Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Umbrella House

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Institution Name: Mitchell College
Original/Historic Place Name: Umbrella House
Location on Campus: 423 Pequot Ave.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1883-1887original construction Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: masonry (type unspecified)
Walls: wood; aluminum siding
Roof: asphalt
ca. 1887-1938other (guest house)
ca. 1938-1987president's house
ca. 2004-present (2007)administration

Significance: architecture, culture
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

When originally constructed, the Umbrella House had an attached carriage house. This was removed, apparently during the long tenure (1951-1987) of college president Robert Weller. The front of the house is three bays wide with corresponding dormers. The sides are two bays wide. Front floor windows have paired one-over-one double-hung sash. Dormers and windows on the side of the house have 2-over-2 double-hung sash. The dormers are gable-roofed and have chamfered pilasters capped by consoles and molding suggesting capitals. The pediment in each dormer has an incised, scroll-cut design. The wraparound porch has been retained, although the porch railing has been simplified. The porch features chamfered square posts, scroll-cut brackets, and a gable over the porch entry with curved trusses inspired by the Gothic Revival. The mansard roof slopes outward in a continuous curve to form the porch roof. Despite the addition of aluminum siding, the Umbrella House is remarkably well-preserved. The interior has been altered, but the interior staircase survives intact.

The Umbrella House is a noteworthy example of the French Second Empire style. It retains its original character, with decorative elements surviving despite the use of artificial siding. The defining feature of the house is the mansard roof. The roof flares outward to create the porch roof, dominating the visual appearance of the house. It is this remarkable form that gave the house its distinctive name, the Umbrella House. The subordination of the decorative detailing to the mansard roof is not typical of other buildings in this style. Although the architect is unknown, the Umbrella House displays a mastery of design and workmanship.

The association of the house with Louis Comfort Tiffany is significant. Perhaps the leading American decorative designer of the late 19th and early 20th century, Tiffany's stained glass and metalwork designs became the trademark of the era. He summered in New London. A number of local churches, including the nearby Pequot Chapel, have stained glass windows from his studio.

Built as a guest house by Alfred Mitchell and his wife, the former Annie Olivia Tiffany, the Umbrella House was used by family members visiting the Mitchells. The most notable of these, and a frequent guest, was Annie Mitchell's brother Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Until recently, the Umbrella House served as the residence of the president of Mitchell College. It now houses administrative offices.

I. Bibliographic sources:

None specified.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections

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