Hill--Stead

Also known as: Hillstead Museum
35 Mountain Rd., Farmington, Connecticut

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Hill-Stead

Photo from the Historic American Buildings Survey

View photos at Library of Congress

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Description 

Hill-Stead house and estate is the result of a noteworthy confluence of architectural and landscape expertise. Built at the turn of the twentieth century as a country estate for a wealthy Cleveland family, this house in many ways follows the contemporary tradition of rural New England houses in this period. The Alfred Atmore Pope family hired McKim, Mead & White, the nation's premi&cgrave;re residential architecture firm to work on the design of the house, and likely consulted with Warren Manning, a leading landscape architect working in these same circles, to lay out the grounds of the estate and site the house. Within this typical framework for the social elite, Hill-Stead was exceptional in that these professional designers worked with Theodate Pope, daughter of Alfred Pope, to shape Hill-Stead. Subsequently Theodate Pope became a professional architect of some note; this house was her first architectural project. Other than a few renovation projects that preceded it, Hill-Stead is significant as the first manifestation of this female architect's design interests. The contributions of each designer are visible within the building and the landscape and were unified by Theodate Pope's continued involvement with the site. The house also reflects the stylistic preferences and social network of Alfred Atmore Pope and Ada Brooks Pope, parents of Theodate and primary clients of the commission. Several decades after the initial construction campaign pioneering landscape designer Beatrix Farrand provided a planting plan for the formal sunken garden on the estate. This country estate was designed both as a functioning farm and as a potent social symbol. While rural in its setting and architectural vocabulary, Hill-Stead was closely integrated into the fabric of Farmington and was carefully crafted to accommodate the complex social patterns of the wealthy Pope family. The Colonial Revival mansion sits at the top of a hill over-looking the village of Farmington, the Farmington Valley and the Talcott Mountain Range. Its long, winding entrance drive creates a controlled, formal carriage approach to the mansion, while a grassy path rising up the slope from High Street to the front door of the house more directly links the estate on the hill to the town below. Originally boasting a six-hole golf grounds, tennis courts, a large greenhouse, formal sunken garden, wild garden, and wood-land trails, Hill-Stead was a completely-outfitted ferme orn-e, with all the social and practical benefits of the nearby village of Farmington.Through its evocation of a vernacular farm complex, Hill-Stead also participates in the period search for national architectural authenticity, a common role of the Colonial Revival in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Despite formal elements of the façades, the house has an over-all irregular and sprawling massing evocative of an early nineteenth-century New England farm complex, with a carriage house and barn attached at the rear. While the structure was designed and completed as a cohesive unit, its form deliberately gives the appearance of accretion with the passage of time. Theodate Pope was particularly interested in contemporary trends of designing in an"old" style. Her work on her own house, an eighteenth-century saltbox she called the O'Rourkery, was a life-long exercise in modern renovation in old style. McKim, Mead & White were leaders in the rediscovery of Colonial-era architecture, and contributed integrally in the success of this"old-style" conceit at Hill-Stead. Both the architects and the clients of Hill-Stead were interested in creating a building that symbolized a more innocent rural national past through its entirely modern fabric. While the form of the house pays homage to vernacular structures, it is in reality the product of sophisticated design and modern construction ingenuity. In the same way, the fields, woodlands and watercourses on the site have a naturalistic form but were the product of careful design and planning. -- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS ct-472)

National Register information 

Status
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on July 17, 1991
Reference number
91002056
Architectural style
Late 19th and 20th Century Revival: Colonial Revival
Areas of significance
Architecture; Art
Level of significance
National
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction
Property type
Building
Historic functions
Single dwelling; Secondary structure
Current function
Museum
Periods of significance
1875-1899; 1900-1924; 1925-1949
Significant years
1901; 1907; 1917
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 8
Non-contributing buildings: 1

Update Log 

  • October 17, 2017: New Street View added by Brian Bartlett

Sources