| MEMORIAL BUILDING |
14 Park Place
Rockville in Vernon, CT
Erected: May 30, 1889
Type: Richardsonian Romanesque brick-and-brownstone building
Architect: Richmond & Seabury
Contractor: Darling Brothers
Height: Three stories
MEMORIAL BUILDING, Rockville in Vernon, is significant historically because it is a symbol not only of the community's honor and respect for those who served in the Civil War but also of its pride and confidence in the future of the Town of Vernon and the City of Rockville.
A suggestion for a memorial to soldiers of the Civil War was seriously put forth in 1884. At the annual town meeting later that year a committee was named to consider the matter, including the possibility of an alternative to the usual monument. Purchase of a lot for a building in 1885 was followed in 1887 by appropriation of $75,000 to erect a Memorial and Town Building on the historic site of the First Congregational Church. The Methodist Church then occupied the building next west.
The cornerstone was laid on May 30, 1889, with appropriate ceremonies, including a parade and speeches. Construction was completed and the building put into use as city hall in September 1890. The amount of $68,150 was paid to Darling Brothers of Worcester, Massachusetts, contractor, as part of a total cost of $88,106.05. Three workmen died during construction, falling from the tower.
Coincident with construction of the building, Judge Dwight Loomis offered a resolution reading as follows:
That the public duty of properly perpetuating the memory of the services of those brave men is not fully discharged until suitable tablets are placed in the vestibule of Memorial Building whereon shall be recorded the name and regiment of every soldier enlisting from the Town of Vernon and voted that a committee of five be appointed and instructed to procure suitable bronze tablets in accordance with the foregoing resolution, and also to erect at the expense of the Town a proper pedestal with a symbolic statue whenever sufficient funds are provided by public subscription to defer the cost of the same. (Brookes. page 355.)
Apparently, the resolution never was implemented. In this respect Rockville's record is at variance with that of Madison (SOLDIERS' MEMORIAL HALL) and North Haven (MEMORIAL TOWN HALL). MEMORIAL BUILDING, Rockville in Vernon, is significant architecturally because it is an example of a masonry building in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, and because of its well-designed interior details. The massive bulk of the structure with rock-faced brownstone first floor and window trim, heavy-arched entry, and slate roof and tower all follow the precedent popularized by architect H.H. Richardson (1838-1886). The large open spaces of the interior and wide ceremonial stairway are consistent with the presence and purpose of the building as a municipal center in an urban location. The lobby, Grand Army of the Republic hall, courtroom, and stairway continue to give a sense of the spaciousness and grandeur of the seat of municipal government. The preservation of the G.A.R. hall virtually untouched is unusual, perhaps unique, in Connecticut. Richmond, of the Springfield, Massachusetts, architectural firm of Richmond & Seabury, also designed the Rockville High School at Park and School Streets.
MEMORIAL BUILDING, Rockville in Vernon, is a three-story brick-and-brownstone 95' x 91' hipped-roof Richardsonian Romanesque structure facing south, overlooking Central Park in downtown Rockville. It is a memorial to all those from Vernon who served in the Civil War.
The ground floor of the front elevation is constructed of brownstone blocks of a strong red color. A central recessed entry under broad Richardsonian arch is flanked by tower to the east and gabled section to the west. The broad arch has terra-cotta embellishment in its spandrels and is flanked by engaged half-round columns rising from the spring line.
All three sections have three windows at each floor, except in the entry. At the first and second floors windows have rectangular transoms; stringcourses are formed at the sill and spring lines. At the third floor windows are arcaded under wide round red brownstone arches. Second-floor windows in the west section are stained-glass for the G.A.R. meeting room. Third-floor windows, unusually tall because the space they light is a hall, are two-thirds infilled with concrete block. The central section is topped by a peaked gable flanked by engaged columns similar to those of the first-floor opening. The east section, which is the tower, has tall windows (infilled) at the fourth floor and a high pointed roof.
The side and rear elevations are similar but simpler. A metal fire escape has been added on the west and an elevator and rated stairway on the back at the west.
The central entry opens to a large lobby, which extends back to a wide stairway that divides and rises to the third floor. At each landing on the stair there is a large stained-glass window executed in the stylized designs of the Aesthetic Movement based on nature and dusky colors . Originally, there were two of these windows at each landing, but one at each level was lost to the new elevator and rated stair tower.
The original courtroom on the second floor of the tower is now the Common Council's meeting chamber. The transoms of its windows when viewed from the interior are seen to be composed of many small lights in an amber shade, with a blue border.
The third floor was an open auditorium space, 66' x 90'. It was altered in 1974 by introduction of steel to support a dropped ceiling and division into offices. The windows above the new ceiling level were infilled at the time. The auditorium's original pressed-metal ceiling and square columns with terra-cotta capitals are still in place.
The meeting room of the Grand Army of the Republic, a large open space, remains substantially intact in original condition on the second floor of the west section. A ceremonial station of raised platform with podium and chair continues in place on each wall. Elaborate brass wall sconces are prominent features. Many memorabilia are on exhibit, some in oak breakfront bookcases. Doors have eight horizontal panels and surrounds of asymmetrical moldings. Their top corner blocks have vertical multi-ridges. Walls are plaster above a high beaded-board channeled dado with molded cap. The ceiling is a series of segmental arches, suggesting arched brick or terra-cotta structure in support of the auditorium floor above. A foyer and kitchen are behind the meeting hall; the G.A.R. facility as a whole occupies about one-third or more of the floor.
The G.A.R. meeting room is handsome overall; the windows are spectacular. The windows have transoms at the top, sills are formed from the dado cap at the bottom. On the west side, panes are small, surrounded by rose-colored borders. On the front the symbols and trophies found on many Civil War monuments are depicted in stained glass of many colors. The central window shows the badge of the G.A.R.: eagle over crossed cannon and flag over star with central circle of men shaking hands. To the east are crossed cannon of the artillery and crossed rifles of the infantry. To the west are an anchor symbolic of the navy and crossed sabers of the cavalry. The three transoms spell out the initials G A R against a blue background. All designs have embellishments and borders.
S. Ardith Abbott, Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Vernon, Statewide Historic Resource Survey, Inventory Form No. 25, Hartford, Connecticut Historical Commission, 1979.
George S. Brookes, Cascades and Courage (Rockville, Connecticut: T.F. Rady & Co., 1955), pp. 352-356.
Bill Ryan, "The Civil War Gains New Legions of Fans," The New York Times, July 11, 1993, Section 13, p. 1.
Vernon Assessor's records.
Vernon, Connecticut. 1989-1990, Annual Town Report.