Connecticut Trust For Historic Preservation

HPX Update: Wyllys Russell House and Barn, Branford

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Wyllys Russell House and Barn, Branford, Saved on Site.

This early nineteenth-century house was endangered by a plan to build condominium units on the site, which was approved by the Branford Planning and Zoning Commission. However, as a contributing structure within a historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the building qualified for a hearing before the Connecticut Historic Preservation Council in Hartford. The Branford Historical Society and concerned citizens brought the case before the council, requesting its determination as to whether the proposed demolition was reasonable. The council is empowered under state law to determine such matters for National Register properties. In addition, the council may request that the state Attorney General consider taking legal action to prevent the unreasonable destruction of historic properties and landmarks.

¬†At the hearing, the Branford Historical Society presented a petition with 600 signatures, as well as letters of support, including one from the first selectman. Built in 1820, the two-story house retains a high degree of authenticity and is in good condition. These factors contributed to the council’s decision that destruction of the house would not be reasonable. The council requested that the developer modify his plans to keep the Russell House standing, and the developer agreed to do so.

The Russell House is located in an area known since colonial times as Canoe Brook. The neighborhood was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Canoe Brook Historic District in 2001 and is the most recently designated of Branford’s five historic districts.

The house is of post and beam construction and wood shingles sheath the exterior. A one-story portico forms the focal point of the symmetrical facade, which has two windows on either side of the entry on the first floor and five windows across the second story. Two columns support a shallow hipped roof over the front door. The door is paneled with a four-light transom above. It is flanked by pilasters. The windows were converted to two-over-two sash later in the nineteenth century. The brick center chimney serves three fireplaces.

The interior remains largely intact, primarily due to the fact that only two families have occupied the house since its construction. Wyllys and Laura Russell built the house on land that had been conveyed to them by Laura’s mother in 1816. Wyllys Russell lived there for at least fifty years. Frederick S. Jordon bought the house in 1875, and his daughter, Caroline, occupied it until her death in 1989.

After the town’s approval of the condominium proposal, the house was listed in the May/June 2003 issue of the Exchange for removal from the site, which seemed to be its best hope at the time. Nevertheless, concerned citizens persevered. The Russell House was saved in its original location by the efforts of the local community combined with the protections afforded National Register properties under the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act.

HPX Update: Wyllys Russell House and Barn, Branford

back to listings

Wyllys Russell House and Barn, Branford, Saved on Site.

This early nineteenth-century house was endangered by a plan to build condominium units on the site, which was approved by the Branford Planning and Zoning Commission. However, as a contributing structure within a historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the building qualified for a hearing before the Connecticut Historic Preservation Council in Hartford. The Branford Historical Society and concerned citizens brought the case before the council, requesting its determination as to whether the proposed demolition was reasonable. The council is empowered under state law to determine such matters for National Register properties. In addition, the council may request that the state Attorney General consider taking legal action to prevent the unreasonable destruction of historic properties and landmarks.

 At the hearing, the Branford Historical Society presented a petition with 600 signatures, as well as letters of support, including one from the first selectman. Built in 1820, the two-story house retains a high degree of authenticity and is in good condition. These factors contributed to the council's decision that destruction of the house would not be reasonable. The council requested that the developer modify his plans to keep the Russell House standing, and the developer agreed to do so.

The Russell House is located in an area known since colonial times as Canoe Brook. The neighborhood was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Canoe Brook Historic District in 2001 and is the most recently designated of Branford's five historic districts.

The house is of post and beam construction and wood shingles sheath the exterior. A one-story portico forms the focal point of the symmetrical facade, which has two windows on either side of the entry on the first floor and five windows across the second story. Two columns support a shallow hipped roof over the front door. The door is paneled with a four-light transom above. It is flanked by pilasters. The windows were converted to two-over-two sash later in the nineteenth century. The brick center chimney serves three fireplaces.

The interior remains largely intact, primarily due to the fact that only two families have occupied the house since its construction. Wyllys and Laura Russell built the house on land that had been conveyed to them by Laura's mother in 1816. Wyllys Russell lived there for at least fifty years. Frederick S. Jordon bought the house in 1875, and his daughter, Caroline, occupied it until her death in 1989.

After the town's approval of the condominium proposal, the house was listed in the May/June 2003 issue of the Exchange for removal from the site, which seemed to be its best hope at the time. Nevertheless, concerned citizens persevered. The Russell House was saved in its original location by the efforts of the local community combined with the protections afforded National Register properties under the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act.