Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Children's Learning Center

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Institution Name: Mitchell College
Original/Historic Place Name: Alfred Mitchell Woods Field House; Chappell Cottage
Location on Campus: 701 Montauk Ave.
Date(s) of Construction:
1932original construction Payne & Keefe
1980sframe addition at rear Gipson, Richard
Designer: Payne & Keefe; Richard Gipson
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: granite
Walls: random granite ashlar
Roof: slate
 
Function:
ca. 1932private residence (for caretaker of Woods; also provided restrooms and locker rooms for public; also contained boiler room, workshop and park office)
ca. 2004-present (2006)other (Children's Learning Center)
 

Narrative:
The Alfred Mitchell Woods Field House is constructed of random granite ashlar with a steep-pitched gable roof. Windows throughout are of casement sash with multiple panes. The front entry is open with a gable roof and a half-timbered pediment. A side entrance on the southeast side has a blind arcade of turned woodwork facing the front, which was probably open originally. The dormers have hip roofs. A large porch on the southeast side, how permanently enclosed, has a clipped gable roof. The interior of the building has been remodeled to serve as a children's learning center and offices. The rear elevation matches the front. A frame addition at the rear of the building designed by architect Richard Gipstein in the 1980s has a gable-on hip roof and clapboard siding.

The field house is an excellent example of the Tudor Revival style as interpreted by a noted New London architectural firm, Payne & Keefe. The steeply pitched slate roofs, random granite ashlar, and the use of rough hewn oak for the exterior woodwork are characteristic of the style and display a high quality of design, materials, and workmanship. Donald G. Mitchell, nephew of Alfred Mitchell, took a personal interest in the work. The granite was quarried on site, and the oak may also have been locally obtained. The result is a building of architectural merit beyond the usual examples of this style in the area. The only comparable house is nearby on Pequot Avenue, that of Theodore Bodenwein, local newspaper owner, who served on the board of the Alfred Mitchell Woods Association.

This building is significant as an example of private philanthropy. The Mitchell family had made New London their primary residence for almost 50 years. Alfred and Annie Mitchell donated money in 1902 and 1903 to help establish a maternity ward at the local hospital, and Annie Mitchell also gave generously to build an isolation hospital for infectious diseases. The donation of the park was an important act of philanthropy. New London, one of the smallest and most densely populated urban areas in Connecticut, had few public parks. In creating the park, however, the Mitchell family retained initial control of its administration. While open to the public, Mitchell Woods retained its identity and association with the family. Even the provision of a residence for the caretaker was reminiscent of private estate practice.
 

References:

Bingham, Alfred Mitchell. The Tiffany Fortune and Other Chronicles of a Connecticut Family. Chestnut Hill, MA: Abeel and Leet Publishers, 1996.

Decker, Robert Owen. The Whaling City: A History of New London. Chester, CT: Pequot Press, 1976.

"Mitchell Woods Project Most Important Contribution to Park and Recreational Facilities in New London in Recent Years." New London (CT) Day, October 15, 1932.

 

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Last update: November 2006