Thursday Doors – Windsor Green Part II

Windsor Federal Savings
Windsor Federal Savings

Last week, I featured some of the public-use buildings around the Windsor Connecticut Historic Green. An interesting fact about those buildings, is that most of them are not historic buildings. Only the original section of the Library is on the Registry of Historic Buildings. Ironically, the Green itself is on the Registry, and the buildings in and around the area are designated as either “contributing” or “non-contributing” structures in the historic district. One of the buildings featured today is a contributing structure, but it’s not as old as I thought it would be and I had to dig for a while before it became interesting.

The building at 289 Broad Street is known (in most sources) as The Huntington House. It was built by Henry and Mary Huntington in 1901. Mary Huntington gives this post a connection to Norm, as the Windsor Chamber of Commerce mentions that:

Henry Arthur Huntington was born March 12, 1856, in Windsor, Connecticut and married Mary Margaret Dryden, born on July 12, 1872 in Montreal, Canada, on February 27, 1900.”

Norm, for those of you that might be unaware, is Norm Frampton. He is from (or near) Montreal, Canada and he is the Father of Thursday Doors. Each week, Norm establishes a landing page for door freaks aficionados from around the world to share their door photos, drawings, stories and bits of door history, if they’re so inclined. To join this weekly celebration of doors, visit Norm’s place up in Canada. Check out his doors, some of which might have been familiar to Mary Huntington, and then click on the blue frog.

Back in Windsor, it seems that Henry and Mary were simple folk. Henry was a lawyer with a law office in Hartford and he and Mary had at least two children, Clark and Walter. Walter was murdered in 1929, a crime that still remains unsolved today. Clark lived in the house with his parents and continued living there after his mother died in 1968.

According to my best friend, John (who used to live off the green), the Huntington House fell into a “terrible state of disrepair after the mother died.” He added: “at one point, the unpainted house had become such an eyesore, that someone painted the (visible) front and the right side, but left the back and left side unpainted.”

When Clark died, in 1998, the house and property were rezoned for commercial purposes. A non-profit group restored the house and established the Huntington House Museum in 2001. Unfortunately, public support for the museum was lacking and it was forced to close in 2005. In 2006, the J. Morrissey Company, an Executive Search firm, converted the building into offices. In case you’re interested in the property details:

Acreage 0.69
Square footage 5,257
Year built 1901
Tax amount $20,663
Land value $173,600
Building value $762,900
Total value $936,500

Across the street from the green are a few other buildings that are featured in today’s gallery. Among them is a bank building, and the old Windsor Post Office which now serves as the Windsor VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). A long commercial building, The Plaza Building once housed several businesses and a movie theater on the ground level and several professional offices on the upper floors.

John lived on the side street across from the Plaza Building. When he lived there, the theater was still open for business, along with an ice cream shop that provided a nice treat after watching a movie. The rest of the ground floor was a hardware store that I loved to wander around in. The last movie we saw there was “Sophie’s Choice”. The hardware store is still in business, but it only occupies a small fraction of the space. The remaining space was carved into multiple retail segments, many of which are empty today.

The Town of Windsor has considered traffic changes to make the Historic Green more pedestrian friendly. One plan calls for choking Broad Street down to two lanes, providing space for parking, cyclists and walkers, with the hope of bringing more retail businesses into the area. I can’t imagine the traffic problems that would result, as the Green lies at the junction of several busy and important roads. The challenge looms large, but the value of this historic resource is too great to be lost to a slow decline.

63 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – Windsor Green Part II

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  1. I love when offices convert buildings…. like the Executive Search firm. Also, when I read 2005 and 2006- it feels lije just yesterday and here it is a decade – yikes. and very valuable historic resource to not lose….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would agree. Personally, I think I’d prefer that the museum had survived, but anything that preserves such an interesting building, in that location is a good thing. You’re also right about the way 2005 feels.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very sad, Lois. Unfortunately, the area by the green has become a nightmare to drive through. The available parking is barely adequate, and it’s difficult to get in and out of. Retail businesses like to have traffic, but only if it can stop and park. I think they have a few hard decisions to make in the near future. I loved walking through that old hardware store, but they lasted about 1-2 years after Home Depot opened.

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  2. It’s too bad that so many of the buildings are vacant. I can envision that area as a wonderfully quaint place with cool little shops and restaurants. I hope they can figure out a way to revitalize the area and still keep the traffic flowing. It would be a terrible shame to let that all go to waste and ruin.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh applesauce, snow, snow everywhere! ;) Seriously though, an informative post Dan. The Huntington House is very interesting looking (and I don’t mean that in a facetious way at all), with the unexpected features. Have a thriving Thursday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a really interesting building, Teagan. I’m glad the people that bought it seem committed to keeping it looking nice. Not much snow left here right now, but I’m sure there’s more on the way at some point. Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dan, I love the photos and the story, but I’m choking over this: Tax amount $20,663. What? Is that because it’s commercial and there are various companies or is that just on the building and land? Glad I was sitting down when I saw that figure.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Janet – and, that tax is just on the building and the land. Actually, that’s in the low range for CT. There are many towns where the tax on that building would be close to two times that amount.

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  5. What a great collection of doors and buildings, Dan. It’s such a pity that Huntington House could not remain open as a museum. In Ireland a tourist trail (The Wild Atlantic Way) along the west coast was promoted for its scenic value and the increase in tourism helped to boost the income for a lot of historic buildings and other hospitality business. This year another attraction is being promoted, Ireland’s Ancient East, which is hoped to bring more history tourism to the south and east of the country and so help fund many of the heritage buildings that are struggling. The restaurants and shops also benefit from the increased revenue so its good for the area all round.

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    1. Thanks Jean. I guess the bad news is that these people were ordinary folk and none of the items in the museum were even from their house, so there wasn’t a draw. The good news is that, before building this house, they considered buying the Mark Twain House which, for some stupid reason, was for sale at the time. At least they didn’t ruin one of CT’s best tourist attractions.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Huntington House is fancy :) I love how it’s not traditional brick, gives it a more playful vibe, so it really stands out! The masonry details are unique to me.
    I hate to see things declining. I can only hope.
    Around here, there are lots of houses like the bank, that used to be a bank, so it’s kinda neat to see one still standing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do think the Huntington House adds a lot of interest to the green. I hope the house that is a bank (the one that used to be a house and is soon to not be a bank) can find tenants and stay standing. These things are so hard. The Post Office and CVS put up new, crappy modern buildings on the green that are so much worse than “non-contributing” they’re ugly.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope they can solve the problems facing this area. The problem is that the road past the green is the best “back road” into Hartford when traffic on the highway slows to a crawl. That’s why I’m on it every day in the afternoon. I do still stop at some of the businesses, but parking and getting back into traffic is a huge pain in the butt. I did enjoy walking around, taking these photos, but traffic was pretty busy, loud and in the way of me trying to get a door photo :)

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      1. If I were there I’d be proposing to you and Faith a photography morning with the following itinerary: sunrise shoot on the river, then the green in morning golden hour for a doorscursion, and buildings topped off with a breakfast at a favorite place to warm up. :)

        Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s sad to see beautiful buildings close. The Huntington House is lovely. The snow makes the series very special.
    As a side note there is a Huntington Library near Pasadena, CA. Also very gorgeous building with magnificent gardens. But that’s another story…
    I should really do the Door Challenge!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You should! But, beware, it’s addicting. I hope they can keep finding people who are willing and able to re-purpose these buildings. Most of the snow has melted, but I’m sure we’ll get more.

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    1. These days, it seems people just want to get through here on their way somewhere else. The town is trying to come up with a plan to slow them down and create that environment, but it won’t be easy. Of course, 20 years from now, people will miss what they had.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. They do all those things, John, and they even have a farmer’s market. It’s just that they’re limited to weekends and non-rush hour periods. They haven’t figured out a good way to capture the traffic that passes by.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I think they should make historical areas pedestrian or bike only. Generally that does bring in more business – particularly cafes. At least out here in California where the weather is generally moderate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On plan has been proposed that would do that, Jan. The problem is, what to do with the traffic on these main roads. There really isn’t anywhere else for it to go. Other than Interstate 91, there is no road that runs parallel to this street for any measurable distance. Broad Street, which passes the green, is also CT-159, which runs from Hartford to Springfield, MA.

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  9. I’m going to say what so many people have already said – I love the Huntington House. In particular, I like the covered rooftop deck. It gives the building a very unusual look … like a decorative top that’s been added to wedding cake :)

    If I understand correctly, all these buildings surround a green. Does this mean it has the same kind of history as the green in Boston? .. or I guess they call it the Common .. ie a public pasture?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like that covered rooftop deck, too. The green is now divided into three sections, by two roads that connect all these buildings and businesses. Windsor is (but one measure) CT’s first town, so the green is a historic gathering place. They use it for festivals, craft fairs, etc. but it’s not nearly as big as the Common in Boston.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Donna. I love when I hear from people who used to live around here. We don’t have much snow this year. We’ve been in the 30s and 40s with rain. I prefer snow to cold wet dreary days, but it’s what we get some years.

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  10. Great post Dan. Always a difficult challenge trying to make places visitor friendly while not preventing access by limiting peoples’ ability to actually get there – i.e. cars ;-)
    I hope they get it figured out.
    Huntington House is a beauty but my favorite door is the savings bank.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Norm. Figuring out the traffic will be a challenge. I hope they’re up to it. One good thing is that Windsor is a stop on the planned light-rail system that is supposed to start running later this year or early next year. Maybe that will relieve enough traffic to make the road through the green one lane in each direction.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a nice little theater, but it was built in the days when a theater only needed to have one or two movies playing. Now, 10 screen Showcase Cinemas are closing. It is so sad to see windows covered in brown paper and plywood.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thoroughly enjoyed the post and the history of Windsor. Sad that many of the buildings are shutting down. I was so immersed in the content that I almost missed my name in the caption. I went scrolling down and then I was like wait a minute did I see my name mentioned. I scrolled up and there it was. My bad that I am seeing this after a week.

    Liked by 1 person

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