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Norma Bartol: Greenwich enjoys a love affair with colonial houses

February 28, 2019 GMT

I am still thinking of my wonderful trip through the Bush-Holley restoration at the Greenwich Historical Society, when what do I find, but a wonderful and most interesting new part that has been finished and is a sight to see. I was fascinated.

Then to my surprise, I found a most interesting book on “Architectural Details from Old New England Homes” by Stanley Schuler, who points out that we should have given up this architectural style several generations ago. But as we all know, colonial is the word to think about for architecture in New England.

It is fascinating to me as I drive through Greenwich, where I have lived for more years than I care to mention, that we have a love affair with the colonial style. Thank goodness for that, given the unusual styles of some of the so-called modern houses built around town.


When I think about the houses in town, it is just as well. On a road not too far from me, the most extraordinary house in town was torn down and, of course, another, you know what, was built in its place. I felt connected to that old house because a friend owned and lived in it at one time.

“Popular belief holds that they were very simple, plain, spare, severe, and built between 1700 and 1780,” the book says of colonial houses. They had room arrangements that were easy to understand, they were pleasant to look at, and as a friend of mine said, they are delightful to look at as one drives about town.

One thing I have always liked was the simple look of the colonial houses. I can tell you that they are fun to live in, and there is nothing like the clean look from the outside. Furthermore if, like me, you are fond of the outdoors, the colonials are a good way to go, as one can hop inside and out easily.

Whenever I look at an old house, including my own, the first thing I check are the fireplaces — the more the merrier.

I hope someday that I will enjoy a trip to the Phelps-Hatheway House in Suffield in northeastern Connecticut. According to my book on old houses, it is thought to be the most beautiful of all. It is of Georgian design and was built in 1761 and in 1794, in two sections. Even from the picture I was impressed.

Its fireplaces are of parlor design and are in the newer part of the house, dating from 1794. The wallpapers are the original French papers and are just lovely.

Besides the Hatheway House, I must say that the most beautiful room was the northeast parlor of the Hunter House, built in Newport, R.I., in 1748. Despite the grandeur of the room, and to my fascination, the fireplace is simple. The opening of the firebox is trimmed only with a bolection molding. The pilasters, cornice and shell-topped cupboards are truly amazing. The windows have insides that ford into the walls.


If the picture of the room gives it justice, it is extremely pleasing and delightful to see. I only hope that somewhere along the line I will be able to visit such an amazing place.

Greenwich native Norma Bartol, a former Greenwich Time reporter and columnist, lives in the backcountry.