Windham Center Historic District

Street view of North Road, towards the northwest; Source- NRIS 79002655.
Historic/Common Name:
Windham Center National Register District
Town:
Windham »
Year of Establishment:
1994
Historic Designation:
LHD, NRHD, SR
District Authority:
Windham Historic District Commission
Nature of Authority:
Regulatory
District Character:
Town Center/ Town Green
Eligible for Historic Home tax credits:
Yes
General description:

Windham Center Historic District encompasses the oldest and, for the town's first one hundred and twenty-five years, the most important and thickly settled area of this eastern Connecticut community. Today, Windham Center is a typical, New England rural village whose focal point is a small, well-tended green. From here, four roads radiate: to the east (Scotland Rd, Route 14), south (Windham Center Road, Route 203), west (Plains Road), and northwest (North Road, Routes 14 and 203). The green lies at the southwest corner of Plains Road and Windham Center Road and around its perimeter one finds the densest concentration of structures including the Congregational Church, the Post Office, the Library, a large former inn and many of the most significant residences. The predominantly rural nature of the village is enhanced by the continuing cultivation of much of the surrounding open land, either for growing feed corn or as pasture. Windham Center today, quiet and residential, is the residuum of a bustling, important town of two centuries ago. Settled in the last decade of the 17th century, Windham first prospered as an agricultural community. A great impetus to further growth was the designation of the settlement in 1726 as the seat of newly created Windham county. Soon, a court house was erected, and several lawyers took up residence in Windham to serve the people who came to plead cases. This legal traffic, which of course included witnesses and judges, stimulated the building of several inns and stores; while the activities of a group of Windham merchants brought the town further wealth and influence. Thus, by the 1750 s, Windham was well established as a prosperous agricultural, business and administrative center; and the commodious homes of her citizens reflected this prosperity. [NR]

Significance of the district:

Architecture, Art, Law, Military, Politics/ Government: The Windham Center National Register District possesses three principal areas of significance. First, several of the structures within the district are associated with the lives of individuals important in state and national history. Second, the district is an impressive "catalogue" of 18th and 19th century American vernacular architecture, expressing in particular the way in which older buildings were adapted and rebuilt in later styles. Finally, there are three small structures within the district which were used for commercial purposes in the 18th century. Such structures are extremely rare and are especially worthy of notice and future study.Windham was the home of two of Connecticut's most important Revolutionary leaders, Eliphalet Dyer and Jedediah Elderkin. Another significant resident of Windham was Zephaniah Swift, an exceptional legal scholar. In 1795, he published the first volume of his work, A System of the Laws of the State of Connecticut, which was the first treatise on the origins and organization of the state's laws and codes. After his retirement from the bench in 1819, Swift was selected by the General Assembly to revise the Statutes of Connecticut to bring them into conformity with the new constitution adopted in 1818. The final individual of importance with whom Windham Center is intimately connected is the artist J. Alden Weir.The 18th and 19th century houses and public buildings which stand in Windham Center today are a visual expression of the culture and prosperity of the farmers, merchants and professional men who built them. Most of the houses are commodious, solid examples of American vernacular construction; and the architectural significance of the district is that it serves as a visual tableau of changing styles and tastes over two centuries. [NR]

District Boundary:

The historic district includes properties following major streets:Scotland Road, Windham Center Road, North Road, Plains Road, Weir Court, Weir Court Extension and Windham Green; as described in the district ordinance.

Features:

Buildings, Open spaces

Use:

Residential, Agriculture, Educational, Government, Museum, Religious

Architectural Style:

Colonial, Greek Revival, Italianate, Federal, Gothic Revival and some simple examples of other late Victorian Styles.

Era:
18th Century, 19th Century
Sources:

[1] District information retrieved from the town website http://www.windhamct.com/.
[2] Windham Center Historic District, Study Committee Report, 1993, SHPO Library, Hartford.
[3] GIS District map retrieved from the website http://wincog-gis.org/.
[4] Assessors information retrieved from [2].
[NR] Keiner Harry, Windham Center National Register District, National Register Nomination Number- 79002655 NRIS, National Park Service, 1979 - http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/79002655.pdf; http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Photos/79002655.pdf.

Notes:

The Windham Center National Register District is similar in extent, but not identical to the Local Historic District. [2]

Links:
Map:

Historic district map obtained from the website http://wincog-gis.org/.

View photo
Disclaimer:

The list of the designated properties has been obtained from Windham Center Historic District, Study Committee Report, 1993, SHPO Library, Hartford. For further information on the district, the user is urged to contact the respective district authority.

Date of Compilation:
10/31/11
Compiler:
Manjusha Patnaik, CT Trust for Historic Preservation