St. Joseph's Convent

12 Elm Street • Salisbury, CT • Litchfield County

Historical Significance

Irish immigrants probably began joining the iron-manufacturing workforce in the greater Lakeville area in the 1830s and 1840s, around the same time they migrated to Northwest Connecticut to take railroad construction jobs. The rise of the Irish population in Connecticut at that time reflected the impact of a mass migration responsible for bringing two million Irish to America in the 1840s alone. One million of these refugees settled in New England--driven to this country both by famine and and by the religious and political strife in their homeland.

Photo: Lakeville Manor view northwest. (Rachel Carley)

The first Catholic parish in Salisbury area was established in Falls Village in 1850, but services were held in private homes until St. Patrick's Church, the first in the northwest corner of Connecticut, was built in 1854. IN 1875 Rev. Harry Lynch moved the parish to Lakeville, where workers in the iron industry were approximately eighty percent Irish. He also oversaw the construction of St. Mary's in Lakeville shortly after the parish was relocated.

Rev. Lynch arrange for the purchase of the property to be used for the convent and school in 1882. The building of a Catholic convent and school was very well received and an estimated 4,000 people attended the laying of the cornerstones for these buildings on June 18, 1882. After a successful fund raising campaign, the buildings were dedicated on September 5, 1883.

The iron industry around Salisbury began to decline during World War I and by 1923, when the last blast furnace was shut down, it had ceased to exist. The elimination of their major employer caused many Irish to look elsewhere for work and both the convent and school closed. The Connecticut Council of Catholic Women took over the Convent building for use as Lakeville Manor, where the council hosted annual conferences, a vacation house for adults and a summer camp for girls.

This endeavor lasted until 1971, when the annual women's conference moved to another location. In 1975 the Archbishop of the Hartford Diocese granted permission to St. Mary's to sell the property. Both the convent and school were converted to multi-family residential use, and the buildings were eventually neglected to the point of dereliction.

Lakeville Manor was recently purchased by a developer who completely rehabilitated it and it is now luxury rental apartments.


Carley, Rachel, "Lakeville Manor/St. Joseph Convent and St. Mary's Parish School," National Register of Historic Places nomination, 2014.

"Lakeville Manor House,"
[ view source ]

Notable Features of Building or Site

The former convent is a three-story, balloon-frame structure that stands well back from the road on a moderate rise. It is fronted by a broad, sloping front lawn. The building has a rectangular plan with the shorter elevations facing west and east. The foundation is made of dressed granite ashlar, and the exterior sheathing is clapboard. it has a slate-clad mansard roof with its primary face punctuated at intervals by dormers.

The lower cornice displays a distinct overhang supported on incised console brackets (cyma reversa). The roof's shallow second pitch (not visible from the ground) angles toward a central domed cupola, designed with a triangular pediment on each of its four sides. Window sash is primarily two-over-two double hung; first-story windows on the building's north, west and south elevations are crowned by heavy bracketed lintels. Flat lintels over the second-floor windows are integrated by a continuous molded stringcourse.

Serving as the facade, the east elevation has a symmetrical composition dominated by a three- sided pavilion that projects from the building's center. The entire elevation is fronted by a one- story, open porch incorporating a high clipped gable at center, to serve as an entry bay, and flanking side bays with hipped roofs.

These three parts are unified by a continuous overhanging cornice supported on incise d scroll brackets (smaller versions of the roof brackets), each set over a chamfered porch post (double brackets appear over corner posts). Turned balusters form a railing for the porch and stair.

Sheltered by the central porch bay, a pair of paneled front doors is topped by a two-pane , flat- arched transom. Pairs of segmental-arched windows appear to either side, their balanced placement repeated by that of simpler rectangular windows at the second story. A convex mansard roof crowns the central pavilion at the third story, where, punctuated by a molded round-arched dormer, it makes a distinct contrast with the angular face of the main roof.

The primary feature of the asymmetrically massed north elevation is a three-sided rectangular bay, crowned by a projecting mansard and lit by double-hung windows set over paneled insets. The south elevation is noteworthy for the rectangular one-story, three-sided bay projecting from the building's southwest corner.

The exterior wall of the original convent chapel, this architectural feature is crowned by a hipped roof with deep, bracketed eaves, and lit by three single-pane lancet windows, offset to the east. Two brick chimneys rise from the roof at the third story. The rear, southwest end of the building is accessed by a central door set under a clipped- gable entry porch; the door is flanked by two-pane sidelights and crowned with a segmentally arched transom. A three-sided bay is positioned above.

Interrelationship of Building and Surroundings

This house faces northeast onto Elm Street. It is surrounded by a combination of late nineteenth and early twentieth century houses on small lots and larger, more recently built homes on large lots.

Additional Information

Common Name:  Lakeville Manor
Date(s):  Built 1883
Style(s):  Second Empire
Historic Use:  Convent
Present Use:  Multi-family residential
Architect:  probably Bown & Rorty
Builder:  Bown & Rorty

Exterior visible from public road.

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