The Earliest Structure of the Hyland House

The following is an excerpt from An Early Connecticut House: The Hyland House Historic Structure Report, prepared in 1996 by Bryan Clark Green and James Sexton. Norman Isham supervised a restoration of the House in 1916.

The plan of the house as originally built consisted on the ground floor of two rooms and stair hall or entry. The second floor of the original building contained two, or perhaps three, chambers. The House was most likely covered in unpainted clapboards. It was built with a hewn overhang around all four sides, decorative brackets on all the posts, and a stopped chamfer on the front and two end girts.

Little evidence for the original windows of the building remain, although Norman Isham placed a window from the collection of the Henry Whitfield House into an opening in the rear wall of the building, and replaced nineteenth-century windows in the facade of the building with diamond-paned, sliding sash windows. The chimney was rebuilt by Isham above the line of the roof with local stone, matching those of other houses in Guilford from this era.

The Entry

The entry of the house contains  a triple-run stair (i.e., with two landings and no winders). It has a closed string course with moulded decoration, a hand rail shaped on one side, turned balusters, and newel posts with applied half balusters, large acorn drops and shaped finials. The stairs are in their original position and most of the material appears to be original. There is no evidence for the original floor or wall finishes in this room. The front door seems to be a nineteenth-century addition.

The Hall

In the hall, there is no surviving evidence of the original wall treatments, trim around the fireplace, or flooring. Evidence of an exterior door was indicated by Isham in the location of the present northernmost window; he did not restore it. Isham did reopen the cellar stairs to the south of the fireplace. This stairway is the primary piece of evidence that this room originally functioned as the hall. Access to the foodstuffs stored in the cellar was almost invariably provided from the hall, in which meal preparations took place. The present fireplace was rebuilt by Isham, and based on the evidence he found of the earliest firebox. The present plaster ceiling is new, but is a recreation of the ceiling as it would have appeared in its earliest phase. When the ceiling was examined by Isham, no evidence that the framing system was ever meant to be exposed was found.

The Parlor

Almost none of the original fabric of the parlor remains. All the surface finishes (floors, walls, trim, ceiling) have been changed subsequent to the original construction of the building. The ceiling, like that in the hall, appears to be a recreation of the original.

The Western Chamber

The Western Chamber was extensively renovated in the nineteenth century and then again by Isham. Little evidence of the original appearance of the room remains. The fireplace wall of vertical feather-edged sheathing contains contradictory physical evidence. The boards presently in place there do show evidence of age and wear, but they also appear to have been moved at some point in time, as they do not fit tightly into their present location. There is a small portion of lath and plaster behind the sheathing near the southern edge of the fireplace opening. This evidence indicates that while the covering may be old, it is not the original treatment for this wall.

The Eastern Chamber

The Eastern Chamber is the room that contains the largest amount of early material. While the floor, walls, windows, and ceiling have been modified, the fireplace surrounds appears to have remained with little modification since the building was constructed. It reveals a high degree of skill and knowledge of early eighteenth-century decorative woodwork. Unfortunately, the original setting for this, the majority of the rest of the room’s trim, has been removed.

A Third Chamber

It is difficult to recreate the original appearance and function of the area behind the chimney. This part of House is  presently occupied by two closets, the rear stair to the attic, and flue which was added for the lean-to fireplace when the building was first expanded to the rear. It is unclear whether it originally served, ast it does now, as closet or storage space, or simply as a passage from the hall chamber to parlor chamber, or a third chamber. There is evidence that at least part of this are had a plastered ceiling and walls. The presence of a window in this rear area may also indicate that this area needed light because it was more than simply a storage space or passage.

The Attic

The Attic appears almost as it did when the building was first constructed. The roof structure is unchanged with the exception of the purlin in the rear chimney bay, which was lowered to allow the intrusion of the flue for the lean-to fireplace. The floor joists have been moved out of their original pockets, which were filled with plaster some time between the construction of the building and Isham’s restoration. The joint holding the summer beam into the eastern tie beam also failed, and was repaired at some point prior to the twentieth century.