…that the 18th-century Amos Bull House in Hartford and the 19th-century Sterling Opera House in Derby are tied for Connecticut’s first listing on the National Register of Historic Places?
The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 established the National Register of Historic Places to recognize significant historical, architectural, and archaeological sites, districts, and buildings. While individuals, organizations, or companies compile most of the information for the nominations, the State Historic Preservation Officer or Tribal Preservation Officer officially nominates historic places to the National Register. Entered into the National Register on the same day—November 8, 1968—the Amos Bull House in Hartford and the Sterling Opera House in Derby were Connecticut’s first entries that were not originally listed as National Historic Landmarks and therefore automatically included in the National Register of Historic Places.
At the time of listing, the nomination forms note both buildings as “endangered.” The Amos Bull House and the Sterling Opera House were located in their respective cities’ urban renewal or redevelopment areas—therefore, at risk for demolition. While inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places does not prevent demolition, it does prohibit the use of federal funds to demolish and makes properties eligible for tax credits and certain grants.
Built in 1789, the Amos Bull House was a residence, store, restaurant, school, offices, and more throughout its many years. After it was abandoned, the City of Hartford bought the property and planned to demolish it in the 1960s as part of its urban renewal program. After significant community advocacy, a fundraising campaign, and numerous plan changes, the building was moved several hundred feet to the backyard of the Butler-McCook House in 1970.
Opening a century later in 1889, the Sterling Opera House also served many functions for the community. A renowned theater until 1945, the unique Italianate Victorian building was also Derby’s city hall, a police station, and a local jail at various times.
Since 2008, the Amos Bull House has served as Connecticut Landmarks’ administrative offices, archives, and essential program and community education space. The Sterling Opera House remains closed to the public but maintains a prominent home overlooking the Derby Green. Over half a century after the first two listings, Connecticut has over 1,500 sites on the National Register of Historic Places.