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Notable Architecture

The Oliver Wolcott Jr. House, the original colonial home on the South Street site in Litchfield, was built by Elijah Wadsworth in 1799. Elijah Wadsworth sold the estate to Frederick Wolcott in 1800. Oliver Wolcott, Jr. acquired the house in 1814 and enlarged it considerably in 1817. Oliver Wolcott, Jr. was born in 1760 in Litchfield, and went on to serve in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and later become the 2nd United States Secretary of the Treasury from 1795-1800, and the 24th Governor of Connecticut from 1817-1827.

Wolcott's wife, Elizabeth Stoughton Wolcott, was known for being a gracious hostess and the fame of her parties reached as far as Washington, D.C. and England. Parties were frequently held in the ballroom on the second floor. It is said that President George Washington danced his last minuet in Litchfield in that ballroom. The ballroom was restored by the Society of Colonial Wars and can be viewed upon request.

In the mid-1960s, in order to expand the library, the Board engaged Eliot Noyes and Associates of New Canaan to design a modern addition to the Oliver Wolcott, Jr. House. Construction of the new wing began in spring of 1965, and by February of 1966, work was completed, and everything was ready for the moving of books and equipment from the previous home of the library, located in the current Litchfield Historical Society at the corner of West Street and South Street.

The American architect and designer, Eliot Noyes studied at Harvard University receiving his masters degree in architecture in 1938. Noyes was a member of the Harvard Five, a group of modern architects who practiced in New Canaan, Connecticut and his residential and industrial designs established him as a leader in the fields of both post-war American architecture and industrial design. From 1939 to 1946, he served as the Director of the Department of Industrial Design at MOMA in New York, where he was instrumental in promoting the early work of designers such as Charles Eames. Noyes founded his own architectural and industrial design practice in 1947. He favored open spaces and clear geometry and was a strong advocate of functional Modernis. Noyes' work was firmly grounded in the tradition of Gropius, Breuer & Le Corbusier. He advocated simplicity of form and truth to the nature of materials which is seen particularly in his houses. His use of modern design combined with the historic nature of the 1799 house remains a testimony to his gift of architectural design.