We are back in Suffield today and I am borrowing the descriptions from the National Registry of Historic Places, to which the entire Suffield Historic District was added in 1979. The text from the nomination form describes the buildings in today’s gallery. In addition, some photos from the nomination form, including a rare 19th century photo are included in today’s rather oversized gallery.
One of the “historic” buildings in the area around the town green is the Kent Memorial Library. It seemed odd to me that a quaint New England town would add a “landmark of modernism” to their well-preserved town green, so I searched for some history. Apparently, the town’s residents welcomed the modern library, which opened in 1972, and they even fought against demolishing it in 2008, opting instead to modernize it in order to provide handicapped access. A bit of personal history, The Editor often took our daughter to the Kent Library. Faith was fond of the library’s series of ramps. The five-story building has no interior stairs. Since we’re at the library, let’s pick up at that point in the NRHP nomination form,
The 1972 Kent Memorial Library is modern architecture. It was designed by Warren Platner to bring not only a new look but also a new technology of building to Suffield. Its concrete frame, faced with pink stone and white painted brick, surrounds a central garden court. The flat coffered concrete roof and overhanging concrete eaves are offset by seamed, grey, metal roof sections that rise above book alcove skylights. The interior is on five floor levels connected by gradual ramps; there are no stairs. The interior is made up of intimately scaled spaces of warm and friendly character.
The First Church of Christ Congregational faces the Second Baptist Church across the green. The Congregationalists in 1869 built a red brick church in the Romanesque Revival style. Buttresses strengthen the base of the southeast corner tower and helped support a tall spire that came down during the 1938 hurricane. The church, with its tall roundheaded windows, round arched entrance with dripstone, and arcaded corbelling below the eaves, introduces a further, diverse element into the Main Street streetscape. Four of the principal buildings of Suffield Academy are north of the Congregational Church. The first building in the group is the town’s original Kent Memorial Library, constructed in 1898 to the design of Daniel H. Burnham. Its restrained, classical character is typical of Burnham’s Beaux Arts work. Executed in smooth, tan, granite ashlar, it has a portico of two Ionic columns in antis, echoing the first stage of the Baptist Church tower across the green. There is a shallow dome in the center of the copper clad roof.
The next of the Academy’s buildings is the 1854 Memorial Building in red brick with central, pedimented, projecting pavilion, now with a half-round, white entrance portico. Its neighbor is Fuller Hall, built in 1872 in the Second Empire mode with mansard roof and three towers, one at each front corner and one in the center. The windows of the building had arches formed by stone voussoirs (keystone) in alternating light and dark colors. In 1953 Fuller Hall was “colonialized. ” The mansard roof and towers were removed and replaced with a gable roof and central lantern. The colored voussoirs were removed, as well as their windows, in favor of rectangular windows with flat arches and keystones. A broken pediment doorway was installed, round arches with keystones were built over the first floor windows, the porch roof and posts were removed, and the porch railing was replaced with alternating sections of parapet and balustrade.
This group of Academy buildings along High Street is completed by Brewster Hall, which was built in 1930 in the Colonial Revival style. It has red brick, white trim, gable roof, bold dormers, two story, half-round, Ionic portico, and tall Palladianesque windows.
I’m going to leave you with a quote from the First Selectman’s speech at the rededication of the Kent Library:
“Today, our ADA accessible and newly renovated library reclaims its prominent location at the intersection of our town center and community life. Our reopened Kent Memorial Library represents some of what’s the very best about the Town of Suffield. It represents our community’s ability to persevere through challenging times. It represents the power of advocacy in ensuring that ALL citizens have equal access to our town’s offerings. It confirms our commitment to knowledge, intellectual curiosity and community engagement. This Warren Platner building represents Suffield’s open-mindedness while simultaneously remaining steadfast to preserving our history, by embracing modernism architecture alongside Colonial, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Romanesque and Victorian neighbors.
MELISSA M. MACK, SUFFIELD FIRST SELECTMAN”
This post is part of Norm Frampton’s weekly fun blog hop called Thursday Doors. You can visit Norm’s master page here.