1 Imlay Street

1 Imlay Street
1 Imlay Street is a 2-1/2 story, gable front, Italianate-style home built in 1875 by J. Porter Whiton, a prominent Hartford builder and developer in the last half of the 19th century. Mr. Whiton built many factory buildings and residences in Hartford, and probably his most significant building credit is the conversion of the Old State House into Hartford City Hall. It also seems that Mr. Whiton bought Harriet Beecher Stowe's last house in Hartford, which was down on Sigourney Street overlooking the Park River, and turned into a boarding house.

The home Mr. Whiton constructed at 1 Imlay Street is rectangular in footprint with projecting square bays on the north and south sides under cross gables. The cross gable roof system has wide cornice and trim boards and eaves with returns on the gable ends. The walls are clad in clapboard, and there are substantial window crowns featuring a decorative acorn motif over the the front windows.


The house was a vacant three-family rental when NINA received it as a generous donation from Aetna. Very little of the original house remained intact, but NINA and its partner ServCorps were able to determine the original footprint of the house. The front door, while not original, preserved the transom, and the 1st floor stair railing, with a dramatic twist to accommodate a 90-degree turn at the top of the stairs, had been retained, albeit in reduced condition. We were also fortunate to uncover an original window crown that had been walled up behind a later addition.

NINA restored the structure to its original use as an owner-occupied single-family home and returned it to its original look as an 1870s Italianate. Along with restoring the window crowns, NINA also restored roof brackets beneath the soffit and returned the third-story windows to their original Italianate look. The homebuyers assisted us with the final details, both interior and exterior, and the house reflects a modern sensibility inside while preserving the historic and architectural character of the house as built by Mr. Whiton.



The house includes 2,224 square feet of finished living space on two floors and has 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. The first floor includes a living room, family room, dining room, kitchen, and half-bath, and the second floor includes 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths. Rehabilitation work included the installation of a new roof, new kitchen, new baths, and new mechanical systems.

Additionally, 1 Imlay sits at an extremely prominent and important location within Asylum Hill, directly across from the new CTfastrak station at Sigourney Street. This home will greet everyone who gets off the busway at this station, and it will provide a lasting impression of a vital and vibrant neighborhood. The home epitomizes the transit-oriented development promoted around the station, and 1 Imlay Street will guide that development as it flows along Hawthorn Street.



A Peek Inside


What It Looked Like Before

These photos are from the 1st and 2nd floor apartments. They line up pretty well on the first floor -- here, the only changes to the original floor plan of the house involved the enclosure of the 1st floor off of the foyer in order to create the separate unit -- but the 2nd floor had been substantially re-configured in order to allow passage from the main living areas into the various bedrooms. We didn't post any pictures of the 3rd floor yet -- we gutted the 3rd floor in order to restore the roof to its original shape -- but we'll eventually get to those, too.


Those Amazing Crowns and Brackets

As we began to remove the modern layers of shingles, we made several wonderful discoveries. First, we discovered quite a bit of the original wood clapboard. It wasn't in great shape, but it let us know what we would need to do to restore the house to its 1875 look and feel. Then we uncovered shadow lines for both the window crowns and the roof brackets. The shadow lines, unfortunately, only gave us a two-dimensional look at what they would have been, so while we couldn't replicate them exactly we could know their precise locations and the general shape and size. Then we hit the jackpot: when we took down one of the modern additions to the house, we discovered one of the original window crowns, in place, behind a wall. The crown lacked its brackets, but the shadow lines here indicated that the crown's brackets would have matched the roof brackets. Porter Whiton built numerous houses in this area of Asylum Hill in the 1870s and the 1880s, including his own house at 248 Laurel Street, and so we had some nearby examples of Whiton's work to guide us. We then looked at other Italianate houses from the same period, and we think we came pretty close to what 1 Imlay Street probably looked like.


And What About Those Third Floor Windows?

Yeah, they were all wrong.


There was some discussion around how tall these windows should be, and the solution we hit on was that they should be tall enough that NINA's program manager could look out them without stooping.

Photo: Karen Pannone, architect with Clohessy Harris & Kaiser, which was the architecture firm that worked on this project with us, and NINA's Program Manager, David Corrigan. Karen measured and designed the restored Italianate windows, and if David's head were straight you'd see he can see out the windows without stooping.



Here's the view he got to see -- looking eastward toward downtown Hartford. Aetna's gold-domed tower is to the left, and the skyscrapers of the Hartford skyline are visible starting at the right of what is Hawthorn Street: Lincoln Financial, Hartford 21, City Place I & II, 777 Main, and the Gold Building. After a small gap, you can see two of Hartford's iconic landmarks, the Travelers Tower and the Connecticut State Capitol.


Hey: Didn't There Used to Be a Liquor Store in There Somewhere?

Yup.


Why do we keep calling it a "liquor store"? Mostly because that's the only thing we knew it as, but we've also managed to find a reference to the original application for a liquor license for the store, which was made in December 1965. And that was the last thing it ever was: after it changed hands in August 2013, an inspection of the building uncovered that the roof was mostly shot and the sub-floor was rotting. The building couldn't be salvaged, and on December 16, 2013 it was demolished.


Demolition of the Liquor Store


1 Imlay's Progression

A series of photos showing 1 Imlay from start to finish, as viewed from the CTfastrak Station at Sigourney Street.


A Little Bit of History

A Little Bit of History
While we were working on 1 Imlay, we were very fortunate to meet Eileen Curtis, a nurse who works for Aetna and who walked by our house as she went to and from her car. Her great-great grandmother Eliza Brazell owned 1 Imlay in the 1870s, and her father could remember visiting his great grandmother there while he was a child.

We also found a bunch of stuff in the walls, among which was this invitation for a wedding on October 16, 1878 -- two sisters marrying two brothers on their family's "island home" in Windsor Locks. Eileen and her sister did some digging, and they came across a reference to King's Island in Enfield, which is now owned by Northeast Utilities. It's accessible by canoe, and apparently you can still find evidence of the house where the wedding would have been.