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Historic Districts

Celebrating Branford's Architectural Heritage

by John Herzan

 

 

 

Branford's sense of place is the culmination of 350 years of settlement and re-development within the town's 27 square miles. A rich and varied past can be read in Branford's architecture as well its town histories. Buildings tell a story, yet it is easy to take them for granted until the bulldozer is at the door.

 In 1983 the Architectural Preservation Trust of Branford was formed to identify and recognize the historic resources of the town through listing

on the National Register of Historic Places. The trust identified about 800 buildings throughout the town from which four National Register districts were formed reflecting   nearly every period of the town's historical development, as described below.

 

            The Branford Center Historic District, roughly bounded by Route 1, the Branford River, and Monroe and Kirkham Street, was the focus of early community life. Originally part of the New Haven Colony, the Town of Branford was settled in 1644 by a group of English settlers recruited from Wethersfield by the leaders of New Haven. The colony thrived due to productive cropland and itís located on the Branford River, which provided the oThe Branford Green circa 1915nly deep harbor between New Haven and New London. This districtís buildings, streets, waterfront, and open space form a cohesive example of an 18th century Connecticut farming/maritime village which developed over the course of the 19th century into the core of a small coastal town dominated by an industrial based economy. The districtís focal point is the Town Green with its old Academy and monumental public buildings. The area surrounding the green includes relatively well preserved commercial, residential

and public buildings illustrating various 19th and 20th century architectural styles.

 

 

Harbor Street looking north towards Mill Creek

The Branford Point Historic District located principally along Harbor and Maple streets and on Bryan Road, documents the development of residential architecture in Branford between the Revolutionary and Second World Wars. Once a successful coastal farming area which retained its strong rural character well into the early 19th century, the district now contains many well-preserved examples of 19th and 20th century styles of construction, including late Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Stick, Queen Anne, Arts and Crafts/Bungalow, Shingle and Colonial Revival.

 

 

 

 

Text Box: Harbor Street looking north towards Mill Creek

The Lewis House corner Thimble Islands and Linden Point Road is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places

The Stony Creek/Thimble Islands Historic District and the Route 146 Historic District, each located in the southeast corner of Branford, possesses related historical significance. Both areas originally comprised a thinly settled coastal farming district. Route 146 still recalls that era because of its intact rural character. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Stony Creek evolved as a notable Connecticut summer colony and as a center for a small but profitable commercial quarrying industry. Stony Creek and the Thimble Islands contain striking examples of Victorian resort architecture as well as vernacular housing which served quarry workers.

 

 

Text Box: The Lewis House corner Thimble Islands and Linden Point Road 
is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

The Harrison House circa 1724 is part of the Canoe Brook Historic District and home of the Branford Historical Society. Photo by Harry BishopThe fourth district is a thematic nomination, Colonial Houses of Branford, which records the best preserved examples of residential architecture (C. 1700 TO C.1820), each of which is an important link to Branfordís origins as a farming community and active seaport. An example is the Harrison House on West Main Street (headquarters of the Branford Historical Society). Although no buildings from the 17th century survive in town; an unusually high number exists from the 18th and early 19th centuries.

 

 

      The burst of preservation consciousness that led to inventorying and registering Branfordís historic resources will not be effective unless town government agencies, local groups, and private citizens factor historic preservation into all levels of decision making. It seems appropriate on the occasion of Branfordís 350th anniversary not only to remind ourselves of historical achievements but also to reconsider what we are doing to ensure the preservation of Branfordís treasured buildings and neighborhoods for future generations.

Text Box: The Harrison House circa 1724 is part of the Canoe Brook Historic District and home of the Branford Historical Society. Harry Bishop photo.

Further information on preservation programs is available from the Connecticut Historical Commission, 59 South Prospect Street, Hartford, Ct.06106, telephone 860-566-3005

 

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