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History of Housing & Development in Georgetown, Connecticut  
   

Included in this Georgetown Housing & Development History section is information I have gathered from Gilbert & Bennett publications and National Registry Documents. More information will be added as I find it.

Please let me know if there are more areas you'd like me to explore or if you have further information. Contact bcolley@snet.net or phone me at 860-364-7475.

Georgetown Housing & Development

Georgetown was to a large extent created by the Gilbert & Bennett Company. The company played a major role in the social and economic structure of the village in the 19th century and established many of its major institutions. Gilbert & Bennett involved itself in the lives of its employees, requiring absolute temperance, and encouraging home ownership to the extent that it supplied low-interest mortgages. "Model" company tenements were built for the workers beginning shortly after the Civil War and some officers of Gilbert & Bennett owned houses which they rented out to workers. Tenements were rented for $4 or $5 a month, the standard rate for the period.

Most of the 19th century residential development in Georgetown consisted of two main types of styles. While there were a few cube form Italianate style houses, the vast majority were gable to street wood frame buildings with small front porches. Occasionally the basic rectangular plan of these houses were elaborated with a cross gable or bay window. Originally all were sided in clapboard; some today have aluminum siding, or stucco, and a few of the porches have been enclosed.

Most of the simple 19th century domestic houses or tenements can be found on Smith St., West Church St., and South Church St. On South Church St. there are a group of tenement buildings that clearly functioned as multiple family housing in the 19th century. The one exception is the Malcolm Gregory House, a unique building which today displays many Greek Revival features but may date to the 18th century. Smith St. is lined with simple gable to street houses, with two exceptions. A Sear Roebuck bungalow style house at #10 was build about 1920. Across the street is a Queen Anne style house now used as the rectory for the Bible Church on North Main Street. In comparison to the neighboring cottages, it has a considerable amount of detail including imbricated shingles in the gable pediment of the veranda and in the gable peaks. Church St., as well, has a few of these simple 19th century houses, particularly at the lower end where it now intersects Route 107.

During this time period the elite of Georgetown, almost exclusively people associated with the company, lived in the midst of their workers. Ethnic neighborhoods did exist, but employees were encouraged to occupy, or build houses next to the mansions of the managers and officers. And while it would be expected that the workers would live near the factory it was most unusual to find upper-class houses in the same location.

Five Italianate-style houses built by Gilbert and Bennett elite between 1860-1880 remain well preserved: The St. John House at 1 Church Street, The Aaron Davis House at 18 Church Street, The Hiram St. John House at 49 Church Street, The Edwin Gilbert House at 50 North Main Street and one whose original owner is not known at 90 Portland Avenue. Their architectural significance is perhaps enhanced by their settings and the contrast with the more modest neighboring houses. Of the five houses, the Hiram St. John's house is exceptionally well preserved. All of its hand crafted details remain in place. There are foliated brackets carved in high relief, which are set off by the almost austere fašade, the Palladian window over the portico is an interesting and successful combination of the Georgian and Italianate styles. Most of the sash are replacements, but the architectural detailing of the verandah is original, including the unique cutwork design of the skirt. Here the flushboarding wall of the porch enhances the decorative effect.

The turn of the century was a period a rapid growth for the factory and town. In 1900 Gilbert & Bennett had 147 employees, representing 20% of the wire industry workers in Connecticut and by 1906, the company had grown to employ 600 workers. Most of the 20th century residential development took place on two streets, New Street and Portland Avenue.

Following World War I the company laid out Portland Avenue in the Redding section of Georgetown on land it owned overlooking the mill pond. The street contains a number of duplexes constructed by Gilbert & Bennett after World War II and rented to employees. Interspersed among them are four earlier gable to street house built between 1860 and 1880, also owned by the company that probably served as tenement houses for employees. The 20th century houses in this area utilize two basic plans: square and rectangular. Variety was added by varying the roof treatments of the rectangular houses. The Colonial Revival style duplexes concentrated in the center of Portland Avenue, were built as rental housing between 1920 and 1925. It is not known whether this housing, which seems to be a level suitable for middle management, was rented by this group, or by unskilled workers. The development continued to be used as rental property until December 1947, at which time Gilbert & Bennett sold the entire group of houses. Many of the grantees at this time had Swedish-American surnames.

The development of New Street accompanied the building of the school by Gilbert & Bennett in 1915. Only two houses clearly predate the school in this area. They are located on New Street extension and are identical houses of the Folk House type, built in 1913. A limited variety of Colonial Revival style houses and bungalows are located along the east side of New Street. Two representing these styles are at 34 and 38 New Street. New Street Terrace contains a group of four buildings built just prior to World War II that were build with rusticated cinder block foundations, a construction material first used much earlier in the 20th century.

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History of Redding is a not a business or an organization..It's one person working to promote the history of his hometown
and surrounding areas. All costs are out-of-pocket so donations and/or sponsorships will allow me to dedicate more time
and effort to research and updates.