Hezekiah Chaffee House, Windsor, Connecticut (2)

The Hezekiah Chaffee House at 108 Palisado Avenue in Windsor, on January 21, 1937. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The house in 2017:

The front side of this house was featured in a previous post, and this view here shows the back of the house, which has hardly changed in the past 80 years since the first photo was taken. The house is perhaps the finest example of 18th century architecture in Windsor, and it was originally built around 1765 for Dr. Hezekiah Chaffee, a prominent local physician. He lived here until his death in 1819, but the house itself remained in the family for another century.

In 1926, a little over a decade before the first photo was taken, the house became the Chaffee School, the girls-only counterpart to the nearby Loomis Institute. After the schools merged to form the current Loomis Chaffee School in 1970, the house was sold to the town of Windsor. It is now a museum, run by the Windsor Historical Society, and and it is a centerpiece of the Palisado Avenue Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Reverend William Russell House, Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 101 Palisado Avenue in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

William Russell, Jr. was born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1725. His father, also named William, was the pastor of the town’s church, and the younger William likewise entered the ministry. Like most of Connecticut’s other clergymen of the era, he attended Yale, graduating in 1745. He went on to work as a tutor at Yale for a few years, before coming to Windsor in 1751 to serve as pastor of the First Church. He was formally ordained in 1754, around the same time that he married his wife Abigail. A year later, they moved into this newly-built house, located directly opposite the Palisado Green at the center of town.

William and Abigail had four children, one of whom died in infancy. The youngest of the other three, Samuel, was only a few years old when his mother died in the 1760s. William subsequently remarried in 1770, to another woman who was also named Abigail, and they had one child, James, who died in infancy. In the meantime, William continued to serve as the pastor of the church until his death in April 1775, around the same time that the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington and Concord. His son Samuel went on to serve in the war, and later moved to New York City. Here, he became a Colonel in the Army and a deputy commissary, and he also served as a state legislator.

Nearly 250 years after William Russell’s death, his house remains well-preserved, including the ornate doorway at the front of the house. Very little has changed in the 80 years since the first photo was taken, other than the building’s owner. After having been used as a private home for two centuries, it was purchased by the First Church in 1953, and was used as a parsonage. Although no longer used as a parsonage, it is still owned by the church, and it is part of the Palisado Avenue Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Return Strong House, Windsor, Connecticut

The home of Return Strong on North Meadow Road in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

The exact date of construction for this house is unclear, with various sources giving dates between 1700 and 1726. Either way, it is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Windsor, a town that has many excellent examples of 18th century architecture. The historical records also do not seem to indicate which Return Strong built this house, as there were several with that name in Windsor. However, it appears to have been originally owned by Return Strong, Sr., a tanner who was a member of the prominent Strong family.

Return Strong was born in 1741, about six years after his father, John Strong, immigrated to New England. John Strong had originally settled in Hingham, Massachusetts, before moving to Taunton and then to Windsor in the 1640s. He later moved again, to Northampton, Massachusetts, where he was one of the founders of the town as well as ruling elder of the church. However, Return Strong remained here in Windsor, where he married his wife, Sarah Warham, in 1664. He became one of the town’s leading residents, including serving as a militia officer and representing the town in the colonial legislature.

One of Return Strong’s sons was also named Return, who had a son of his own with the same name. This name is rarely seen today, but it was not uncommon among Puritans, who frequently named their children after abstract virtues. Of John Strong’s 18 children, he also had two daughters named Experience and Thankful, in addition to an assortment of Old Testament names such as Jedediah, Ebenezer, Hester, and Jerijah.

The younger Return Strong died relatively young in 1708, but his father lived well into his 80s, until his death in 1726. Since then, there have been some additions and modifications, including the small front porch that is seen in the first photo. In the 80 years since this photo was taken, this porch has been removed, and the house has remained well-preserved. The other surrounding buildings are also still standing, including the church in the distance on the left and the house on the right. All of these properties are now part of the Palisado Avenue Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

Samuel Cross House, Windsor, Connecticut

The house at the end of North Meadow Street in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

This house was built sometime before 1730, and it is situated right alongside the Farmington River. Like the neighboring Jonathan Alvord House, which was built later in the 18th century, it is built into the hillside along the river, with a high brick basement that has a full-size door and windows. The house originally belonged to Samuel Cross, who, according to the documentation done when the first photo was taken, operated a ferry across the river in the early 1700s.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house was already over 200 years old, but it remained in good condition. Since then, a porch has been added to the left side, and there is also an addition on the back side of the house, which is not visible from this angle. Otherwise, though, the house retains much of its original appearance, and it is part of the Palisado Avenue Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Jonathan Alvord House, Windsor, Connecticut

The home of Jonathan Alvord on North Meadow Road in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1786 along the north side of the Farmington River, just upstream of its confluence with the Connecticut River. Just to the east of here is a large meadow, which is part of the Connecticut River floodplain, and the house is actually built right into the hillside at the edge of the meadow. It is two stories high, with a gambrel roof that was common in the late 18th century, but the most noticeable feature is the basement, which is a full story tall on the downhill side of the house.

The original owner of this house was Jonathan Alvord, whose last name is also spelled Alford in historical records. There seems to be very little specific information about him, although he was living here until at least the 1810 census. When the first photo was taken over a century later, the house remained well-preserved, and not much has changed since then. Along with the many other 18th and 19th century homes in the center of Windsor, it is now part of the Palisado Avenue Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

Thaddeus Leavitt Sr. House, Suffield, Connecticut

The house at 331 North Main Street in Suffield, around 1934-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

Thaddeus Leavitt was a merchant who was born in Suffield in 1750. In 1773, when he was 23, he married Elizabeth King, and the couple moved into this newly-built house that same year. Here, they raised their two children, who were also named Thaddeus and Elizabeth, and the elder Thaddeus became one of the town’s leading citizens. He served as a selectman and a justice of the peace, and his business prospered as well. In addition to running a store here in Suffield, he also had an ownership stake in a number of merchant ships, which carried goods to and from distant places such as the West Indies.

By the 1790s, Leavitt was a wealthy man, and he joined a group of other Suffield men who invested in western land. In the colonial era, Connecticut had, like many other colonies, been granted boundaries that extended from sea to sea. Although practically speaking they exercised no control over most of this land, Connecticut held claim to it until 1786, when they ceded most of it to the Federal government, retaining only the land in present-day northeastern Ohio. Known as the Western Reserve, the state of Connecticut sold much of this land to private investors, including the Connecticut Land Company, of which Leavitt was a partner.

Connecticut eventually abandoned its claim to the Western Reserve in 1800, and three years later the land became part of the newly-established state of Ohio. However, the legacy of the Connecticut Land Company has survived. There is Leavittsburg, which is named for Thaddeus’s family, and Trumbull County, which is named for Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull. However, the most recognizable name is probably that of the land company’s leader, Moses Cleaveland, for whom the region’s largest city was named.

Soon after the Western Reserve became part of Ohio, Leavitt became involved in another land-related issue, this one much closer to home. Since the early colonial days, Massachusetts and Connecticut had disputed the location of the border between the two states. The border was initially supposed to be a line due west from three miles south of the southernmost bend of the Charles River, and in 1642 a Massachusetts surveying crew marked this border. However, their line was several miles south of where the true border should have been, and for many years Massachusetts claimed the towns of Suffield and Enfield, along with other land in the area.

By the end of the 18th century, this dispute had mostly been resolved, with Connecticut taking control of Suffield and Enfield,  but Southwick remained a sticking point because its town borders straddled the line between the two states. In 1804, Leavitt was part of a commission that sought to reach an agreement between the two states. Massachusetts did not want to cede control of the portion of Southwick that was south of the true border, so the states ultimately agreed to split it, with Massachusetts taking the everything west of the Congamond Lakes, and Connecticut taking the land east of the lakes. This compromise created the “Southwick Jog,” which to this day remains an unusual feature of the otherwise mostly straight border between the two states.

Thaddeus Leavitt died in 1813 at the age of 52, and Elizabeth died in 1826. However, many of their descendants went on to achieve prominence in the late 19th century. Thaddeus, Jr., who built his own house nearby in 1800, had a daughter, Jane, who married Vermont Congressman Jonathan Hunt. Jane and Jonathan’s children included artist William Morris Hunt, photographer Leavitt Hunt, and, most notably, architect Richard Morris Hunt, who designed The Breakers in Newport along with countless other mansions of the Gilded Age.

Although Leavitt was a very wealthy man for his time, his plain, relatively modest home certainly pales in comparison with the mansions that his great-grandson would go on to build a century later. However, the house is still standing, and is one of many similar historic 18th century homes in the center of Suffield. Along with the other houses in the area, it is now part of the Suffield Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.