Oliver W. Mills House, Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 148 Deerfield Road in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

This brick, Federal-style house was built in 1824, and was originally the home of Oliver W. Mills, who built it shortly before his 1825 marriage to Anna Phelps. Mills was a farmer, but he was also a brickmaker, and he produced the bricks that were used in the construction of his house. His was one of many small-scale brickworks that operated in Windsor during the first half of the 19th century, and by 1850 Mills employed three workers and produced 300,000 bricks per year. He and Anna went on to live here for the rest of their lives, and they had five children: Oliver, Helen, Mary, Alfred, and Arthur.

The younger Oliver inherited this house after his father’s death in 1866, and during the 1870 census he was living here with his mother, plus his wife Sarah and their two young children, Annie and Oliver. He was listed as a farmer, with real estate valued at $11,400 and a personal estate of $2,085, for a net worth of over $250,000 in today’s dollars. The subsequent census, in 1880, provides a more detailed account of the farm’s productivity, which included eight acres of tilled land, 22 acres of pastureland and orchards, and 100 acres of woodland. In 1879, the farm had a diversified output that included 400 pounds of butter, 800 dozen eggs, 100 bushels of corn, 30 bushels of rye, 200 bushels of potatoes, and 4,000 pounds of tobacco.

Sarah died in 1899, and Oliver in 1901, but the house would remain in the family for many more years. His son Oliver inherited the property, and lived here with his wife Catherine and their daughter Marguerite. Like his predecessors, he ran a farm here, but he also worked for many years for the National Biscuit Company, the company known today as Nabisco. Marguerite became a kindergarten teacher, and was later involved in a number of community organizations, ranging from the Windsor Historical Society to the Garden Club of Windsor. She and her parents were still living here when the first photo was taken, but Oliver died soon after, in 1943. Catherine died 10 years later, and Marguerite remained here as the fourth and last generation of the Mills family to live here, owning the house until her death in 1985.

Today, most of the former Mills farm has been developed. Logans Way, a short cul-de-sac, is now located directly behind the house, with an industrial development further in the distance. Just to the left of the house, high voltage power lines now cross the property. However, the house itself is still standing, and remains an excellent example of brick, Federal-style architecture. Very little has changed in its appearance since the first photo was taken about 80 years ago, and the house is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Amos Eno House, Simsbury, Connecticut

The house at 731 Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1822 as the home of Elisha Phelps, who belonged to one of the leading families of Simsbury. His father, Noah Phelps, was a lawyer and judge who served as an officer during the American Revolution, and later served as major general in the state militia. Likewise, Elisha became a lawyer, graduating from Yale and from Litchfield Law School before being admitted to the bar in 1803. He married his wife, Lucy Smith, in 1810, and they had five children, although their first two died in infancy.

Aside from his law practice, Elisha Phelps had an extensive political career. He served in the state House of Representatives in 1807, 1812, 1814-1818, before being elected to Congress as one of Connecticut’s at-large representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. He served one term, from 1819 to 1821, before returning to the state legislature, where he served as Speaker of the House in 1821, and as a state senator from 1822 to 1824. He was subsequently re-elected to two terms in Congress, from 1825 to 1829, and then served for another year as the state’s Speaker of the House in 1829, before becoming the state comptroller from 1831 to 1837.

When Elisha and Lucy Phelps moved into this house in 1822, they had three surviving children. The oldest, John, was about eight years old at the time, and their daughters Lucy and Mary were about four and three, respectively. The three of them would spend the rest of their childhood here, and John would go on to attend Trinity College in Hartford, graduating in 1832. Like his father and grandfather, John became a lawyer, and in 1837 he moved to Springfield, Missouri, where he would become a prominent politician. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1845 to 1863, and as a colonel in the Union army during the Civil War. He was appointed by Abraham Lincoln as military governor of Arkansas in 1862, although the Senate never confirmed his appointment. However, he later went on to become governor of Missouri, serving from 1877 to 1881.

In the meantime, Elisha Phelps lived here in this house until his death in 1847, and his son-in-law, Amos Eno, inherited the property. Eno was also a Simsbury native, and had married Elisha’s daughter Lucy in 1836. However, the couple moved to New York City, where Eno established himself as a merchant and real estate developer. He invested heavily in Manhattan real estate, including building the Fifth Avenue Hotel at Madison Square in 1859. At the time, Madison Square was considered too far uptown for a fashionable hotel, but the location proved to be ideal as the city grew. He also owned land at Longacre Square, which was later renamed Times Square, and he owned a number of undeveloped lots on the Upper West Side. By the time he died in 1898, Eno’s various real estate investments were valued at over $20 million, or around $600 million in 2018 dollars.

Amos Eno’s primary residence was in New York City, but he maintained this house as his summer home, far removed from the heat, crowds, and smells of the city. During one such summer, in 1865, his grandson, Gifford Pinchot, was born here in this house. The son of James W. Pinchot and Amos’s daughter Mary, Gifford would go on to become perhaps the most notable of the many prominent descendants of Elisha Phelps. Like many of his ancestors, Gifford Pinchot attended Yale, graduating in 1889. He became a forester and conservationist, and in 1897 joined Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation-oriented Boone and Crockett Club.

In 1898, Pinchot was appointed as the nation’s Chief of the Division of Forestry, serving under presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. In 1905, the Division of Forestry was reorganized as the United States Forest Service, and he became the agency’s first chief. He would remain in this position until 1910, when William Howard Taft, Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor in the White House, dismissed him following a dispute between Pinchot and the Secretary of the Interior. Roosevelt took this dismissal personally, as Pinchot was a close friend, and the controversy helped lead to the 1912 split in the Republican Party, between Roosevelt’s progressive wing and Taft’s more conservative wing.

Pinchot would become a major figure in the progressive movement of the 1910s, and served as president of the National Conservation Commission from 1910 to 1925. He was also touted as a possible Progressive Party candidate for president in 1916, although Pinchot declined interest and the party ultimately endorsed Republican candidate Charles Evans Hughes. However, Pinchot’s political career continued in his home state of Pennsylvania, where he served as governor from 1923 to 1927, and 1931 to 1935.

During Pinchot’s rise to national prominence, his birthplace here in Simsbury remained in his extended family. He spent many summers at the house during his childhood, and in later years would often visit his grandparents here. Amos Eno died in 1898, only a few months before Pinchot’s appointment to head the Division of Forestry, and his summer home in Simsbury was inherited by his daughter, Antoinette Wood. She made substantial alterations to the house, including having the original gabled roof replaced with a large gambrel roof, and adding a large wing to the rear of the house. She also hired prominent landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of New York’s Central Park, to create new landscaping plans for the property.

Antoinette Wood owned the house until her death in 1930, only a few years before the first photo was taken. It would remain in the Eno family until 1948, when it was sold and became a restaurant, known as The Simsbury House. Then, in 1960, it was purchased by the town of Simsbury, and underwent extensive renovations in 1985. The house is now the Simsbury 1820 House bed and breakfast, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places, as both an individual listing and as a contributing property in the Simsbury Center Historic District.

Daniel Norton House, Suffield, Connecticut

The house at 130 South Main Street in Suffield, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

This house was apparently built around 1812-1814, although the WPA Architectural Survey indicates that, according to the owner at the time, the oldest part of the house dates back to 1780. The later date seems more reliable, though, and is the date given in the National Register of Historic Places listing. The house was originally owned by Daniel Norton, a veteran of the American Revolution who had responded to the Lexington Alarm in April 1775. However, he died in 1814, right around the same time that this house was built, and his 14-year-old son Daniel Washington Norton inherited the property.

The younger Daniel subsequently became an agent for the newly-established Aetna Fire Insurance Company, and he later went on to have a successful business career. He was involved in several local industries, including the Windsor Knitting Factory, the Lacowsic Woolen Company, and the Eagle Paper Mill. Along with this, he was a partner in the cigar-making company of Loomis and Norton, and he was a founder and the first president of the First National Bank of Suffield.

Daniel married Mindwell Pease in 1822, and they had five children: Elizabeth, Lucy, Mary, John, and Emily. Mindwell died in 1857, and two years later Daniel remarried to Augusta F. Knowles. During this time, Daniel continued to live in this house, and he would remain here for the rest of his life. In the 1870 census, four years before his death, he was living here with Augusta and two of his children, and his real estate was valued at $10,000. This was a good amount of money at the time, but it paled in comparison to the value of his personal estate, which was listed as $129,000, equivalent to over $2.5 million today.

Although Daniel died in 1874, the house would remain in his family for many more years. In the early 20th century, the property was owned by his son, John H. Norton, and it was in turn inherited by John’s son, Harry D. Norton. Harry died in 1929, but the house was still owned by his estate around a decade later when the first photo was taken. By this point, the house was around 125 years old, and it had undergone some renovations over the years. Since then, though, very little has changed in this scene, aside from the removal of the porch on the left side and the loss of the two massive trees in the front yard, and today the house is one of the many historic homes that line Main Street in the center of Suffield.

David Phelps House, Simsbury, Connecticut

The house at 2 East Weatogue Street, at the corner of Hartford Road in Simsbury, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

This elegant Federal-style home was built around 1800, and in the early 19th century it served as a tavern along the stagecoach route to Hartford. Located in the village of East Weatogue in Simsbury, it is in the narrow area of land between the Farmington River to the west and the Metacomet Ridge to the east, at the foot of one of the few passes through the long, narrow mountain ridge. It was an ideal spot for a tavern, because nearly all traffic between Hartford and Simsbury would have passed by the front door. Originally owned by David Phelps, the tavern is not to be confused with another Phelps Tavern, which was located in the center of town and was operated by Noah Phelps around the same time as this one.

The architecture of the house reflects the Federal style of the era, with distinct features such as a symmetrical front facade, a Palladian window on the second floor, and a front door flanked with sidelights and a fanlight above it. The main section of the house has two chimneys, and when the first photo was taken the house had a total of 11 fireplaces. The wraparound porch, which extends the length of the front and the right side of the house in the first photo, was not original to the house, and was added around the turn of the 20th century.

About 80 years after the first photo was taken, the house has seen some significant changes, most notably the removal of the large porch. Today, it looks much more historically accurate than it did in the early 20th century, and it still stands at an important intersection along the main route from Simsbury to Hartford. Despite its proximity to the state capital, though, the village of East Weatogue has retained much of its original agrarian appearance, and this house now forms part of the East Weatogue Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

393 Union Street, Springfield, Mass

The house at 393 Union Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Like the neighboring homes on either side of it, this house is among the oldest surviving buildings in Springfield. It dates back to around 1828, and was part of a small community that formed around the Methodist church, which was located at the corner of Union and Mulberry Streets. The early ownership of this house seems unclear, but by 1861 it was the home of Alexander Chapin, who was working at the U. S. Armory at the time. However, within a few years he was working for S. D. Burbank, “manufacturer of Gold and Silver Spectacles, Eye-glasses, Thimbles, and Solid Gold Rings.” He switched his occupation a few years later, though, because by 1865 he was selling boots and shoes with A. Chapin & Co.

Alexander Chapin died in 1866, but his wife Emily continued living here until her death a decade later. The house remained in the family, though, and during the 1880 census their daughters Frances E. Chapin and Maggie Montague were both living here, as were cousins William and Mary Bush, and Gordon Noble. At the time, Frances was 40 years old and unmarried, while Maggie was five years younger and a widow, having lost her husband William in 1865, just a year after their marriage. The family lived here into the early 1880s, but by 1883 it was the home of John S. Grant, a traveling salesman who lived here until around 1897, when he moved to Connecticut.

Around 1900, the house was sold to Oswin B. Brockett, who lived here with his wife Augusta and their young son Ralph. Originally from Blandford, Massachusetts, Oswin came to Springfield in 1871 when he was in his mid-20s, and became the court messenger for the Hampden County Superior Court.  He went on to hold this position for more than 50 years, and he lived in this house until his death in 1926. Augusta died four years later, but Ralph continued to live here for many more years. During the 1930s, he lived here with his aunt, Maria Knox, and he worked as vault custodian for the Springfield National Bank. They were here when the first photo was taken, and Ralph was apparently having the house repainted at the time, since the photo shows two painters at work on the front porch.

Ralph was single for most of his life, but late in life he married his wife, Alma. They lived here together until his death in 1965, and Alma owned the property until she finally sold it in 1978, ending more than 75 years of ownership by the same family. At some point, probably while Ralph lived here, the exterior was covered in asbestos shingles, replacing the old clapboard from the first photo. However, aside from this the house has retained much of its original appearance, and it still stands as one of three adjacent homes that all date back to the 1820s. All three of these homes, along with others nearby, now form part of Springfield’s Ridgewood Local Historic District.

387 Union Street, Springfield, Mass

The house at 387 Union Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

For its first two centuries, Springfield’s development was largely confined to the Main Street corridor in the present-day downtown area. However, as Springfield began a period of rapid growth in the first half of the 19th century, the town began expanding eastward. With this growth came greater diversity in religious denominations, with new churches beginning to appear in a town that had long been dominated by the Congregational church.

One of the first of these new religious groups was the Methodists, who built a church on the upper part of Union Street in 1823, at the corner of Mulberry Street. This part of Springfield was only sparsely settled at the time, and was situated on a hill above the downtown area. However, the Methodists built a small community here, complete with a cemetery that was later absorbed into the much larger Springfield Cemetery. Along with this, they also built houses here, several of which still stand on Union Street nearly 200 years later, including this one.

This house is one of Springfield’s few surviving examples of Federal-style architecture, and according to city records it was built in 1828, which would make it among the oldest buildings in the city. The early history of its owners seems unclear, although an 1851 map shows both this and a neighboring house as being owned by Dennis Cook. A tin manufacturer, Cook appears to have lived in this house, along with his wife Sophronia and their children, George and Lucy. He died in 1853, but later city directories show Sophronia living here into the 1860s.

At some point in the second half of the 19th century, the house was divided into a two-family home, with a variety of people living here over the years. Among them was Robert E. Cooper, a plumber who lived here in the late 1870s with his wife Julia and their sons Henry and George. Robert died in 1878, but the rest of the family was still living here in the 1880s, with George working at the Cheney Bigelow Wire Works while Henry worked at Smith & Wesson. During this same time, the other half of the house was the home of Albert Tomlinson, a dry goods store clerk who lived here with his wife Sarah and their son Henry.

By 1910, the house was owned by Laura I. Mattoon, who rented one half of it to her father, William P. Mattoon. William was the son of William B. Mattoon, the railroad contractor who, among other things, was the namesake of Springfield’s Mattoon Street and the city of Mattoon, Illinois. The younger William was a real estate broker, and he was in his mid-60s when he moved into this house. He went on to live here for about six years, until his death in 1916.

The house appears to have subsequently reverted to a single-family home, because by 1920 it was owned and occupied by Joseph E. Holmes, the treasurer of the Crocker-McElwain Company, a Holyoke-based paper company. He lived here with his wife Pauline and their young daughter Elizabeth, but they had moved out by 1923, and sold the house to attorney Theodore W. Ellis and his wife Gladys.

Theodore and Gladys Ellis were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and they were still here during the 1940 census, although they moved to Longmeadow sometime in the early 1940s. Nearly 80 years later, though, very little has changed with the exterior of this house, aside from the enclosed porches in the back and the missing columns in the front. Overall, the house has been well-maintained, and today it is one of a handful of early 19th century homes along this section of Union Street, all of which date back to the days when Springfield’s Methodists had their meeting house nearby.