Wethersfield's Homebuilders: 1900 – 1930

By  Jim Meehan

“There are no dividends to compare
with comfort and contentment, no returns equal to the personal pride felt by
the man who owns the home that shelters his family.”


Alfred G. Hubbard, Wethersfield Homebuilder

But the living quarters constructed in 1633 by
John Oldham and the other “Ten Adventurers” who came through the wilderness
from Massachusetts Colony to found our “most auncient towne” – offered shelter,
but not much more than that.

“the first homes here were dugouts or, as
they appear to have been called, cellars. 
These cellars were made by digging a pit in the ground, preferably in
the side of a bank, and then lining the sides of the excavation with stones and
upright logs.  With a roof of loges, bark
or thatch, and the earth banked high on the outside, a house that was at least
big enough to stand erect in, and even move around a bit, was possible.” (Some
old Wethersfield houses and gardens.” Adams, Henry Sherman, Printed Privately
for the Wethersfield Women’s Saturday Afternoon Club, 1909).

Scores
of Families In Homes, Which Are Well Nigh Ideal – Early 1900s

The March 18, 1929 Hartford Courant
published the Wethersfield Grand List – a listing of all real estate parcels
and business personal property within the town. 
The headline read: “Hubbard Holdings Lead Wethersfield Grand List, Value
Place at $120,774″.  The subhead was
“James R. Goodrich Next With $92, 841 and Wethersfield Lumber Company Is
Third”.  Within the alphabetical
inventory Harrison A. Bosworth and H. M. Bosworth are
shown as owning a total of about $32,000.

In the first half of the twentieth
century many men were involved in the transition of Wethersfield from “a mere
village of scattered houses with its surrounding farms into a fair-sized
residential suburb.”   The best known of
these and most successful were Albert G. Hubbard and Harrison A. Bosworth who
between the two of them built over 100 houses in the historic district and many
more throughout the remainder of town – building “on spec” and developing
substantial portions of many of today’s neighborhoods.

           

Albert G. Hubbard-thumb-320x501-763-thumb-320x501-764.jpegAlbert G. Hubbard was born in Southington,
Connecticut in 1886 and moved to Wethersfield at the age of twenty-one.  Working as a carpenter he built at least two
houses in Hartford but left that job in 1910 and bought four lots on Wolcott
Hill Road with the intention of developing them.  His first Wethersfield house was sold to
James Goodrich for $2,600.  In the years
after 1910 Hubbard designed and built over 200 homes in town offering
sixty-seven different plans to choose from.

     


A Hubbard sales brochure asserted that:

“Wethersfield has much to commend it
to the man who would be near his office, yet away from the city’s turmoil….

“….[Wethersfield Country Club] has
an unusually sporty 18 hole golf course. 
Wethersfield Cove provides an exceptional Yacht harbor and the beautiful
Connecticut River winds its way down to long Island Sound.  Horseback riding has many devotees here with
bridal paths to suit all…

“…86% of our population are
American Born.”

Priced between $4,500 and $20,000
“Hubbard Houses” were built to meet the needs of the modern suburban family.

“Conveniences that a few years ago
would have been considered luxuries even in the most expensive residences, are
included as a matter of course in these moderately priced homes, including:
attractive vestibules, center halls, staircase and large living rooms with
fireplaces, cheerful dining rooms with corner cupboards, sub parlors with cozy
fireplaces, modern kitchens with convenient built-in cabinets and sunny
breakfast nooks, first floor lavatories, two to four large, light, airy
bedrooms on the second floor, a beautiful tile bath, large open attic or
sometimes a finished one.  The roofs are
covered with a heavy asphalt shingle, the warm rich beauty of autumn blends of
russet, old gold, burnt orange, browns, blues, greens, and yellow, which
harmonizes with the body colors and trim. 
An attractive velvety lawn with shrubs and walks, a good rear yard, with
a flower or vegetable garden for that outdoor exercise, a one- or two-car
garage which completes the setting and makes it a complete modern home.”

           

Map of Wethersfield Center-thumb-320x233-765-thumb-320x233-766.jpg“Hubbard Homes” were built on
Center, Church, Woodland, Rosedale, Garden, Belmont, and Willard Streets;
Lincoln, Dorchester, Oakdale, Deerfield and Wolcott Hill Roads; Hubbard Place;
Hartford Avenue; and Wolcott Hill Road. 
Each street in a Hubbard community was marked with a distinctive street
sign depicting a charming house and tree. Some streets were also marked with
large stone pillars topped by flowered urns.

“Being of neighborly spirit, Mrs.
[Isabel] Hubbard and I endeavored to know our homeowners intimately.  But as such a group goes beyond a certain
limit, individual calling is out of the question.”

In March 1925 A.G. and Isabel
Hubbard held a dinner at the Masonic Hall for those who had purchased his
homes.  186 people attended and one month
later a similar event inaugurated the “Hubbard Community Club” providing
“entertainments, dances, suppers, picnics, masquerade parties and other
jollifications.”  The town’s annual
report for that year asked, “Can you imagine a community anywhere else like
this?”  The club was active for many
years and, in addition to the celebrations, held an annual “Olla Podrida”
variety show to raise money for charitable activities.

           

GinaShanley-thumb-320x270-781.jpegFor his own home A. G. Hubbard chose
the historic Silas W. Robbins house at 185 Broad Street.  He divided the estate’s extensive grounds of
elms, maple trees, evergreens and flowers and created Robbinswood Drive.  Albert and Isabel had three children –
Lucille, Lawrence and Mabelle who was killed by an automobile at the age of
eight.  The house was heavily damaged by
fire in 1996.  It has been restored and
is now a bed and breakfast.

 As Nora Howard, former Director of Wethersfield
Historical Society has written, “Hubbard, like the many Wethersfield builders
who preceded him, knew that he was leaving a legacy of well-built and appealing
homes.  At the same time, he was
consciously creating for ‘his ‘ homeowners something that is timeless.  Writing in about 1930, he said, ‘There are no
dividends to compare with comfort and contentment, no returns equal to the
personal pride felt by the man who owns the home that shelters his family.'”

In 1925 Harrison A. Bosworth
purchased land on Hartford Avenue in Wethersfield.  The property contained two houses, which he
then moved to Wilcox Street and Harmund Place. 
From there he further developed the two streets as well as Avalon place.

Dick May, a personal friend and
former resident of Woodstock Connecticut, remembered his “Uncle Harry”.

“Harrison Alpheus Bosworth was born
9-25-1892, the ninth child of Henry Allen Bosworth and Margaret Buell
Bosworth.  They lived in Eastford.  I don’t know when Harry moved to Wethersfield,
but I think he lived in a house quite close to the Prison.  He wasn’t in the Army, but three younger
brothers served during WW1.  I do not
know when he married, but his wife’s first name was Mae (or May) and they had
one child, Donald.


….
While I’m sure that uncle Harry was a hammer and saw builder, I don’t believe
Don put on the overalls.  I think he
drafted plans for the carpenters.  Maybe
he designed some of the homes.


Harrison Bosworth and Family.jpg“I have a nice picture of uncle Harry,
standing with his brothers and sisters, back in the mid-1930s.  He is standing in the far left in the picture.  It would have been taken at the time he was
involved in developing your town.”

Like Hubbard, Harrison Bosworth
built houses of various styles – some within and some outside of the Historic District.

“Construction of a frame and brick
house has been started at 135 Clearfield Street [now Road] by H. A.
Bosworth.  It will contain seven rooms,
one lavatory, a tiled bath and a fireplace. 
The house will have brass plumbing and a hot water heating system.”  (Hartford Courant 1/10/1932)

“H.A. Bosworth…started the construction
of a frame house in the English design to contain six rooms and open porch at 3
Avalon Place…

“Mr. Bosworth sold the house built
by him at 6 Avalon Place to P.C. Bradbury, a teacher of mandolin and
banjo.  The house was built to order in
the English Style and contains six rooms and an open porch….

“Mr. Bosworth is now completing a
new home for V.H. Potter of the Aetna Life Insurance Company at 19 Avalon
Place…of the American Colonial Style.

“The house that Mr. Bosworth is
building for Louise P. Johnston, wife of James Johnston of the Connecticut
Company at 631 Franklin Avenue…is of the Dutch Colonial Style containing seven
rooms and sun porch.” (Hartford Courant 1/25/1931)

Unlike Messrs. Hubbard and Bosworth
James R. Goodrich (the second largest property holder in the March 1929
Hartford Courant listing) was not a “hammer and saw builder” but rather a
planner of housing developments, the land for which he bought and then sold to
builders and/or future homeowners.

One of these sites was “Goodrich
Manor” which extended north to south from the Hartford town line to the
south side of what was then called Mabel St. (now Saxon Road) and east to west
from Wolcott Hill Road to Goodrich Drive. 
It contained 106 lots located on Goodrich Drive, Mabel Street, Judd
Street (now Road), Reed Drive and Stillman Road.

A home in the English style at the corner
of Saxon Road and Goodrich Drive was built for James S. Goodrich, treasurer of
the Hartford Battery Company of Milldale by A.G. Judson of Wethersfield and
architected by Carl V. Johnson of Torrington. 
Another Goodrich Manor house at the corner of Judd and Goodrich Streets
was built by Adolf Groskritz for Mary Groskritz.  And an old cottage on Jordan Lane owned by
Mrs. James R. Goodrich was completely remodeled by Harry A. Bosworth and then
rented.


Go to Wethersfield’s Homebuilders: 1634 – 1900.

Go to Wethersfield’s Homebuilders: 1940 and Beyond

Sources:

 “Capt. James Francis Master Builder: Brick Architecture in Wethersfield before 1840″, Anne Crofoot Kuckro; 1974; Wethersfield Historical Society

“Wethersfield Historic
Properties Inventory”
[Online]

Available, http://hpi.wethersfieldct.com/index.cgi/1

Wethersfield Historical Society archives

Historical Hartford Courant (1923-1984) [Online]

Available, http://www.cslib.org/newspapers

Historical Hartford Courant (1992-current) [Online]

Available, http://www.cslib.org/newspapers

About the Author: Jim Meehan

Leave a Reply to Anonymous Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>