Small Business Studies Center or Dispensary
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The original function of this building is not clear. Its designation by the Mitchell family as the "Ark" implies that it might have been a refuge for writing or other contemplative activity. It is located at a distance from the main houses near a garden area. It may also have functioned as a guest cottage or as a house for the Mitchell children to play in. The "Ark" was used as a dwelling for college faculty and staff. In recent years, it served as a dispensary for the college community. The house was recently taken over by the Business Department to serve as the Small Business Development Center.
This small-scale cottage, 1½ stories high, has changed little since its construction in the 1880s. The exterior walls are of the original clapboard and shingle. Porch details, while simple, have been retained. The interior seems to have kept the same basic plan and retained details such as the fireplace.
The Small Business Studies Center is a good example of a simple, vernacular structure often designated as Folk Victorian. The restrained nature of the design is in keeping with that of the other buildings on the former Mitchell estate. The Ark evidences the same concern for quality in design and workmanship that are typical of the Mitchell family.
The lifestyle of the Mitchell family was one of comparative ease. Neither Alfred Mitchell, his wife, nor their children engaged in work for a living. Dividends from stock in Tiffany & Co. comprised the bulk of their income. Traveling and entertaining relatives and friends were their primary activities. The two daughters were educated in foreign languages, music, and social skills. Whether the Ark was a guest cottage, a playhouse for the girls, or a contemplative retreat is not known at this time. Certainly its use may have varied. The building is a reminder of the patrician lifestyle of a wealthy 19th century family.
Mitchell, Donald G. The Lodge with Farm Woods & Gardens. Hand-drawn plan of the Mitchell Estate. ca. 1890. Library, Mitchell College, New London, CT.