Greek Revival Architecture
Following the War of 1812, Greek Revival Architecture became the predominant expression of the newly established government in the United States. The new constitution with its democratic government was based on Greek literature. The nation’s founders also wished to express this new democratic spirit through architecture of impressive simplicity and practicality. The first public buildings of this period were built in Philadelphia and New York using the Greek Temple format with strong foundation, impressive colonnades, wide heavy frieze, heavy cornice and pedimented gables. Where British Colonial architecture had predominated, the trend now was to follow the strong elements of Greek architecture.
Americans sympathized with Greece’s own struggles for independence in 1820. Public structures that had originally been designed in a Colonial style were followed by Greek Revival mansions and housing styles.
One of the region’s most impressive Georgian homes stands on the South Green in Sharon, begun in 1765 by Dr. Simeon Smith (1735-1804). A native of Suffield, Connecticut, Smith studied in Edinburgh, migrated to Sharon in 1759, and operated a prosperous drugstore which dispensed medicines imported from London and Amsterdam. During the Revolutionary War, Simeon Smith was captain of a company of Sharon men who fought in the Long Island campaign, while his brother, the Reverend Cotton Mather Smith (1731-1806), Congregational minister of Sharon for more than fifty years, served as chaplain at Ticonderoga. Simeon Smith’s house was on the route followed through Sharon when Burgoyne’s army, as prisoners of war, was marched into Connecticut. On that occasion, while the army was encamped for the night in the meadow across the street, the American officers dined at Weatherstone. In peacetime (1779 and 1780) a group of physicians from Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut met at the house as the “First Medical Society” in the new United States. John Cotton Smith, governor of Connecticut during the War of 1812, lived here when he led, and lost, the post-war fight against the adoption of the constitution of 1818 that brought about the belated separation of church and state in Connecticut. The house, which became known as “Weatherstone” after 1938, is a monumental three-story five-bay granite Georgian manor house, (National Register) incorporating a double hipped roof, dormers, Chinese Chippendale balustrade, Palladian window in the west elevation, broken pediment over a former entry, and peaked gable with wheel window above the entry. The house was devastated by fire on January 22, 1999 and has been subsequently restored to its former grandeur.
304 West Cornwall Road, Sharon, CT
The Stern building in Sharon, illustrated below, is an excellent and well-preserved example of the Greek Revival style. It is a farm complex with two large barns, utility buildings and a man residence with an important central entrance and colonnaded entrance porch. Later additions were added in complete harmony to the original structure. It is believed that the original portion of the house was built in 1842 by the Lockwood family who invested in numerous parcels in outlying areas of Sharon.
Sharon’s earliest surviving framed habitations fell into one of the three most common 18th century housing styles, the Cape Cod, the Saltbox and the New England Farmhouse.
Sharon possesses a number of fine early Cape Cods, situated in nearly all corners of the town. Examples of the Cape Cod would include the circa 1754 Wood/White House at 121 White Hollow Road (IF#155), and the circa 1760 Daniel St. John House at 6 Old Sharon Road #1 (IF#116). Larger more elaborate examples include the circa 1760 gambrel-roofed John/Jonathan Sprague House at 257 Gay Street (IF#73).
Examples of the Saltbox, a home that usually contained at least two chambers on the second floor and additional storage space under the rear roof, include the circa 1756 Peter Cartwright House at 124 East Street (IF#54). Examples of the typical New England Farmhouse include the circa 1750 Youngs/Peck House at 3 Dunbar Road (IF#46) and its near neighbor, the circa 1748 Jonathan Lord House at 13 Dunbar Road (IF#50). 12 Old Sharon Road #1 was built in the 1760s by Deacon Silas St. John (IF#117), while portions of 130 Sharon Mountain Road, the home of John Swain, may date to circa 1745 (IF#128). 316 Gay Street, the circa 1765 Amos Marchant House, is a particularly fine example built of brick masonry, one of only a few such structures in the entire town (IF#75).
The Federal, Greek Revival and Gothic styles of architecture dominated the period between 1780 and 1860. The Dr. John Sears House at 70 Jackson Hill Road (IF#81) is one of the best surviving examples of the Federal style, exhibiting a high level of decorative detail. Two other excellent examples are the circa 1802-1808 Caleb Cole House at 28 Cole Road (IF#29) and the circa 1815 Samuel Roberts House at 128 Caulkinstown Road (IF#24). By 1830 Federal architecture began giving way to buildings designed in the newer Greek Revival idiom. There are many examples of Greek Revival style in Sharon, including the particularly lovely home at 90 Caulkinstown Road, with a wonderful recessed entry, built of brick for Hiram Weed circa 1850 (IF#22). More modest versions of the revival style are seen in cottages throughout Sharon built between 1840-1855. The William Northrop House at 31 Northrop Road in Ellsworth (IF#115) is one such good example.
Evidence of the Gothic style of architecture is illustrated in Sharon’s Episcopal Church, completed in 1819, and incorporating pointed-arch windows in the nave; while the circa 1863 offices of the Sharon Valley Iron Company feature quatrefoil ornaments in the gable peak, a steeply pitched cross-gable roof, molded window caps, and an open porch with cusped bargeboard.
Many vernacular Victorian-era homes were built in Sharon after 1880. Nice examples include the circa 1888 Henry Worrell at 105 Amenia Road (IF#2), and the circa 1893 Robert Harris House at 40 Gay Street (IF#63). These houses exhibit the elaborate porches, decorative shingle work, and bay windows characteristic of the Victorian style. The handsome Hotchkiss Library is a stunning example of the Romanesque style popularized by Boston architect H.H. Richardson. Built in 1893, the Hotchkiss Library was the work of architect Bruce Price (1845-1903), designer of Tuxedo Park. It is defined by its random rock-faced ashlar masonry and rounded entry arch. The nearby Wheeler memorial clock tower is also of Romanesque style.
Litchfield County was a bastion of Colonial Revival architecture and Sharon was favored by this school of architecture based on American architectural precedents of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The South Green in Sharon contains approximately two dozen contiguous Colonial Revival-style estates, many begun as farmhouses generations earlier, but enlarged and remodeled circa 1890-1920 with ornate Georgian doorways, broken scroll pediments, elaborate porticos, and ornate gateposts.