The National Register of Historic Places
The NRHP is an inventory of cultural resources designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as worthy of preservation. Registration provides protection from unreasonable destruction and requires review of state or federally funded, licensed, or sponsored projects that might affect registered properties. It does not restrict the rights of private property owners to impair, alter, or even demolish significant features of the resource, nor does it curtail use, development, or sale of privately held historic property.
A National Historic Landmark: The Henry Whitfield House
A building, site, district, structure, or object that is designated by the United States Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark has been judged to possess exceptional value and quality in illustrating and interpreting our nation’s history. Only the most important properties on the Register qualify for National Historic Landmark status. Built in 1639 by the founders of Guilford for their minister, the Henry Whitfield House is Connecticut’s oldest house and earliest state museum.
Guilford’s National Register Sites
Four locations, a lighthouse and ten buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Historic Town Center is an area approximately four square miles lying between the East and West Rivers and bounded by I-95 on the North and Long Island Sound on the South. The Town Center includes 257 historic buildings.
Meeting House Hill. Two churches, three church-related buildings, a section of road, a cemetery and a spectacular panorama of farmland comprise this historic hilltop site in North Guilford.
Leetes Island Road includes portions of Leetes Island Road, Sachems Head Road and Lower Water Street that fall within the right-of-way of State Scenic Road Route 146 between Flat Rock Road in Branford and the western end of the West River bridge in Guilford. A total of 52 structures are listed, 43 of them in Guilford, 9 in Branford.
Dudleytown is an eight square mile area straddling the East River and Clapboard Hill Road. It contains 60 sites.
Faulkner’s Island Lighthouse has been in continuous service as an aid to navigation on Long Island Sound since its construction in 1802. The island is 3.5 miles off the Guilford shore. The lighthouse is under the care of the Faulkner’s Light Brigade.
The following houses in Guilford are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Acadian House, 1670
37 Union Street
The core of this house, constructed in 1670 by Joseph Clay, is representative of late-seventeenth-century homes built in the New Haven Colony. It had a two-room, two-story interior plan with a large center stone chimney. The later addition of a lean-to on the back to accommodate a keeping room converted the house to the familiar saltbox profile that became common in 18th-century Guilford. Enlarging the windows made the only further change in its appearance.
The name “Acadian” derives from an unconfirmed legend that in 1755 Samuel Chittenden allowed a refugee family driven from Nova Scotia to live in the house. At that time Guilford served as a haven for nearly a dozen Acadian refugees.
Thomas Burgis II House
85 Boston Street
At the end of its first one hundred years Guilford had a manufacturing as well as an agricultural interest. Thomas Burgis, a cordwainer from Yorkshire, had moved to Guilford, where he established a tan yard and a thriving trade exporting shoes to the West Indies. About 1735 he built this center-chimney, two-room wide, one-room deep, two-story house on Boston Street for his eldest son, Thomas II. The addition about 1800 of a lean-to to create a keeping room converted it to the saltbox form. The house remained in the Burgis family until 1844.
Helen Pigott bought the Burgis house in 1956 and commenced restoration work. The present owners completed this task, returning the center block of the house to its original appearance.
Jared Eliot House, 1723
88 Mulberry Farms Road
Jared Eliot, a distinguished colonial theologian, doctor, entrepreneur, and intellectual, grew up and was prepared in Guilford for admission to Yale, where he graduated in 1706. While giving a lifetime of service as minister of the Killingworth (now Clinton) Congregational Church, Eliot also maintained a home in Guilford on land his wife had inherited. It was here that he carried out work on experimental agriculture that earned him fame in the colonies and in England. Guilford’s Mulberry Point derives from Eliot’s introduction of Mulberry trees to provide food for silk worms. He visualized silk-making as a winter occupation for local families.
The Eliot house is a saltbox style dwelling built in 1723. Careful restoration in the 1940s preserved most of the original house structure, but surrounded it with a number of modern additions.
Griswold House, 1774
171 Boston Street
Thomas Griswold built this saltbox dwelling for his sons, John and Ezra, about 1774 on land that the Griswold family had held since arriving in Guilford in 1695. The house remained in the family until the Guilford Keeping Society purchased it in 1958 for conversion to a museum. The Society interprets it as the home of George Griswold, Thomas’s grandson, and his wife Nancy. The furnishings and equipment in the house reproduce a typical Guilford home in the years of the Early Republic.
Visitors can inspect the massive center chimney with its original cooking hearth and ovens, and many details of the framing and structure of the house.
84 Boston Street
George Hyland built a two-story, two-room plan house around a central chimney as his dwelling place in 1660. About 1720 later owners added the lean-to on the back in order to provide a separate kitchen space and additional living quarters. The house passed through several generations of his family, and by the early 20th century was in danger of being demolished. Governor Woodruff, who had retired in Guilford, purchased it for the Dorothy Whitfield Society with a view to the preservation of the house as an antiquity. The society has owned and operated the Hyland House since 1916 and its restoration under Norman Isham was one of the first projects of this kind undertaken in Connecticut.
The Hyland house is one of the few in Guilford to retain elements of seventeenth-century domestic architecture. It is open for public inspection during the summer months.
Pelatiah Leete House, 1766
575 Leete’s Island Road
In 1661 Guilford granted the land we now know as Leete’s Island to William Leete, later to be governor of Connecticut, in recognition of his services to the town and the New Haven Colony. In 1766 Pelatiah Leete, III, had this house built across the road from the family’s other houses. Here in 1781 his brother Simeon died from wounds received in the previous day’s skirmish with invading British troops. The house remained in the Leete family until 1929. It has been sensitively restored inside and out, and is the site of an annual hearth-cooked dinner held for the benefit of the Guilford Keeping Society.
Pelatiah Leete had his house built as an integral lean-to (i.e., the back section was not an addition as in the Arcadian and Burgis houses), giving it the characteristic saltbox profile.
Elisha Pitkin House
173 High Woods Drive
Moving houses to new locations within town has been a Guilford practice for centuries. The Pitkin house, however, was moved to Guilford from East Hartford, where it had stood on Main Street overlooking the Connecticut River since Elisha Pitkin had it built in 1764. Elisha Pitkin, Yale graduate and commander of artillery in the Revolution, was a part owner of the famous Pitkin Glass Works in East Hartford as well as proprietor of numerous mills and industries.
The two-story, gambrel roof house with two chimneys incorporates parts of the dwelling built by Elisha’s father in 1690. It remained in the Pitkin family until 1871, but had become derelict when purchased by Edward Pitkin in 1953 for removal to Guilford. Subsequent restoration has kept the exterior and much of the interior detail intact.
Sabbath Day House
19 Union Street
Many colonial Guilford families traveled long distance to attend morning and afternoon services at the Congregational church, then located on the Green. Since they could not easily return home between services, families needed places to stay while in town. At one time Guilford had up to thirty Sabbath Day houses to serve this need. Two survive on Union Street. Daniel Bowen probably built number 19 about 1735.
This small one-and-a-half story house has a steep gambrel roof in front and long, sloping saltbox type roof in back. The chimney is placed at one end rather than in the center as in the typical two-room Guilford house design.
Medad Stone Tavern
197 Three Mile Course
The Medad Stone Tavern is a Dutch gambrel style fourteen room, ten fireplace tavern built in 1803 by Medad Stone. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. The property includes ten acres, a barn, a corncrib and a garage. The Len Hubbard Community Garden is located on the property. The Tavern never opened as a tavern, however, it has been restored to its tavern roots and welcomes many visitors at the Guilford Keeping Society’s Memorial Day Picnic and September Wine Tasting.
The Henry Whitfield House
The Whitfield House, Guilford’s only National Historic Landmark, received this designation in 1996 for two reasons. First is its association with Henry Whitfield and Guilford’s initial settlers. The second reason is its importance as a monument to the movement to preserve colonial antiquities that began in the mid 19th century and blossomed in the early to mid 20th century with the work of Norman Isham and J. Frederick Kelly in Connecticut.
Henry Whitfield, born in 1592, was a staunch Anglican and had served twenty years as vicar of St. Margaret’s Church in Ockley, Surrey, before he joined the religious dissenters known as Puritans. As persecution by Archbishop Laud in the reign of Charles I accelerated the flow of dissenters to New England, Whitfield led a group of Puritans from Surrey to the new community that became Guilford in 1639. The immigrants immediately started work on several stone houses, the one built for Whitfield being the largest and only one to survive today. Stone from rock faces on Lover’s Lane served as construction material. Whitfield returned to England in 1650, but the house continued to serve as headquarters for the extensive surrounding farm.
Interest in the Whitfield House as an antiquity surfaced as early as 1828, increased over the following decades, and culminated in the purchase of the house by the state in 1899. Over the centuries successive owners had made many alterations to the original fabric of Whitfield’s house. Restoration work by Norman M. Isham led to its grand opening in 1904 as one of the first house museums in New England. The view that ancient buildings should be glorified took precedence over historical accuracy in Isham’s restoration In the 1930s Frederick Kelly uncovered new physical evidence of the house’s original structure. The restoration work he completed shows us today what most scholars agree is an accurate representation of a substantial 17th-century dwelling house.