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.
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Housing & Development
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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