Barn Record Hamden

Building Name (Common)
Whitney Barn
Building Name (Historic)
Eli Whitney Armory Barn
940 Whitney Avenue, Hamden


Historic Significance

Architectural Description:

This is a 2 ½ - story gable-entry seven-bay barn with a full basement and a shed roof-addition on its south-west corner. The east gable-side of the barn facing Whitney Avenue is the main façade which is emphasized by classical-derived elements like a pediment with elaborate rake-cornice detail. The main east gable-façade of the barn has three bays across the gable, with an entrance in each bay. The main entrance to the barn is centered in the middle bay through a pair of double-height hinged wagon doors with a pair of hinged weather-door inserts at the center. The main entrance is circumscribed by a double-height pediment-elliptical arched wooden frame with its apex almost touching the cornice above.  The first bay from the north on the main east gable-facade has an entrance at the center through a pair of hinged wagon doors with a pair of hinged weather door inserts.  This entrance is also framed within a pediment-elliptical arched wooden frame painted white. The first bay from the south on the main east gable-façade of the barn has an entrance at the center through a hinged pass-through door circumscribed in a pediment-elliptical arched wooden frame similar to the frame in the first bay from the north. Each of the side bays of the main east gable-façade of the barn has a twelve-pane window centered above the elliptical arched frame. The gable attic above has a tripartite Palladian-style window at the center with louvers, panes and molding details. The main east gable-façade has red painted horizontal siding with white trim and cornice details.

The south eave-side of the barn has seven bays and is symmetrical with a pediment-dormer hinged-door entrance at the center to access the basement below. The second bay and the sixth bay on the south eave-side from the east have rectangular-barred windows to light the basement and square windows at first floor and second floor levels. The windows on the second bay are twelve-paned while those on the sixth bay are louvered. A similar square louvered window can be seen at the second floor level above the dormer entrance. A margin of exposed un-coursed ashlar masonry foundation with white painted wooden coping can be seen along the façade intercepted by the ashlar masonry slate-roof dormer entrance.

The west three-bay gable-side of the barn has a pair of double-height hinged wagon doors at the center with lintel trim. Two twelve-pane square transom windows can be seen above the double-height entrance. The gable attic above is separated by a distinct girt siding divide line and has a tri-partite window with louvers at the center flanked by twelve-panes on either side. The first bay from the south on the west gable-side of the barn is covered by the extension of the shed-roof wagon shed on the south eave-side of the side. The west gable-side has red painted vertical siding with white trim while the gable attic has red painted horizontal siding.

The south seven-bay eave-side of the barn has a pair of hinged wagon doors at the center to access the basement below. The first, second, third and fifth bays from west have square barred awnings windows at the first floor level. Louvered windows can be seen on the first and second bay from west at the second floor level while a twelve-pane window is positioned in the fifth bay. The seventh bay from the west has two boarded windows at the first floor level, arranged one above the other. The south eave-side of the barn has red painted vertical siding with a margin of exposed ashlar masonry foundation along the grade level.

The wooden frame of the main barn is supported on un-coursed ashlar-masonry foundation and has slate roofing. The barn has square rule system of construction with combination of red painted vertical and horizontal siding with white trim and corner boards.

The main façade of the shed-roof wagon shed addition on the south-west corner of the main barn is its three-bay east eave-façade facing Whitney Avenue. Each bay of the three-bay main façade has an entrance at the center through a pair of elliptical-arched hinged wagon doors. The second floor level of the façade with three windows is separated by a distinct siding divide line. The wooden frame of the wagon shed is supported on concrete foundation and has slate roofing. The shed has red painted vertical siding on its three walls while the west eave-side has un-coursed ashlar-masonry. 

Historical Significance:

The New England barn or gable front barn was the successor to the English barn and relies on a gable entry rather than an entry under the eaves. The gable front offers many practical advantages. Roofs drain off the side, rather than flooding the dooryard. With the main drive floor running parallel to the ridge, the size of the barn could be increased to accommodate larger herds by adding additional bays to the rear gable end. Although it was seen by many as an improvement over the earlier side-entry English Barn, the New England barn did not replace its predecessor but rather coexisted with it.

The Eli Whitney Armory barn is a fine example of Eli Whitney’s industrial architecture: A functional aesthetic.

It is the earliest standing example of the square rule construction as established by the Historic Barn Survey by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

Historical Background:

The Eli Whitney Gun Factory Site is the location of firearms works established in 1798 by Eli Whitney (1765-1825) at which he introduced a manufacturing concept which came to be known as the ‘American System of Manufacturing’. Whitney’s concept involved a systematic specialization of each function of production within the factory, and the manufacture of standardized mass produced goods. Consequently, he is credited as one of the first manufacturers to replace skilled craftsmen with specialized power machines. Although much of the Whitney buildings have been destroyed, there are a significant number of artifacts in-situ, as demonstrated by a series of test-digs conducted in 1972.

Although Whitney’s authorship of the concept of mass-production has been questioned, it is certain that he articulated the ‘American system’ at least ten years before the idea was proposed by any other American manufacturer. Whitney’s original contract terminated in 1809, but the production of fire-arms continued at the site into the 19th century. In 1860, the original Whitney assembly works was destroyed and a larger factory building was erected on the site. The 1860 building was subsequently removed, facilitating the investigation of the remains of Whitney’s original factory. In the late 19th-century, the Whitney property was purchased by the Winchester Arms conglomerate which continued to use some of Whitney’s facilities for the production of fire-arms. Winchester sold a portion of the property for other industrial uses and the New Haven Water Company has acquired the site because of its interest in the dam containing Lake Whitney.

Field Notes

Wagon shed collapsed on February 3, 2011 from weight of snow and ice on the shed roof. Used for the farm operation to support the workers living in the boarding house--and it held draft animals. Draft animals housed here were also used for industrial operations at the Armory.

Use & Accessibility

Use (Historic)

Use (Present)

Exterior Visible from Public Road?




Location Integrity



Related features

Environment features

Relationship to surroundings

The barn was an integral component of the historical Eli Whitney Gun Factory. The Gun Factory occupied approximately six acres of land on a tract bisected by Whitney Avenue. It is about two miles north to the New Haven Green and is situated in a valley formed by the Mill River. East Rock, a high promontory to the east, overlooks the site.

The three original Whitney buildings include a ‘single-men’s boarding house’ (ca. 1800) at the south-west corner of Whitney avenue and Armory Street, a frame ‘factory barn’ (1816) to the south and a ‘Stone Shop’ (ca. 1800) across the Mill River from the Whitney Avenue. Apart from these, the precincts also included foundations of other structures like Whitney’s forge, frame office building, main assembly building, etc.
The historic single-men’s boarding house is been currently used as the office of ‘Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation’.

The barn itself is a fine example of ornamental barns built in the Federal period with delicate moldings and elliptical arches and well-proportioned architectural elements. It is an elegant barn with fine workmanship and one of the earliest examples of square rule framing.

For almost the last two centuries, the barn has served the Armory, the New Haven Water Company and then the Eli Whitney Museum, each adding a layer of significance to the historic structure.

Typology & Materials

Building Typology


Structural System

Roof materials

Roof type

Approximate Dimensions

The main barn is approx 64' X 42'4" with a 17'2" X 51' shed-roofed addition


Date Compiled


Compiled By

T. Levine and M. Patnaik, reviewed by CT Trust


Photographs and information provided by - The Eli Whitney Museum, 915 Whitney Avenue, Hamden, CT-06517, 203-777-1833

2008 Barns Grant application


Additional photographs and information provided by Nina E. Harkrader and Charlotte Hitchcock, 4/10/2010.

Raiche, Steven J., National Register of Historic Places: Nomination No. 74002049, National Park Service, 1973.

Eli Whitney Armory Site, HAER CT-2.

Sexton, James, PhD; Survey Narrative of the Connecticut Barn, Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Hamden, CT, 2005,

Visser, Thomas D.,Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings, University Press of New England, 1997.

National Register district, Whitney, Eli, Gun Factory, 74002049 NRIS (National Register Information System), 1974.

PhotosClick on image to view full file