If you visit the Connecticut Historical Society, at One Elizabeth Street in Hartford, you will discover an unusual and intriguing building that was originally built as the home of industrialist Curtis Veeder. Veeder began to plan this house in 1925, and moved in with his wife and two daughters in 1928. He lived here until his death in 1943. Mrs.Veeder lived in the house until 1950 when she sold it to the Historical Society. It has been adapted for other uses, but it still reflects Curtis Veeder’s personality, talents, and interests.
The West End of Hartford was the last section of the city to be developed. At the end of the 19th century, much of it was still rural farmland. In 1925, an article in The Hartford Courant describing the Woodside Circle development, then under construction, recalled that not many years earlier, cows were a common sight grazing on the Goodwin estate, and local children went swimming in the Park River. At about the same time, Curtis Veeder, his manufacturing business prospering, purchased several parcels of land at the corner of Elizabeth and Asylum, assembling a seven-acre building lot. There were challenges to building in this location. The property was low-lying and the Park River ran right along the back of the property. Contractors found it necessary to bring in 14,000 tons of fill to make the site suitable for building, and pilings were sunk deep into the ground for stability and support.
The house was designed by the Hartford architectural firm of Brooks and Grazier, with William F. Brooks serving as the lead architect. The complete set of blueprints has been preserved and is in the CHS collection. Mr. Veeder was himself directly involved with the planning, and no expense or care was spared. The 20-room residence featured many of the latest conveniences and technological improvements of the time and reflected Mr. Veeder’s concern with engineering and safety. The walls were made of steel-reinforced concrete and the basement was equipped with a heavy fire-door between the garage and the main house. An elevator serviced all four levels. There was a central vacuum system and incinerator, a chauffeur intercom and a call system for the servants. The three-car garage in the basement is evidence of the growing importance of the automobile and included its own carwash. Like the garage and carwash, the massive porte-cochere entrance, which reportedly had to be rebuilt three times to satisfy Mr. Veeder’s exacting standards, was meant to accommodate automobiles, and not the carriages and coaches that its name implies.
Although the building is not presented as an historic house of the 1920s, many of its original features have been preserved and are featured in The Connecticut Historical Society’s monthly tours, “The Secrets of the Veeder House.” The next tours will be on Saturday May 24 at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. For more information, visit chs.org.