The Richard Alsop IV House, home to the Davison Art Center and Davison’s print collection, has been formally designated as a National Historic Landmark. The recognition, announced by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne on January 16, came nearly eight years after the University first applied for landmark status in 2001.
“It’s a happy thing for everyone involved,” said James Jacobs, historian for the National Historic Landmark Program.
According to the National Historic Landmarks Program website, National Historic Landmarks are buildings, sites and structures that the Secretary of the Interior has deemed nationally significant in American history and culture. Fewer than 2,500 historic locations hold this national distinction.
It’s a significant building architecturally and artistically,” said Elizabeth Milroy, professor of Art History and American Studies.
The Wesleyan Landmarks Advisory Board was instrumental in drafting the original nomination in 2001. At that time, Milroy chaired the board. In general, the Board, which was formed in the 1970s, works to keep the University president and administration aware of the significance of various buildings on campus.
“When I came to Wesleyan about 20 years ago, I recognized the importance of the Alsop House,” Milroy said.
Richard Alsop IV, son of a poet named Richard Alsop III, built the house between 1838-1840 for his widowed mother. The structure is valued for its decorative wall paintings and architecture.
In 2001, the University’s application for landmark status sought to highlight both the artistic and architectural importance of the building, while the National Historic Landmark Committee preferred that the application focus primarily upon just one of these attributes. According to Jacobs, this discrepancy in viewpoints was at least partially responsible for the nomination process taking so many years.
“The delay was in large part due to revisions in the nomination,” Jacobs said. “It became architecture versus decorative paintings.”
In the end, the application focused on the building’s interior artwork. The paintings, which were completed between 1839 and circa 1860, serve as examples of the nineteenth century decorative wall painting once popular in American homes.