Hartford CT Historic Homes: Day-Taylor House

The Day-Taylor House was built in 1857 in a beautiful Italian Villa style architecture at the same time that Samuel Colt, the creator of the Colt Revolver built his Armsmear estate directly across the street. Located at the center of the Colt Architectural legacy at 81 Wethersfield Avenue, it has been a residence of several prominent Hartford, Connecticut families.

The Day-Taylor House was built by Hirim Billel, the highly esteemed Hartford builder who also built Connecticut’s State Capitol and the Memorial Arch in Bushnell Park. It was influenced by the ideas of Andrew Jackson Downing who wrote treatises on landscape design and architecture that were widely popular at the time. It is an example of a style that Downing called “Italianate” based on Italian farmhouses that were also being depicted in popular landscape paintings of the period.

The three story red brick masonry and white trimmed building has an asymmetrical facade dominated by floor-to-ceiling arched windows at every level, balconies, cast-iron lintels and a flat-roofed cupola. The brackets lining the low-pitched roof and cupola are particularly detailed and ornate. The three-part veranda of the front facade is supported by elaborate Corinthian columns. The front facade has remained unchanged since its original construction.

The first owner and resident was Albert F. Day, a descendant of Robert Day who was one of the original colonial settlers of Hartford. The house was later occupied by his father, a Connecticut Attorney General. Later owners included Mary Borden Munsill of the Borden Milk company and Edwin Taylor. In 1928 the house was bought by the Fraternal Order of Eagles who used it as a meeting house, and headquarters. In 1974 it was bought by the Hartford Redevelopment Agency.

The Day-Taylor House is also significant located in Hartford’s Colt architectural legacy which stretches along both sides of Wethersfield Avenue for two blocks. The area has become designated as the Coltsville Historical District.

The Day-Taylor House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It had a significant restoration in 1979 and the building now serves as offices. The combination of it being built by one of Hartford’s most distinguished builders Hirim Billel, that it was built the same year and directly across the street from the Samuel Colt Home and the Armsmear Estate Park, and that it has been owned and occupied by so many notable Hartford residents makes it one of Hartford, Connecticut’s most important historical homes.

Sacred Land of the Heart – Spirituality of the Soul’s History

I can only imagine the tremendous value of the land so far as both the people of antiquity and the Indigenous are concerned. I have to concur. The Land, for me also, has tremendous power and significance about it. Land is sacred to the heart. Our histories are indelibly attached to it.

I took the opportunity recently to re-trace some of my personal heritage. I have found that cherishing the land is a big part of cherishing my heritage–it’s about cherishing the very parts that have ‘become me.’
Re-tracing my heritage “trails” involved both old land and new land; reflecting over times significant in the past as well as foreseeing the significance of events–or certainly landmarks–of the future.

Watching the land is amazing. How it changes. A place I went back to was the land of my grandmother’s–I stayed with her for a few months, now over twenty years ago. She has since passed away long ago and the block of units we lived in has long been swept away. The whole area looks vastly different. I also visited my favourite university cafĂ© and found the menu had changed–no more cheap and ‘to die for’ food there! And whilst these things had changed, the land had not. I’m thankful to God for that fact!

What of the New Land?

A time of change is not just sad, it’s a happy time too as we gain anticipation of what the new time–a new season–might bring. New routines, new surroundings–a totally fresh environment. Watching the land gives way also to respecting the land. It’s vital that we respect it; not simply physically–but spiritually too. To cherish the land’s role in our lives, and let the memories live on; this is what I mean.

The land is inherently part of our heart. It is sacred just as our hearts are. The testimony of our memories gives the land this treasured legacy as both the means to and manifestation of our heart. The Land is the context of life. It is God’s landscape for meaning.

Thomas Cole – The Father of American Landscape Painting

Nineteenth century American artist, Thomas Cole was born on February 1, 1801, at Bolton, Lancashire in Northwestern England. The founder of the American art movement ‘Hudson River School,’ Thomas is an established name in ‘Romanticism’ and ‘Naturalism.’

His early education in arts swung around the domains, wood engraving and calico painting, until his family immigrated to Steubenville, Ohio, America, in 1818. Here, Thomas learned the essentials of painting from a portrait painter, Stein. His interests however, gradually tilted towards landscape painting. In 1823, the Coles moved to Pittsburg, where Thomas began to draw painstakingly detailed sketches of the city’s highly picturesque scenery. The artist then shifted to Philadelphia in 1824, where he worked with the members of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. This association brought him the privilege of displaying his canvasses at the Academy’s exhibitions.

In 1825, he moved to New York, back to his family. The city’s esteemed artists and patrons admiringly noticed his works. He sold his paintings to finance his summer trip to Hudson Valley. Here he explored the haunting beauty of Catskill Mountain house and its wilderness. One of his prominent works, “Gelyna, View near Ticonderoga” took him to the highs of fame everywhere, bringing eminence to his works. Soon, his stature elevated, and he was appointed a member of the National Academy.

During 1829-1831, he traveled to Britain, France, and Italy, to study the great historical works at various art galleries there. His stay in Italy, from 1831 to 1832, supplemented his imagination with noble themes and ideas, and from this point on, his paintings began carrying the hard-core ‘Romantic’ spirit. During this period only, Luman Reed, a New York based merchant, became Cole’s patron for whom the artist produced his best-known series of paintings, “The Course of Empire (1834-36),” depicting the progress of a society from the savage state to a zenith of luxury, eventually leading to its dissolution and extinction.

November 22, 1836, added a new chapter in Thomas’ life, when he tied knot with Maria Bartow at Cedar Grove, where he eventually settled for life. The couple had five children. During his second trip to Europe (1840-1842), Cole developed a mastery over his art of using colors. He would brilliantly recreate the atmospheric magic, particularly that of sky. He painted his second great series of work, “Voyage of Life (1840),” during his this second spell at Europe.

Although, Cole was a landscape painter, his allegoric creations embodied the same intellectual content. Some of his other celebrated works were, “The Garden of Eden (1828),” “The Oxbow (The Connecticut River near Northampton) (1836),” “The Departure (1837),” “The Return (1837),” “The Past (1838),” “The Present (1838),” “L’Allegro (Italian Sunset) (1845),” and “Il Penseroso (1845).” On February 11, 1848, the maestro breathed his last, at Catskill, leaving behind his rich legacy, and a firm foundation for the continued growth of the American landscape painting.