Wednesday, December 30, 2020


The Stone Buildings of Haddam

Haddam is well known for its granite-gneiss quarries on both the east and west sides of the Connecticut River. The Allen Vein runs north-south across town from Haddam Neck to Great Hill then along Turkey Hill. The Brainerd and Arnold Families both operated successful quarries during the 18th and 19th centuries primarily selling curb and gutter stone to large cities along the east coast and New Orleans. The stone was also used as a building material and a few Haddam granite buildings remain.


The Haddam Gaol and Workhouse at 955 Saybrook Road was erected of local stone in three sections. The original section was constructed in 1845 by the Arnold Family with loadbearing walls of solid stone 15 to 24 inches thick. In 1855 the building was enlarged with help from the prisoners which saved $200 in labor costs. The mansard roof portion of the building was added in 1874 and housed offices, women’s quarters and Jailer’s apartment.


Just down the street, at 1005 Saybrook Road, is the David B. Ventres House commonly known as the “stonehouse.” Mr. Ventres built this house in 1825 at the time of his marriage and was involved in the quarrying business. The building once featured an ornate full façade front porch.


The final remaining stone building in Haddam is known as Brainerd Academy or Town Hall at 21 Field Park Drive. Built in 1839, this imposing building was built by brothers John and Nehemiah Brainerd as a private college preparatory school. It was originally three stories in height with massive central bell tower. The school closed in the 1890s and later became the Town Hall/Masonic Lodge in 1929 after the Courthouse/Town Hall burned (see below). The third floor was removed and an ornate fully pedimented projecting portico was added to the façade featuring 2-story Doric columns.


Haddam Gaol, David Ventres House, Brainerd Academy

We know of three stone buildings that no longer exist. The first is the Middlesex County Courthouse which stood at the intersection of Walkley Hill, Hayden Hill and Saybrook Roads. Middlesex County was formed in 1785 and Middletown and Haddam were both appointed county seats and each needed a courthouse. The stone building was erected in 1829 of Haddam gneiss and replaced an early wood structure. It remained an active courthouse until 1897 and then became the town hall and masonic lodge. A devasting fire in 1929 gutted the building and it was dismantled. The small stone wall surrounding “Courthouse Green” was constructed of the buildings stone.


The Old Stone Store stood at the foot of Field Park Drive and was a two-story stone building with ornate fan light in the gable end. At one time George Dickinson operated a store and post office out of the building in the 1880s. It was taken down by the early 20th century.


The Charles Smith House once stood along Pokorny Road in the Higganum section of town and was built in 1802 of granite slab veneer over a rubble masonry to make 15-inch load-bearing walls.  He left the house to his wife and grandson, Charles S. Wilcox, whose family remained there until the early 20th century. In the mid-20th century it was a weekend/summer home to the Briggs Family of New York, but was abandoned and fell into disrepair by the 1980s and was torn down.


Courthouse, Old Stone Store, Charles Smith House