by Larry Larned, town historian
(Published in the Bolton Community News, December 1994–February 1995)
During November an article appeared in the Hartford Courant real estate section about the ownership of old houses. Although Bolton was not specifically mentioned, one aspect of our town was discussed: how old houses provide a link to the past.
Recently, while working on a U.S. Route 6 task force gathering information for impact on historical properties in Bolton, a question was raised about how many historic houses exist in Bolton. This is not an easy question to answer without asking, "What constitutes a historic house?"
As municipal historian I maintain an inventory of old houses in Bolton. The basis for the inventory is a survey of historical and architectural resources in Bolton completed during 1978. Although not perfect, this survey included for the first time a comprehensive listing of old, historic and antique houses in town. For the most part, all of the antique houses have been on the same site for at least 100 years. Some houses have been modified to such an extent that few of their original features remain. At least two houses have been moved to Bolton and restored.
The 1978 survey of historical and architectural resources identified 63 sites in Bolton considered important enough to be listed. These sites included houses, churches, cemeteries, quarries, and one long-standing business. The survey concentrated on Bolton's old houses. As town residents we should be proud to know that during 1978, 54 houses in town still existed from the 1720–1880 period.
Just prior to World War II the "American Guide Series," written by workers of the Federal Writer's Project, was published, one volume for each state. The Connecticut volume, subtitled "A guide to its Roads, Lore, and People," contains narratives about where to go, what to do, and what happened here in the state. The book points out the best places to fish, to hunt, to ski, to walk, to drive, and covers the entire state in a series of automobile tours. Historic spots and an index of historic houses are included. And yes, Bolton is listed. Six "old and historic" Bolton houses are contained in the index. This short listing by no means represented the total number existing at the time but did represent "the march of architectural style."
What is meant in current usage by the terms old, antique and historic? According to the Connecticut Historical Commission, "old" is a generic word and is subjective—as seen in the eyes of the beholder. But "antique" in terms of listing for the National Register means any house more than 50 years old that might be eligible. A "historic" house must have significance on a local, state or federal level, in terms of who has lived in the house or how the house contributed to the region's or nation's development.
Among the houses listed in the 1939 Connecticut volume are the Daniel Darte House, built about 1725 and presently owned by Larned; the Brick Tavern, built about 1800 and presently owned by Pistritto; the Jared Cone House, built about 1800 and presently owned by Smith; the Asa White House, built about 1741 and presently owned by Curran; and the Thomas Loomis House, built about 1750 and presently owned by Coleman. By modern definition all are old, all are antique, and most are historic.