Museum archives around the world have inspired all sorts of licensed products, from jewelry to notecards to bobble-head dolls. Connor Homes is hoping that one museum’s famed collection of Americana will inspire people to buy houses.
Factory-built houses, that is.
Known for its “mill built" historic reproduction homes, Middlebury, Vermont-based Connor Homes has signed an exclusive licensing deal with the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate, the one-time home of horticulturist, philanthropist, and art collector Henry Francis du Pont, located just north of Wilmington, Delaware.
Drawing influence from the museum’s trove of 85,000 objects (which can be traced to all 13 original colonies) the builder intends to develop a new line of historically authentic homes evoking the period architecture of the Brandywine Valley, where Winterthur is located. Items in the respected museum's collection of decorative arts include furniture, ceramics, metals, textiles, fine art, and architectural drawings representative of American history between 1640 and 1860.
It’s a logical alliance for Connor Homes, which has built its reputation on vintage-style houses around New England that surpass local building codes in terms of energy performance, but visually dovetail with historically sensitive areas. This partnership further extends its reach into the mid-Atlantic.
“Our company is already well-versed in Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, and Colonial Revival architecture,” says founder and CEO Michael Connor. “But as is so often the case, regional characteristics put a unique interpretation on these well known American vernaculars. Our work and research in the Winterthur archives will likely bring some of those regional twists to light.”
While the architecture of Winterthur-inspired homes will honor history, the engineering will improve upon the building technologies of the past, according to Connor. Prefabricated wall and flooring systems allow the company’s houses to be assembled on site 50% faster than stick-built homes, with considerably less job site waste. Those efficiencies, combined with the homes' traditional aesthetics, have allowed the builder to orchestrate teardown projects that might otherwise be met with public hostility.
For the Winterthur collection, Connor anticipates a pricing structure similar to the existing homes in its portfolio, which generally run $160 to $200 per square foot and are fully customizable. The builder is hoping to collaborate with other Winterthur licensees to develop upgrade options for interiors, fixtures, and furnishings.
The first plans and home offerings in the collection are expected to debut this fall.
Jenny Sullivan is a senior editor covering architecture, design, and community planning for BUILDER.