Overview of Architectural Styles in Middletown

  1. 1650 to 1820
  2. 1820 to 1850
  3. 1850 to 1890
  4. 1890 to 1940

Center-Chimney Colonial

The buildings of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were simple and functional. Their form was derived primarily from the building traditions of medieval England. Colonial buildings are constructed of heavy, wooden, post-and-beam frames held together by mortice-and-tenon joints and sheathed in narrow clapboards. A central chimney, which provides heating, also supports the interior framing.

There are few variants of this style. Colonial style houses can often be identified by an overhang across the façade and/or gable end at the second floor level. They range from 1½ to 2½ stories in height; with a doorway in the center of a three-bay or five-bay wide façade. Occasionally a lean-to extension at the rear creates the familiar “salt-box” form. The interior of earlier houses are generally plain with vertical sheathing or plaster on the walls. Raised paneling is used more often in the houses of the late eighteenth century. 

Usually the stairway is located in front of the chimney and curves around itself in the narrow space provided for it.

This building type commonly was used in rural areas in Middletown until the beginning of the nineteenth century. In the urban area, however, the classical features of the English Georgian style were introduced by the mid-eighteenth century.


The Georgian style was an outgrowth of English Renaissance architecture. The impact of the Georgian style in Middletown was primarily seen in the introduction of rigid symmetry, a balanced façade, the diminishing use of the overhang, and the increasing use of classical ornamentation on the interior and exterior.

In its most impressive form, the Georgian house has a large central hallway, rather than a central chimney. The overhang of the earlier period is no longer used. The exterior is ornamented with a classical doorway, usually with a triangular or scroll pediment, and modillions and dentils often decorate the cornice. Interiors have a balustrade stairway and paneled and plastered walls. High style examples of this style are rare in Middletown; the most notable survival is the Seth Wetmore House (Washington Street Extension, 1746).

A house form which became popular in the late eighteenth century in Middletown was the “half house,” a small house with a three-bay wide façade, and offset door leading into a side hall, and a gable roof with the ridge facing the street. This form continued to be used during the late Colonial, the Georgian and the Federal periods, and successfully incorporated the decorative elements of each style.


The influence of the Adamseque or Federal style, so designated because of its popularity during the American Federal period, became predominant in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. The style consists primarily of a specific type of decoration overlaid on houses of Georgian form, including the three-bay, side-hall house. The characteristic ornament of the Federal style is delicate and light. Brick, with its potential for delicate patterns, became a more popular building material in this period.

In Middletown predominant features are the small, columned entrance porch with arched, cove ceiling, which can be seen, for example, on the Mather-Mansfield House (151 Main Street, 1807 to 1810) and John Watkinson House (70 Main Street, 1810); and the use of an elliptical fanlight over doorways and in the gable ends of roofs.