooden stair on the east side of the veranda. On the facade, two-by-four-light first-floor windows rise from the first-floor level to near ceiling height. Window surrounds are finished with architrave trim. On the east elevation, two extended first-floor bay windows (added in 1874) provide drawing room and library with additional light. The third-floor attic window in each gable end features arched hoodmolds around three-by-six-light sash. Interior chimneys are topped by fleur de lis-pattern circular pots. The main house incorporates a number of interesting construction features including interior brick walls concealed between the board and batten exterior walls and interior lath, and a four-inch layer of sand between the first floor joists and subflooring. In 1846, the original lean-to attached at the northwest side of the house was demolished and replaced by a two-and-a-half-story three-bay addition, the roofline of which was built over the original ell, and extended west. In 1883 a large three-and-a-half -story block (second addition) was attached on the north side of the 1846 addition. The three-bay structure is distinguished by a clapboarded third-floor book tower which rises from a hipped-roof base. The west wing (1890) contains a scullery and several smaller service rooms on the first floor, and chambers on the upper two floors. [NR]

Significance of the property:

Architecture, Art: The Cottage, built in 1840 with additions in 1846, 1883 and 1890, is an outstanding and early example of the Gothic Revival style of architecture (Criterion C). Designed by twenty-six-year-old British architect Joseph Collins Wells (1814-1860), The Cottage is Well's first known commissioned work in America. Wells, along with fellow British architect Richard Upjohn, designed several of the earliest Gothic Revival cottages in this country, where the style was later popularized by horticulturalist Andrew Jackson Downing and architect Alexander Jackson Davis. Wells and Upjohn were also two of the thirteen founding members of the American Institute of Architects. Wells was commissioned to design The Cottage by Jonathan Sturges, at the time one of the leading art patrons and business entrepreneurs in New York City (Criterion B). In addition to organizing the Illinois Central Railroad and the Bank of Commerce of New York, Sturges was the founder of the New York Gallery of Fine Arts, and one of the organizers of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Cottage remains in the Sturges family, now occupied by the great-grandchildren of Jonathan Sturges. [NR]

Relationship with the Surroundings:

The Cottage faces south on Mill Plain Green, about one mile northwest of downtown Fairfield. Several large nineteenth, and early to mid-nineteenth-century residences also face Mill Plain Green from the north and west (including the Frederick Sturges House, ca.1860, on the west side). A convalescent home is situated on the east side of the Green and an entrance to the Connecticut Turnpike on the south side. As originally designed, the property consisted on several acres of landscaped grounds to the north and west, with a large greenhouse, stable and other outbuildings. During the 1970s most of the land was subdivided and sold. A carriage house (1840) with studio on the second floor is situated on the northeast corner of the lot. Called the "Overlook" because of its proximity to the formerly landscaped grounds to the west and north, the frame structure retains all original sawn trim including the balustraded second-floor porch with colored and etched-glass door panels. Following subdivision of the property the original gazebo was moved to its present location approximately twenty feet west of the carriage house. A section of the original fence for the property, with carved wooden posts connected by painted-iron pipes, survives on the east side of the property. [NR]

Features:
Building, Open Spaces, Other landscape features
Historic Use:
Residential
Present Use:
Residential
Architectural Style:
Gothic Revival
Era:
19th Century
Ownership:
Private
Owner:
The Sturges Cottage LLC
Sources:

[1] District information retrieved from the town website http://www.fairfieldct.org/.
[2] Fairfield Historic Properties Study Committee Report, 2005, SHPO Library, Hartford.
Assessors information retrieved from the website www.visionappraisal.com.
[NR] Gold Jack A., Jonathan Sturges House, National Register Nomination Number- 84000247 NRIS, National Park Service, 1984. http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/84000247.pdf; http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Photos/84000247.pdf.
[NHL] Ohno Kate Mearns, Jonathan Sturges House, National Historic Landmark Nomination Number- 84000247 NRIS, National Park Service.http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Text/84000247.pdf; http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Photos/84000247.pdf.

Map:

The architect's original plans and elevations retrieved from the National Register Nomination Form, NRIS 84000247.

View photo
Date of Compilation:
12/31/11
Compiler:
Manjusha Patnaik, CT Trust for Historic Preservation