The Branford House at UConn’s Avery Point campus was built at the turn of the 20th century as a summer home for local financier and philanthropist Morton Plant. Modeled after the famous Newport mansions, it was named after Plant’s hometown of Branford, Conn.
The mansion, which has panoramic views of Fishers Island and Long Island Sound, was designed by Plant’s wife Nellie, who had studied architecture at the Sorbonne in Paris, and was implemented by English architect Robert W. Gibson.
The exterior was done almost entirely in the Tudor style, using granite quarried from the grounds in order to harmonize with the estate’s natural surroundings. The interior was a melange of several different styles, including Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, Classical, and even Flemish. Materials used for the interior ranged from rich woods such as mahogany, oak, and walnut, to imported stone and metals such as onyx, marble, sandstone, bronze, and iron. A two-story marble fireplace was the focal point of the house.
Although the Plants only used the mansion for around 30-60 days a year, their staff maintained the estate year-round.
After Morton Plant’s death in 1918, the estate was passed to his descendants, until it was eventually sold for $55,000 at auction in 1939. However, it soon came into the hands of the State of Connecticut. From the 1940s to the 1960s, it became the property of the United States Coast Guard, but reverted back to the state when the Coast Guard training center was relocated. Shortly after, the estate was turned over to the University of Connecticut for use as a branch campus. The Avery Point campus was established on the property in 1967.
In 2001, the mansion was refurbished. It now houses the administrative offices and visitors’ center for UConn Avery Point, and hosts events and celebrations year-round.
UConn Avery Point is celebrating its 50th anniversary during calendar year 2017. For information about planned anniversary celebrations, go to http://50years.averypoint.uconn.edu/.