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A Condensed History of Stamford, Connecticut

From the Beginnings to the End of the 18th Century
The 19th Century
Revonah Manor
Into the 20th Century
The Most Exciting Parts of Stamford's History

Revonah Manor

Assimilation 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, brick 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 congestion.

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 pattern.

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 homogenous.

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.