The Bull House Story
The 18th-century Amos Bull House was built as a dry goods store and a residence and used as a hardware store, an auto dealership, insurance offices and a restaurant. Threatened with demolition in the 1960s and saved through a community campaign, it has been moved twice, enabling it to survive into the 21st century.
The gambrel-roofed, red-brick building is a high-style urban townhouse, significant for its age, architectural detailing, and as an example of an urban architectural form characteristic of Philadelphia and New York dwellings but unusual in the small city of Hartford. The Butler-McCook property and Amos Bull House make important and unique contributions to Hartford’s urban environment. The 18th-century houses and the 19th-century garden humanize the streetscapes through their modest scale, proximity to sidewalks, wood and brick construction and the inviting greenspace that links Main Street to South Prospect Street. They evoke a neighborhood of engaged residents and small businesses, providing a link from the past to the present in this continually occupied residential and commercial neighborhood.
Amos Bull (1744-1825) was born in Enfield and grew up there and in Farmington. Little is known about his early years. Married to the third of his five wives, he completed his home in late 1789 and advertised that he was open for business in December 1789. Bull sold linens, hardware and household items in a store in the front of the first floor. He later discontinued his dry goods business and focused on hardware.
Financial difficulties led Bull to mortgage his property several times. In 1804, he advertised that he was opening a school “for Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, with other learning, useful and necessary in common life.” He opened a night school in 1812 and operated both until 1821. He was also the choir director at South Congregational Church and a member of Christ Episcopal Church of Hartford. Bull sold his home in 1821, and the property was subsequently sold several times and used for various purposes, with owners making modifications.
In 1968 the house was threatened with urban renewal-related demolition. In response, it was the first building in Connecticut placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Through a city-wide preservation effort, and as a result of the generosity of Frances McCook, the endangered house was moved to the rear of the Butler-McCook property and renovated to serve as the headquarters of the Connecticut Historical Commission.
The house served as the headquarters of the Historical Commission from 1971 until the end of 2007, when the renamed agency moved to Constitution Plaza to join the other divisions of the Connecticut Commission of Culture and Tourism. During this time the Historical Commission oversaw the renovation of the Butler-McCook Carriage House and the construction of a connector between the Carriage House and the Bull House.
An architectural and engineering assessment conducted by CTL in December 2007 revealed that, in addition to wear and tear and years of deferred maintenance, the Amos Bull House does not meet the City of Hartford’s building code and therefore can not be occupied until its code deficiencies-including ventilation and ADA code compliance-have been addressed. In addition, deferred building maintenance issues must be addressed in order to stabilize the building and ensure its long-term preservation.