Walnut Grove

Rear elevation of the house, View southwest; Source- NRIS 05001044.
Historic/Common Name:
Hammond Estate
Address:
305 Great Neck Road
Town:
Waterford »
Year:
1822-1940, Period of Significance
Historic Designation:
LHP, NR, SR
Property Authority:
Historic Properties Commission
Nature of Authority:
Regulatory
Eligible for Historic Home tax credits:
Yes
General description:

Walnut Grove, named for a cluster of walnut trees that once grew near the ledge overlooking the water at this point, has the distinction of being the first place in Waterford to be used as a country retreat by a wealthy nonresident. General William North (1755-1836) is said to have become enamored of the property while yachting along Long Island Sound in 1820. Once again a yachting excursion brought Walnut Grove to the attention of a wealthy visitor. Gardiner Greene Hammond (1835-1903) was cruising the waters of Long Island Sound in 1862 looking for a suitable summer retreat. Hammond enlarged the house with a third story within a Mansard roof and an ell, remodeled the interior, and extended the porch on the front of the house. He also built the farmhouse to accommodate the resident farmer and the jerkinhead-roofed barn, so much larger and more architecturally distinctive than the ordinary barns of the period, to store hay for the family's horses and other livestock. The access road, formerly a rutty cart path, was widened and improved into a formal tree-lined drive. Hammond planted the property with fruit orchards and with spruce, beech, larch, and other then-uncommon trees, and an early view shows the field in front of the house plowed for a garden. Hammond regarded the house as a country estate and summer residence, in the manner of those established by wealthy Bostonians at Manchester-by-the-sea and other towns bordering Massachusetts Bay. Walnut Grove, the former Hammond family estate in Waterford, consists of a large 3-story clapboarded house built in 1822 and enlarged and remodeled, ca.1865 and ca. 1905, as well as three barns and other agricultural outbuildings. The estate's main house or mansion measures 56' by 32' in plan, with an 18' by 28' gambrel-roofed ell attached at the rear, from which extends a one- and two-story wing, 59' by 52' in plan. The principal elevation, facing away from the road toward the ocean, has the entrance in the center, with two windows on either side. The house's architectural embellishment includes both Federal-style detailing from its original construction and Colonial Revival features from ca. 1905. [NR]

Significance of the property:

Architecture, Agriculture, Social History: Walnut Grove is significant because it epitomizes an important chapter in Waterford's history, the development of waterfront areas as gentlemen's farms by wealthy out-of-town people (Criterion A). The estate began in the 1820s as the home of Revolutionary War general William North, a resident of New York City who used it as his country home, but it reached its present appearance under the ownership of the Hammond family. Gardiner Greene Hammond was a wealthy Bostonian who made it his summer residence and gentleman's farm starting in 1862. Hammond, the grandson of Gardiner Greene, early 19th-century Boston's wealthiest merchant, was succeeded by his son, Edward Crowninshield Hammond, a business and civic leader who resided in Waterford full-time. The elaborate house, the beautiful vistas provided by the fields and the waters of Long Island Sound, and the large agricultural outbuildings remain to recall the lifestyle and activities of Waterford's wealthiest families. The house also has local architectural significance (Criterion C), embodying both first-period Federalstyle characteristics such as the corner pilasters and cornice and Colonial Revival embellishments, seen in the pedimented entrance, fanlights, and main entrance treatment. The ca. 1865 Gothic Revival barn has architectural interest in its own right, as does the relocated Ironside family house known as Sunnyside, embodying both Second Empire and Gothic details in a typically Victorian eclecticism. [NR]

Relationship with the Surroundings:

The house is situated far back from Great Neck Road and is reached by a long drive; it faces toward the southeast, overlooking Alewife Cove and Long Island Sound. The grounds consist of open areas of fields and lawn interspersed with tall shade trees; there are several lengths of tall fieldstone walls east of the house. The estate is part of a larger town-owned recreation area. The buildings and their immediate surroundings are currently leased to the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, which operates theater and theater-education programs.

Features:
Buildings, Open space, Others- Amphitheater, Memorial
Historic Use:
Residential, Agricultural
Present Use:
Recreation and Culture- Theater
Architectural Style:
Federal, Gothic Revival, Colonial Revival, Second Empire
Era:
19th Century, 20th Century
Ownership:
Public-Local
Owner:
Town of Waterford
Sources:

[1] Historic Property information retrieved from the town website http://www.waterfordct.org/.
Assessors information retrieved from the website http://www.prophecyone.us/index_prophecy.php?town=Waterford.
[NR] Clouette Bruce, Walnut Grove, National Register Nomination Number- 05001044 NRIS, National Park Service, 2005. http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/05001044.pdf; http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Photos/05001044.pdf.

Map:

Map of the property retrieved from the National Register Nomination Form, NRIS 05001044.

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