Greenwich Landmarks Series
Cross Roads 1894 "Shingle-style" Is Once Again Popular
The acreage of the aptly named Cross Roads in mid-country Greenwich assumes an irregularly shaped oval whose edges border three different roads. Built in 1894, the house is “Shingle style,” which was popular at the time and is once again popular today.
At least as late as 1929, there was a bevy of silver maples dotting the land, along with a number of rare black walnut trees. Today, the heavily treed property displays both red and pin oaks, Norwegian maples and larch from Europe.
Colonel Robert Breckenridge Baker, who owned Cross Roads from 1900 until his death in 1957, used the trees, the carriage house and the main house to illuminate the property with 1,000 electric lights in 1902, when he hosted a supper dance at his home for 100 New York society guests. Featured were a 12-piece Hungarian band, singers and a supper from Louis Sherry, the famed New York caterer, restaurateur, confectioner and hotelier of the Gilded Age and the early 20th century.
Carriages conveyed the guests from house to barn, where a unique cotillion—a steeplechase—took place. The ladies were led by a one-month-old colt, with white bridle and blanket, accompanied by a jockey in white and blue satin.
“Following came the ladies two abreast having blue and white ribbons with bells attached which were used by the men as reins to drive them as they jumped hurdles,” said a report in the New York Times.
The ladies received beribboned fans in silver and white as favors, while the men were gifted with silver scarf pins with hunting motifs.
Socially active in Greenwich, Colonel Baker was chairman of the show committee at the 13th annual horse show at the Greenwich Casino Association (now the Belle Haven Club) in 1903 and was in charge of the dedication of Putnam Cottage three years later. That celebration included a carriage parade with local notables, militia, patriotic societies and members of the New York, Greenwich and Stamford GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) posts.
During the winter months Baker lived in New York at 743 Fifth Ave. and later at 15 West 55th St. and had offices at 29 Broadway. Unmarried, he lived with his business partners Colonel DeVeaux Powell and Colonel William H. Temple.
The Colonel’s father founded the Phosphor Bronze Smelting Co. in Philadelphia and was a descendant of John Baker who emigrated here from England in 1760. Baker himself was educated at the William Penn Charter School and Swarthmore College. He began working in a clerical position at Robert Hare Powel & Co., taken over by the Sterling Coal Co., and became its president in 1907.
The Colonel was president of a number of companies, among them the Stineman Coal and Coke Co., the El Mora Coal Mining Co., the Baker Transportation Co. and the Bakerton Land and Improvement, Water and Supply Companies.
Baker served as an aide-de-camp to Gov. Daniel H. Hastings of Pennsylvania, perhaps receiving his title of “Colonel” at that time.
Cross Roads, a two-and-a-half story dwelling, rests on a fieldstone foundation and is capped by a sweeping, side-gabled roof and wood-shingled gables that encompass the second and attic stories. The façade is noted for its huge fieldstone piers, swathed in vines, supporting the lower edge of the roof. Reaching beyond the house is a porch that culminates in a gazebo with a conical roof. Above on the second level are twin, wood-shingled gabled dormers, with louvered shutters. Around and about are corner porches and projecting bay windows with two, three, or more, sides.
An oversized Dutch door leads from the entry porch into the house which retains many original elements. The front hall has an oak floor in a herringbone pattern and an original lighting fixture covered in crystal beads. The paneled living room with coved ceiling features, a fireplace with an elaborately carved stone mantelpiece that has an architrave with a bead-and-reel molding, a scroll frieze and a cornice with egg-and-dart molding. Below are pilasters with bas-relief floral motifs and voluted brackets.
The dining room also has a cove ceiling and wall paneling, along with a corner fireplace with wooden mantel and tile surround and hearth. The butler’s pantry retains its early vertical wall panels and wooden cabinets. The kitchen, remodeled, of course, still features its original fireplace.
Up the stairs are four bedrooms, each with original paneled walls and elliptical-arched alcoves with closets. The attic level has an original screened valance of turned wooden beads in a diamond design along the hall and a rectangular design above the doorway.
On the grounds is an octagonal well, topped by Tuscan columns that support a Doric frieze and a cornice, surmounted by an octagonal roof. The semi-circular driveway is accessed by fieldstone gateposts, covered in vines and glove-shaped metal frames for lights.
—Written by Susan Nova, for the Greenwich Historical Society