Imitation is Flattery– Is this Italianate in CT a “Copy Cat?”


The two houses above do not appear to have much in common upon first glance.  After all, one house is a stately brick mansion, while the other is a light yellow, vinyl-sided Colonial.   The Italianate house on the left was built during the late 1800s (or perhaps even the beginning of the 20th century if it is an Italian “Revival”), while the house on the right was originally a simple, two-story Colonial built during the late 1700s.  The house on the left is located in a small city — Norwich, CT, while the house on the right was built on the Town Green in the quiet, rural town of Tolland, CT– which has since become quite a bedroom community to Hartford.

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However, when I first spotted the Norwich mansion (left), I immediately thought of the house on the right, and couldn’t help but think that there was some kind of connection.  I have yet to find anything tangible, but a quick look at the architecture of the Tolland house reveals the reason I believe that at some point, an owner or owners of the Tolland house tried to mimick the grandiosity of the Norwich mansion.

First, the very fact that the house was converted to an Italianate, after about a century as a “normal” New England colonial farmhouse, reveals that the owner at the time aspired to a more stylish appearance.  Located on the Tolland Green, near an intersection of several major routes that pass through the town, this house is very visible to passers-by, so this is not surprising.

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In the adjacent photos, you can see the wide, overhanging eaves and the large decorative brackets that typify the Italianate style. At some point, the owner of the Tolland house also added taller Victorian-era windows on the first floor, and also added a classical-looking front portico (porch), both of which can both be observed on a much grander scale on the Norwich mansion.

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However, the strongest evidence of a “copy cat” effort by the owners of the Tolland house is the enclosed side porch that flanks both houses.  If you look at the detailed pictures, the Tolland house features large, arched, “fanlight” style windows on the porch–  1 on the front and 4 on the side.  These windows cap tripartite windows around the entire porch, which makes for a beautiful sunroom (I know, I was inside it several years ago!).  If you look at the Norwich porch, also flanking the house on the left side, there are elaborate “fanlight” windows there, as well — and with 1 in the front and 4 on the side.  As with any of these architectural features, the design is much more elaborate on the Norwich mansion, but the similarity is uncanny.  And while the two houses are more than 30 miles away from one another — and a good 45 minute drive today — I cannot help but think that the Tolland owner must have been smitten with the city Italianate, and decided to built his own “folk,” country version in Tolland.  If you want to own the Tolland version, it is currently for sale here.

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