Waterbury CT Historic Homes: Benedict-Miller House
Standing majestically on the ridgeline three blocks north of Waterbury Connecticut’s Town Green is the Benedict-Miller House, a visual center point of this historic neighborhood. The colorful three story mansion is built on a monumental scale with a quilt work of multiple gables, crisscrossed diagonal boards and ornate stick-work detail. It was built in 1879 by Charles Benedict, whose company at the time was the largest manufacturer of brass appliances and fixtures in America – as well as the Mayor of Waterbury.
The Benedict-Miller House is a Queen Anne/Stick style mansion designed by the architectural firm of Palliser, Palliser & Co who specialized in Gothic and Queen Anne cottages and designed several houses for P.T. Barnum. The hilltop south facing view overlooks the city of Waterbury and the Naugatuck Valley with many large mature maple trees and landscaping crowning its hilltop setting.
The Benedict-Miller’s front facade with its multiple gables, railings and stick-work detail is dominated by the use of contrasting colors, materials and free flowing asymmetrical design. The three story estate has eighteen projecting gables that rise to steep peaks together with four chimneys giving the Benedict-Miller House a strong vertical and ascendant quality in a well integrated design executed on a massive scale.
One of the most elaborate houses built by Palliser, Palliser & Co the Benedict-Miller House helped popularize in America the pattern books they published at the end of the 19th century. George Palliser was an English builder who came to Bridgeport in 1873 with the intention of making well designed and well built houses affordable to people who could not afford to hire an architect. Palliser developed the idea of selling plans for houses with prices that depended on their size and finish, along with advice on plumbing, paint and hardware.
Although the Benedict-Miller House was one of Palliser, Palliser and Co.’s most elaborate houses, it gained state-wide attention during construction for its “sensible” new aesthetic promoted by the architects. The first story is principally composed of pressed red brick and terra cotta contrasting in color and texture with the upper stories which was a common feature of the Queen Anne architectural style. The second story is vertical and horizontal boards that are the structural members of the house frame. The third story is scalloped wooden shingles with patterned woodworking in the gables creating a house rich in ornate detail and contrasting colors.
However, not long after its completion, Charles Benedict died suddenly of pleurisy in 1881 after returning from a voyage to England and the accounting of his affairs indicates he may not have finished moving into the new house. His married daughter and his widow moved into the house.
In 1889 the estate was subdivided and house sold to Charles Miller, the President of Miller and Peck, a prosperous retail store specializing in dry goods and carpets.
The city of Waterbury acquired the Benedict-Miller House in 1942 to provide a permanent university campus in the city and as an inducement to the University of Connecticut to remain in Waterbury. From 1955 until 2002 it was the administrative and faculty offices of the Waterbury campus of the University of Connecticut when it was sold to Yeshiva Gedolah, a school for Orthodox Jews.
Its massive scale and location crowning the ridgeline three blocks north of Waterbury’s town green makes the Benedict-Miller House one of Waterbury, Connecticut’s most important historic homes.