Bloomfield's Historic Houses of the Future
On Sunday, June 5, The Wintonbury Historical Society will help Bloomfield celebrate its heritage with a guided bus tour of the town. The tour is free and open to the public. Leaving from the Old Farm School, three excursions will depart at noon, 1:45 and 3:15.
Bloomfield is blessed with a wealth of more than a hundred buildings that range in date from the early 18th century, extending to the early days of the Republic. With a few possible exceptions, these structures were not built as edifices so much as dwellings that suited the social and economic needs of the town's early settlers. So well did these buildings serve their intended purpose, they have been maintained and adapted to continue in uninterrupted use, to the delight of their current owners and the appreciation of passersby.
In the decades that followed World War II, Bloomfield more than doubled in population. With these new inhabitants came important changes to the town's economic base, and, with the need to provide housing for all, its appearance. The GI Bill gave access to education, which allowed many to obtain substantial employment, and easy access to financing, which allowed many the opportunity to own their own home. After the narrowed opportunity to build and grow during the Great Depression, Americans now had both a huge demand for housing and a new way to gain access to it.
Starting in 1944, builders scrambled to provide houses for the returning GIs and for the many former residents of Hartford who wished to pursue the American dream of owning a single-family home, with a yard, however small, that reflected their newfound sense of independence and freedom.
Because the houses had to be constructed quickly and economically, many tracts of former farmland were laid out into suburban subdivisions filled primarily with ranches and Cape Cods, often identical in size and layout. In the 1950's and 1960's, as the prosperity of middle class grew even more secure, subdivisions sported new and often rather larger versions, and the split level, raised ranch and colonial styles gained popularity throughout the town. By this time, the earliest houses built in the boom time were already being enlarged and customized by their owners as they added garages, bedrooms, extra bathrooms and dens to accommodate their growing families and a new, modern taste that looked forward more and more to a fantastic future.
Parallel with these developments in housing and individual taste, expanding media and easy access to travel opened new and less regional awareness to architectural style. The Prairie Style, popularized before the war by designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright, and the west coast "California Ranch" style, seen with increasing frequency on television and in movies, captured the imagination of Bloomfield's more forward-thinking residents. Indeed, there were several influences of the European "Modern" and "Bau Haus" styles that found their way across the Atlantic to our bucolic landscape. Many examples of these houses, dating from the 1950's through the 1970's, were built and still grace our current landscape.
Which of these will become the historic houses of Bloomfield's future? In one sense, all of them, since the earliest of them have survived for more than seventy years, and most of them continue to be maintained and renovated to maintain relevance in our modern world. Whether the building is a modest version of the first wave of construction or a glowingly unusual design of a renown architect, all of these houses have a story to tell, a story that relates the uniqueness of our country and of our town.
This year's tour will wander almost twenty miles, all within the boundaries of Bloomfield, to view and consider houses from 1944 to the 1970's, and each rider can decide personally which will become Bloomfield's Historic Houses of the Future. Please plan to join us on Sunday, June 5.