Historic Structures

John M. Davies House, New Haven Connecticut

Date added: January 25, 2011 Categories: Connecticut House Second Empire

John M. Davies as a business man was an associate of the Winchester family (prior to the latter's success in the manufactory of firearms) whose mansion stood immediately to the north of the Davies house. To the south is a mansion (now belonging to the Culinary Institute of America) which once belonged to President Taft after he was President.

"At the time of the building's completion, Mr, Davies held a banquet for the workmen engaged on the project, and at that time the house was described as follows: ...it is three stories high, has a mansard roof, and is constructed of stuccoed brick. The windows and doors all have segment heads. The first floor consists of a parlor, a library, a bedroom, dining room, sewing room, butler's room and kitchen. All of the first floor rooms are finished in black walnut with hard-finished walls except the kitchen, which is done in solid chestnut. The ceilings are all elaborately carved plaster, and the floors in the hall and vestibule have red and white mosaic tile inlay. The main staircase runs through to the third story, and is made of black walnut with finely carved bannisters and an elaborate newell post. The second floor has eight rooms, finished in pine and painted white. The third floor also has eight rooms, and is completed in chestnut."

In 1911 Thomas Wallace, Jr. purchased the house and redecorated it according to this article: "The residence of Mr. Thomas Wallace, Jr., at 393 Prospect Street is of an utterly different style of architecture than that usually designed by the modern architect, ...Italian Renaissance has been carried out in the design of the exterior and the first floors the second floor being of French design.

"The hall is finished in black walnut, with tile flooring, and the high ceiling, together with the carved historic furnishings, lend an air of quaintness. At the right of the hall is the library, with high arched windows and woodwork, a repetition of that of the hall. ...Connecting with the library on the left is the music room, being of the Louis XV style, finished in white enamel with yellow wall coverings, and the furniture is of the style of that period.

"At the right of the hall is the drawing room, being also of the style of the Louis XV period, and taken from a drawing room at Fontainebleu. The tapestries are pink, the same tone as the walls, and the gold and pink furnishings harmonize perfectly.

"The billiard room opens from the hall at the right, and is done in French Oak, and with portieres and wall coverings of deep brown. Opening from this is a small writing room, finished in terra cotta, and well appointed.

"At the end of the hall and toward the left past the stairway is the dining room, with tapestries of blue and brown and woodwork of pink walnut. The portieres, are deep blue and gold, carrying out the color effect...."

Over-all dimensions: The house has an irregular ell shape with several protruding bays and wings. It is about 99' wide and 65' deep. It is two and one-half stories high, although the attic is actually a third floor with finished rooms and fireplaces. The facade of the main forward block is four bays. The second bay from the south is a 4-stage tower over the entrance door.

The original floor plan has been altered on all floors, however the important rooms on the first floor have not been changed.

First Floor: The hallway behind the entrance foyer extends through the house and at approximately mid-point it opens to the stair hall and well at right angles on the north. Near the entrance door are double doors on each side which lead on the left (north) to a spacious richly ornamented room which extends into a large open bay window on the long axis. The doorway on the right leads to a smaller room which has a rectangular bay window on the west front. Behind this room are three adjoining rooms which have been altered. On the east wall of the stairhall is a double door leading to another spacious room with a fireplace and curved niche opposite each other on the long walls and the rear (east) wall opening full width into a half-hexagonal bay window. To the north are pantry and kitchen.

There are two outbuildings which are part of the original estate. One is the two-story stone and shingle barn now used as a Bake Shop. The other is the original two story brick stable which has been converted to a residence for the Director of the Institute. Here the gables, dormers and wide overhangs have a strong Swiss-chalet character.