The West Haven Historical Society and West Haven Rotary Club continued their partnership by placing historical signage on two additional West Haven houses. The two local organizations have designated the Durell Shepard House- now known as the Keenan Funeral Home at 238 Elm Street built in 1869, and the Benjamin Richards House, located at 65 Main Street and constructed in 1891, as “Historical Treasures of West Haven.”
The historical signage indicates “recognition of the significant and important architectural features of the houses as well as the year the structures were built,” according to Robert Grestini, coordinator of the project. The granite plaques were installed Thursday with the appropriate year indicated on the historical markers along with the name of the original owner.
The Durell Shepard home was the residence and medical office of Dr. Shepard, a prominent West Haven physician, who also operated a dispensary (pharmacy) with access from the Washington Avenue side of his home. Although utilized today as a funeral home, it still retains its original architectural features.
The two-story three bay building has typical Italianate characteristics “including a square-plan, paired bracketed windows, and eyebrow windows beneath wide overhanging eaves,” as noted in the State Historical Resources Inventory. The facade has a “full-height open porch and Colonial revival-style entry doors which are modern additions,” according to the Resources Inventory.
Dr. Shepard was a popular and beloved citizen of West Haven who served as a surgeon during the Civil War. The Yale graduate died in 1909 and his funeral was one of the largest the city has ever seen.
The Benjamin Richards House, located at 65 Main Street, was built in l891 and is currently the home of Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Duda. It is a wonderful example of the Queen Anne-style design. The house is a “two-story wood frame residence and features an explosion of gabled projections and towers,” notes the Historic Resources Inventory. The imposing home is “richly ornamented with decorative wood trim and beautiful stained glass windows,” the Resources Inventory explains. The Richards home, which Benjamin Richards had built as a present for his bride in 1891, is an example of turn-of-the-century residential design at the corner of Main Street and First Avenue near the east-side waterfront. He was a prosperous businessman and industrialist who, along with his brothers Edward and George owned the H.H.Richards Lumber Company. The three brothers were important to the development of West Haven at the turn of the century. Their firm played a central role in supplying lumber and building materials for new homes and businesses. They owned considerable real estate property in West Haven and a nearby street in the city is named in their honor.
Benjamin Richards lived in the house at 65 Main Street until his death in 1932 and the house remained in the Richards family for a time after his passing.
“We are delighted to add the Shepard and Richards homes to the list of “Historic Treasures of West Haven,” emphasized Jon Purmont, President of the Historical Society. “Once again we are grateful to the West Haven Rotary Club for their continuing interest and support of this program,” he said. The two organizations will continue their partnership in designating historic buildings, homes, and structures making West Haven residents and visitors more aware of the distinctive history and architectural styles of homes and buildings throughout the city