J. Newton Perkins House/Pinehurst Apartments
154 Washington Street (c. 1860, Italianate)
Joshua Newton Perkins (1804–76) accumulated his riches in the insurance and railroad industries, while investing successfully (initially, at least) in the New York Stock Exchange. His splendid Norwich summer villa was the Italianate-style showpiece of Gervase Wheeler (c. 1815–72), a gifted but enigmatic British architect often accused by his American colleagues of stealing their ideas. Here, Wheeler used large casement windows, multiple levels, and a wraparound veranda to take advantage of the commanding view from this bluff overlooking the Yantic River to the west. The building’s square tower is a reference to the Italian campanile, or bell tower, a feature often adopted for this style.
Joshua Perkins’s good fortune was not to last. In 1869 he lost a half-million dollars (or roughly $9,264,301.00 in today’s money) in the Black Friday gold crisis. His financial ruin led to a precipitous fall from social grace and a low-salaried office job in New York.