Rock Gate, named for the dramatic outcropping of glacially carved stone encircled by the driveway, is an important piece of Washington’s history and a Connecticut Preservation Award winning example of architect Ehrick Rossiter’s design legacy.
Located on the Washington Green, along a quiet non-through road, the striking home was built in 1885 as a Gilded Age “summer cottage” for General Lucious Barbour, a wealthy Hartford industrialist, art collector, and Connecticut State legislator. Rock Gate is considered Rossiter’s best domestic work in the Queen Anne style* and his finest home design in the town of Washington**, which boasts 15 Rossiter homes***.
The 9,000-square-foot-shingle-style residence has 8 bedrooms, 5 1/2 bathrooms, 8 working fireplaces, a designer kitchen, 2 dining rooms, a music room, library, living room, study, a “Titanic-style” grand staircase, 2 laundry rooms and a bright ground level “basement” workout/television room with ample storage. On the exterior, there is a sweeping back porch and two 2nd–floor bedroom sleeping porches balconies. There is also a three-car detached garage offering second-floor space for an apartment or studio.
The only Rossiter designed-home in Washington to survive its original state to the present day, Rock Gate was restored by the present owners in 2009 with the goal of preserving the historic integrity of the house, while at the same time outfitting it to meet the needs of a modern and active family. The original millwork and exquisite ornamental details were carefully restored, from the butternut-wood paneled entry vestibule, music room and main staircase, to the ceiling ornamentations, fireplace mantels and walnut and fur wood floors. All the original windows were saved, the bronze weight chains replaced, original bronze hardware cleaned and reused, the original antique glass cleaned and left in place. Copper screens were handcrafted for each window, as were period-appropriate storm windows. This same painstaking process to preserve and enhance Rock Gate’s original features was done with the many interior and exterior doors.
Rock Gate is set on 3 very private acres, with a heated salt-water pool enclosed by a romantic vine-entwined live-wood fence. There is a convenient kitchen garden and two pollinator gardens attracting butterflies, bees and humming birds. The grounds have been gently landscaped following an essential ingredient of Rossiter’s earliest homes that placed his home design in an organic relationship with the natural surroundings. Consequently, Rock Gate blends effortlessly into the lush greenery of the Steep Rock Preserve, with its nearly 1,000 acres of woodland, and on to which the property borders.
* Ann Smith, “Ehrick K. Rossiter Designs for Modern living.” Page 123
** Alison Gilchrist “Return to Arcadia” page 22
*** Stephen Ketterer “Rossiter Country Houses of Washington Connecticut.” page 15 In-town Shingle-style Rossiter. Restored to Perfection. 8 Bedrooms. 5.5 Baths. 8 Fireplaces. 3-car Detached Garage. Property Borders Steep Rock. 3.13± Acres.