Long residential in character, the upper end of State Street was transformed into a green and leafy bower in the second half of the 19th century. While lower State Street accommodated the commercial activities and avenues of vice that Victorians associated with the masculine realm of the city, upper State Street was devoted to respectable pursuits that complemented the female sphere. Religion (in the form of the First Congregational and First Baptist churches), culture (in the form of the Public Library of New London and the Lyric Hall) and genteel recreation (housed in the private Thames Club, the YMCA, and the YWCA) were all well represented on upper State Street.
In the early 20th century, this character began to change, as commercial blocks continued to march steadily up the hill. While structures like the Plant (now Dewart) Building housed professional offices, they nonetheless brought a distinctly urban character to upper State Street, a process that reached its peak in 1926 when the Williams house was demolished to make way for the Garde Theater.