Deb Cohen of The Front Door Project explores the history of a stately vintage home on West Hartford’s Fern Street as she leads readers through a tour of the recently-listed residence.
By Deb Cohen
“F.G. Whitmore & Son have sold the handsome residence of Edward T. Hapgood on Fern Street to Mrs. Gerald W. Hart of this city. The house was recently built by Mr. Hapgood at a large expense, and is considered one of the handsome modern places in the western part of the city. Mr. & Mrs. Hart will shortly move into the house and occupy it as a home.” ~ Hartford Courant, November 12, 1910
I was recently contacted by Susan Brine, a West Hartford realtor, to see if I might be interested in researching the ownership history of her new listing at 190 Fern St., a stately Colonial home built in 1910. She was thinking it would interest prospective buyers. Of course I jumped at the chance with a promise to see the home once it was ready to show.
After a few hours digging through town records, and a few more looking at old newspaper articles online (no one said this would be quick and easy) I determined that the home had been owned by no less than nine different owners. However, I was most interested in determining who the original owners and architect were.
As it happens, the original owner was also the architect. The land where the home sits today was purchased by Elizabeth and Edward Hapgood in 1908 and Edward, a very well-regarded local architect, subsequently designed and built the home. It’s unclear whether or not the Hapgoods lived in the home, but in any event it was sold in November 1910 to Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Hart.
Edward Hapgood, who had an architecture practice with his cousin Melvin, is noted for a number of local area buildings including the following partial list:
- The former Rossia Insurance Company Building in Hartford
- The former Scottish Union & National Insurance Company Building in Hartford (now Appellate Court)
- State Library and Supreme Court Buildings in Hartford
- Original Travelers Insurance Co Buildings (with fellow architect Donn Barber)
- Simsbury Town Hall
- The Connecticut building at the St. Louis Expedition – 1904 World’s Fair (reproduction of the Sigourney Mansion)
- At least a dozen private residences in the Prospect Historic District
- His own private residence at 1430 Asylum Ave., a replica of Mount Vernon
The Harts were a well-to-do family that moved to West Hartford in the early 1900s as so many other wealthy families did. Gerald Hart was President of Hart Manufacturing Company, founded in 1898. He held several patents for the electric switches that were manufactured and sold by the company along with other electric light supplies.
The Harts sold to the Rose and Joseph Silver in 1921, and the Silvers were the residents who lived at 190 Fern St. the longest. Joseph Silver was one of the founders and ultimately the President of Mt. Sinai Hospital in Hartford. Originally from Poland, he was also the owner of a wholesale confectionary business in Hartford. Quite the combination!
He and his wife were very active in the local Jewish community and belonged to Temple Beth Israel.
The Silver home passed to their four daughters, and two of the daughters, Miriam and Florence, lived in the home until the 1980s. Town records show that the Silvers received a building permit to add an elevator to the house in 1948. The elevator is still there, but its doors are sealed shut for safety reasons.
Since then, the house has been bought and sold a number of times. It is currently unoccupied and is looking for its next owner. Who shall be lucky enough to live in this gem? Listed at $749,000, with 5,600 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths it is a LOT of house!
Susan’s listing of the home (here) has gorgeous photos and shots of every room, so when I visited the house I wanted to take some close-up shots to give you an idea of the amazing details in this one-of-a-kind home.
And for the record, the home has a completely updated kitchen, air conditioning, giant family room, second floor laundry … and the list goes on. It has been completely updated for modern amenities while retaining its vintage charm. It is move-in ready!
Here is my Top 10 List of Favorite Features, in no particular order:
- Pocket doors. The most gorgeous doors that slide quietly into the wall and out again when needed.
- Built-ins. Everywhere. Pantry, dining room china cabinet, living room bookcases, bedroom armoires.
- Fireplaces. Three! One in the living room, dining room and master bedroom – how nice is that?
- Clawfoot bathtubs. At least three of them – maybe four? I lost track.
- Butler’s pantry. Need I say more?
- A call box in the kitchen and another up in the servant’s quarters. Yes, I said servant’s quarters.
- Original refrigerator. So cool that the previous owners kept it, and retrofitted it with modern shelving.
- The cutest little bathroom under the stairs. Think Harry Potter.
- Dormer windows on the third floor. They let in a ton of light and each has its own cozy alcove.
- The linen closet. Sad that it’s on my list, but hey, I have a teeny-tiny one. This is a walk-in linen closet with custom cabinetry for your sheets, blankets, towels, and other linens.
The walls are painted various pale shades, all acting as nice neutrals for your decor. Since the home isn’t occupied, Susan worked with Kerry Bell of Kerry’s Home EmBELLishments for home staging. Kerry did a wonderful job making this home seem warm and inviting by combining some furniture left by the homeowners with additional furniture and accessories she rented.
I know this home is out of reach for many of us (myself included) but I know there is some lucky family out there that is perfect for this home and will continue to care for it as its previous owners have. It’s truly a treasure, and at the risk of sounding old I just have to say “they just don’t make ’em like this anymore”.
Here are a few more shots of the interior:
If you are in the market take a look at this house – don’t let it get away! Susan would love to give you a tour. And if you are a West Hartford resident and would like to know more about your home’s history, check out the Services page and shoot me a note via the Contact page.
Deb Cohen of West Hartford started The Front Door Project in the summer of 2014 as a way to motivate herself to get outside, exercise and pay more attention to her surroundings. She began photographing homes with a primary focus on the front door, which is a welcoming focal point. Social media provided the means to share the photographs and a ready audience to follow along, and her new-found interest soon led to exploring other local area towns in my free time. The “project” has led to deeper interests in architecture, local history and historic preservation and came at a time in Deb’s life when she needed some inspiration. Please join Deb as she continues to share her everyday travels and explorations of other towns and places! You can find her other posts at www.thefrontdoorproject.com.
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