The Alsop House
The Alsop House was dedicated as a National Historic Landmark at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 22, 2010, followed by a reception. The Friends of the Davison Art Center events page has more information.
Don't miss the new Alsop House Audio Guide, now available free of charge as a podcast or by calling 860-685-6200!
Recently designated a National Historic Landmark, the historic Alsop House is a distinguished architectural monument of the pre-Civil War period. The lot was acquired in 1835 and the house was built between 1838-1840 by Richard Alsop IV, son of the poet and "Hartford wit," Richard Alsop III. Originally built for Alsop's widowed mother, Maria Pomeroy Alsop Dana, the house remained in the Alsop family (although not occupied by them for a number of years) until 1948. In that year, it was purchased by Wesleyan with funds given by Harriet and George W. Davison (B.A. Wesleyan 1892).
In 1950, the Davisons commissioned the renovation and restoration of the house, adding to it the museum for storing and exhibiting their print collection, parts of which they had donated to the university over the previous two decades. The renovation, directed by architect A.L. Harmon of the New York firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon Associates, was completed in 1952.
The house has been described as an important example of Romantic Classicism in American architecture. According to tradition it was designed by a member of the Alsop family, but family correspondence indicates that the plans were drawn, or at least revised, by the New Haven firm of Platt and Benne. There are similarities in plan, design, and decoration between the Alsop House and the house of New Haven architect Ithiel Town. These similarities, coupled with the fact that Town was the architect of Samuel W. Russell's residence on High Street less than a decade earlier, have led some architectural historians to attribute the house to Town.
It is interesting to note the close resemblance of the Alsop House not only to Town's structures, but also to the work of Ludwig Persius and Karl Friedrich Schinkel in Germany. Persius's Landhaus in Potsdam is almost identical in its exterior design to the Alsop House, including the trompe l'oeil statues painted on the High Street façade and the decorative iron work. The exterior and interior paintings bear a correspondence to decoration in Schinkel's buildings, particularly at the Neues Schloss in Potsdam.
More Alsop House pages:
The Alsop House in winter
Sources for Alsop House pages:
The history of the painted motifs is derived largely from research by Allyn Cox. For further research on the house and its decorations we are indebted to Samuel M. Green (Professor Emeritus, Art Department) and Dolores M. Gall. An earlier version of this text was prepared by Laura M. Edmiston (B.A. Wesleyan 1991).