Connecticut Trust For Historic Preservation

Historic Properties Exchange

HPX Update: Sovereigns Trading Company Building, New Britain

The five-story Sovereigns Trading Company building, a key structure in downtown New Britain, will be rehabilitated as luxury condominiums and a restaurant. The upper floors of the building have been vacant since the early 1960s. The last ground floor tenant was a women's clothing shop, which closed in 1999. The building was listed in the March/April 2004 issue of the Exchange, when the city was seeking proposals for its rehabilitation and adaptive use. A team, which included representatives from the New Britain Chamber of Commerce, the New Britain Downtown District, and Banknorth, selected MRC Construction and Restoration of Dumont, New Jersey to take on the project. The New Britain City Council approved the choice. The project is expected to cost 1.4 million dollars. MRC will restore the exterior of the building. The interior will be reconfigured for eight condominium units on the four upper floors, with retention of some original features. An upscale restaurant is expected to occupy the ground level. Work will begin in mid-August and should be completed by the winter of 2005-2006. The project will further the continued revitalization of downtown New Britain and will contribute to the historic streetscape.The Sovereigns Trading Company building was constructed in 1904 of yellow brick with limestone trim for the, a local dry goods grocer. Designed by New Britain architect William Cadwell, the facade features two vertical rows of bay windows made of pressed tin. The windows have egg and dart trim. The cornice began to fall off about ten years ago and was removed, but the name, Sovereigns Trading Company, and the date of 1904 still appear in limestone at the top of the building.

HPX: May/June 2004

May/June 2004
The Historic Properties Exchange is supported by Cesar Pelli and Associates Architects.


For more information, call the agent listed below or see related articles in Connecticut Preservation News and at

HPX Update: Wyllys Russell House and Barn, Branford

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: Patrick Qualey House and Barns, Redding

Patrick Qualey House and Barns, Redding, Saved from Demolition.

This vernacular historic house and its two barns were saved from destruction through the advocacy efforts of the Redding Preservation Society, along with the perseverance of town historian Charles Couch and the support of the Redding Historical Society. The buildings were located on a modest farm that had been tended by the Qualey family in the nineteenth century. Patrick and Kathryn Qualey emigrated from Ireland and settled in Redding in the 1870s. Members of the family occupied the house into the 1940s. The land is now owned by the Redding Country Club. At the urging of the Preservation Society and Mr. Couch, the Country Club agreed to allow the buildings to be removed from the property for reassembly elsewhere, as an alternative to demolition. The house and barns were listed in the July/August 2003 issue of the Exchange. 

 The buildings have been disassembled and the parts numbered and stored for reconstruction on another tract of land within the Town of Redding. The three buildings will remain together, thereby retaining their historical association with one another, although their uses may be reversed. The house may be used for storage and one of the barns adapted as living quarters.

During disassembly, physical evidence revealed that the house was older than first thought and, in fact, dated from the mid-eighteenth century. It appears that the building was originally a one-and-a-half story, center-chimney, Cape Cod style house. The roof was raised and a full second story and attic were added around 1870, when the Qualey family took possession. Mr. Couch coordinated the many facets of the project, and the Redding Country Club contributed to the cost of disassembly and moving.