A Condensed History of Stamford,
can seem a simple matter to those born into the dominant culture, but to the
immigrant settlers, there were two distinct worlds, the place where one lived
and the place where one worked, and each upheld separate standards of behavior.
Here's how segregation
of living worked in Stamford.
It's 1909, Herman Henneberger and his
son-in-law Henry Jevne, in one of Stamford's largest cash
transactions, purchased approximately 180 acres from the heirs of
Alfred Hoyt. The Hoyt family, having been among the original settlers
of Stamford, could hardly have been able to document the cost basis
of the land.
Henneberger and Jevne had been looking
for a suitable parcel for speculative development. They did not seem
to be in any apparent rush to develop the parcel. They initially
announced that they planned to dispose of the majority of the
property in ten acre lots for the construction of houses similar to
the existing houses on Strawberry Hill, the type that we today call
merchant mansions and which were owned for the most part by the most
successful of Stamford's business and professional elite.
The large lot development plan did not
meet with success, and Henneberger and Jevne decided to subdivide the
southerly portion of their property into smaller lots. They focused
on selling the area as a racially and ethnically restricted upper
middle class enclave. Minimum lot sizes of 100 by 150 feet were
established, and no home was to be built for a cost of less than
$6500. This was also the only area in north Stamford whose
residential use was guaranteed by restrictive covenant.
In supplying macadamized streets,
gutters, concrete walks, city water, sewer, gas, electric lights, and
in restricting frontages to a minimum of 100 feet, and protecting the
residents from the influx of [undesirable persons], the
developers appealed to those seeking a clean suburban setting away
from the social and sanitary problems of the city. The provision of
uniform plans and excellent sanitary conditions echoed the national
dissatisfaction with the fragmented planning and diverse architecture
of the nation's suburbs.
L.L. Barnard, a Rye, New York Architect
,drew up 5 plans for suggested houses. Three streets were laid out:
Urban, Chester, and Revonah, and the area was named Revonah after the
Catskills retreat of a friend of Mr. Henneberger. In fact Revonah is
merely Hanover spelled backwards; the name was derived from the
birthplace of Henneberger's friend.
Revonah Manor derives its significance
from the fact that it is the best preserved example of one of
Stamford's first planned communities. The development was planned to
appeal to wealthy Protestant families who sought a clean and
convenient suburban life within an hours commute of Manhattan's
Due to the exclusive nature of the
development, enforced by restrictive covenants, there were
constructed a large number of generously sized residences in three
revival modes. The area gained its architectural significance from
the cohesiveness created by the limitation of styles, and by the
generally high design quality, considering the speculative nature of
the community's development.
In several advertisements and
commentaries about Revonah Manor, there were vague references to the
City Beautiful movement and sanitary reform, concerns which were
echoed in every city of any size during the first third of the 20th
century. The Revonah Manor Development was typical of many cities the
size of Stamford. In hindsight we can't consider this a grand plan
for suburban housing, Revonah Manor represents, at a very low level,
an attempt to incorporate national concerns for controlled, beautiful
and sanitary development into a successful commercial real estate
venture, and as such was Stamford's first attempt to create a planned
community that combined the national concern of the times for safe,
clean and beautiful housing in a suburban setting.
The uniformity of styles in Revonah
Manor was intentional, and so the area possesses distinctive
cohesiveness of style and material. The choice of architectural
styles by the architect Barnard and his clients is consistent with
upper middle class taste in the first decades of this century. As one
would expect, the majority of the homes are either Georgian or
Federal Revival, echoing their owners chauvinistic urge to associate
with a genteel, democratic, and pastoral era of American history.
They also reflect the literature of the period that encouraged the
adaptation of these styles for domestic use and particularly
associating late Georgian and Federal with such feminine pursuits as
homemaking. As the development progressed, Colonial Revival and Arts
and Crafts inspired facades started to appear. Also popular in the
Manor was Tudor Revival. The style was meant to evoke an baronial
calm and splendor.
Two Queen Anne anomalies exist in the
Manor. These two rather conservative examples of an architecture
replete with nooks and crannies and ostentatious massing, serve as
reminders of the occasionally conservative tastes that occurred even
in planned communities.
Little is known of L.L. Barnard, the
architect of this community; neither his obituary nor any personal
papers have surfaced to allow us to judge Revonah Manor in relation
to the rest of his work. From the surviving drawings, and material
related to Revonah Manor, we can see that he was a competent, but not
highly inspired, designer of domestic residences.
The historic district comprises a three
block, 25 acre area to the northeast of the intersections of Bedford
and Fifth Streets. Located approximately one mile north of the old
Town Hall, this slightly sloping area was, except for the
northwestern side, laid out in 1909 in an orthogonal grid
Today, as we look at Revonah Manor, its
significance is due to the fact that as Stamford's first planned
community, its architectural totality projects a strongly cohesive
image, and even more important, it reflects not only upper middle
class taste in the first three decades of this century but also
mirrors the sociological revolution that has changed suburban
communities. While the streetscape is constant, and the pride of
place is apparent, the community is neither socially or economically
It was nominated for the National Register of Historic
Places in 1985.
RG-21: Land Site Surveys and Plot Plans
Photos of Revonah Manor
Next Chapter: So where has Stamford's history taken us?
Into the 20th Century
The War Years,
Stamford's Postwar Planning Council, Labor Unrest, The loss of Stamford's
traditional industrial base, Urban Renewal, Education, and the redefinition
of Stamford as an edge city, all happened within the last 60 years.