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I had to make a few stops in Hartford yesterday. I got a haircut, I had breakfast (no pictures today) and I stopped at a tool store. I figured since I was going to be driving around the city, I’d check out some historic buildings. This time, I checked the National Registry of Historic Places before heading into Hartford. I snagged photos of several buildings, and I’ll be sharing these for a couple weeks, along with some photos from the NRHP Nomination form. Some of these buildings may have appeared here before, but these are all new photos in much better information. Today, I give you the Butler McCook Homestead
I have stared at this building for more years than I can remember. It stands across the intersection from me as I am trying to turn onto Main St. on my way to the Allegro Café to meet my best friend for breakfast. I never knew that this house is the only 18th-century home still remaining on Hartford’s Main Street. Much of what follows if from the NRHP Nomination form.
The Butler-Cook House was built in 1782 and was a typical house of the period with central hallway plan and two chimneys. It was two stories tall, had a cistern under the kitchen and a paved cellar under the main house. Added to it in the rear was an older ell (c. 1740), which was formerly a blacksmith’s shop, and which was converted into a kitchen when the main house was built.
Later nineteenth century additions include additional chimneys, dormer windows, a second story gable in the center of the facade, and a porch over the front door. The builder of the house, Dr. Daniel Butler, is believed to have kept his office in the northwest room. Another member of the family, John Butler McCook annexed his office to the homestead in 1895. This is a single story balustraded building located on the south side of the house which now serves as the office of the Antiquarian and Landmarks Society.
The gardens of the Butler-McCook house were designed by the Swiss landscape gardener Jacob Weidaman who also landscaped Bushnell and Retreat Park as well as many other homes in Connecticut. Among the memorabilia of the family is a watercolor wash drawing of the garden plan by Weideman.
In the late 1800s, Hartford was changing rapidly. Single family homes were no longer being built this close to the city center and the area around this home was being occupied by government institutions (Hartford is Connecticut’s capital city), museums and commercial shops and all varieties of businesses. These changes were observed by Miss Frances McCook and her brother Anson as they prepared to gift the house they grew up in and the gardens they had created to the city. The following statement was made by these two prominent Hartford citizens at the presentation:
“My sister and I like to think of the house and land, linked together as they have been for centuries, as a future historical park, a permanent landmark of the old Hartford, a Hartford that is fast disappearing. The homestead would be open to the public. It would show graphically how successive generations of an old Hartford family had actually lived for almost two centuries in the same abode, at the same hearth and under the same roof. After rambling through the house, visitors could include the garden in their tour.”
The homestead is open for tours by reservation only, and tours must be arranged seven days in advance. I do hope to tour the building at some point in the future. My pictures of the garden were taken from outside the fence.
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