Arnold Allen House, South Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 954 Main Street, at the corner of Newberry Road in South Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:


This house was built in 1805 for Arnold Allen, a Revolutionary War veteran who married his wife, Mary Elmer, that same year. He was about 46 at the time, and Mary was about 30, and they had two daughters, Anna and Julia, who grew up here. Arnold later sold this house, but he and Mary remained in South Windsor until their deaths in the 1840s.

By the 1860s, this house was owned by Samuel P. Newberry, a farmer who lived here with his wife Emma. They had five children, the youngest of whom were still teenagers when Emma died in 1885. Samuel continued living here until his death in 1913, and his son Leslie later inherited the property. An 1893 graduate of Yale Law School, Leslie worked as a lawyer until shortly before his father’s death, when he began operating a tobacco farm.

By the 1920 census, Leslie was 47 years old and was living here with his wife Hazel and their three young children. Aside from tobacco farming, he also served as town clerk and as a judge, and he and his family were still living here when the first photo was taken. He continued operating his farm until 1960, and by the time he died in a nursing home in 1974, he was 101 years old and was the oldest resident of South Windsor.

In more than two centuries since it was built, this house has seen some changes, including several large additions on the back. The front door appears to have been bricked up at some point before the first photo was taken, and the notes from this photo indicate that an original chimney had been removed from the south side, perhaps to build the porch on the right. However, essentially nothing has changed with this scene since the first photo was taken about 80 years ago, and it is now a contributing property in the Windsor Farms Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Aaron Bissell House, South Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 1891 Main Street in South Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:


Aaron Bissell, Jr. was a leading resident of East Windsor at the turn of the 19th century. At the time, the town included all of present-day South Windsor, and Bissell operated a tavern here in the village of East Windsor Hill. The tavern, which is no longer standing, was located just south of where these photos were taken, at the corner of Main Street and Ferry Lane. Along with running the tavern, Bissell was also involved in the local government, serving as town clerk from 1799 to 1825, as well as several terms in the state legislature.

In 1812, a few years after his daughter Sophia’s marriage to Eli Haskell, Bissell built the couple an elegant brick house, which is seen in the distant right of both photos. A year later, he built a nearly identical house for himself, which is seen here in the foreground. Both houses are excellent examples of Federal-style architecture, and they are built of brick, which was far less common than wood-frame homes during this era. The main front sections of the two homes are virtually identical, but additions over the years have changed the appearance of the rear of the houses.

Bissell lived here in this house until his death in 1834, and the property was then purchased by Increase Clapp, a blacksmith. He lived here for the next 25 years, until his death in 1859, and his son Carlos then inherited the house. By around the turn of the 20th century, the house was owned by Lewis Sperry, a lawyer and politician who served two terms in Congress, representing Connecticut’s first district in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1891 to 1895.

The first photo was taken about 15 years after Sperry’s death, and almost nothing has changed since then, except for the removal of the front porch. Both this house and the neighboring Haskell House are well-preserved, and they are two of the many fine 18th and early 19th century homes that line South Windsor’s Main Street. In 1986, both of these homes, along with the rest of he surrounding neighborhood, became part of the East Windsor Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

First Congregational Church, South Windsor, Connecticut

The First Congregational Church on Main Street in South Windsor, around 1898. Image from The Connecticut Quarterly (1898).

The church in 2017:


When the town of Windsor was established in the 1630s, its borders originally extended across both sides of the Connecticut River, and included the present-day towns of Windsor, East Windsor, South Windsor, Windsor Locks, Bloomfield, and Ellington. Initially, most of Windsor’s settlement occurred on the west side of the river, but over the course of the 17th century a number of residents built homes here on the east side, in what became known as the village of East Windsor.

Because of its location on the opposite side of the river, traveling to and from church was often difficult, and in 1694 a church was established here in East Windsor. The original church building was located a little north of here, next to the Edwards Cemetery, and the first pastor was Timothy Edwards. He served in this position for over 60 years, until his death in 1758, but he is best known for being the father of Jonathan Edwards, the prominent preacher and theologian who helped spark the Great Awakening.

The current church building is the fourth one built by the congregation, and it was completed in 1845. Most New England churches of this era featured a Greek Revival design, with a columned portico at the front of the building, and this church is no exception. Its design, particularly the tower in the first photo, is remarkably similar to that of the First Church of Windsor, which was renovated a year earlier, perhaps by the same architect.

This area along Main Street was the historic town center of East Windsor, which was incorporated as a separate town in 1768. At the time, it included all of Windsor on the east side of the river, but in 1845 the southern portion of the town was split off to form the town of South Windsor. The current church building, which was built the same year, was located within the new town, so it became the First Church of South Windsor.

In the approximately 120 years since the first photo was taken, the church building has remained in active use, although with some changes to the exterior of the building. Along with modern additions to the back, there is also a new spire. The original one had deteriorated to the point where it had to be taken down at some point around the mid-20th century, and it was not replaced until 1963. Otherwise, though, the building survives as an important part of South Windsor’s historic Main Street, and it is a contributing property in the Windsor Farms Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

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.

Martin Ellsworth House, Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 115 Palisado Avenue in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:


Martin Ellsworth was the son of Oliver Ellsworth, one of Connecticut’s leading politicians of the late 18th century. In 1783 year that Martin was born, Ellsworth was one of the state’s representative to the Continental Congress, and he subsequently served as a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787, a Senator from 1789 to 1796, and as Chief Justice of the United States from 1796 to 1800. Martin grew up in his father’s house in Windsor, and like his father and his older brother, he attended Yale, graduating in 1801.

In 1807, Martin married Sophia Wolcott, and they moved into this newly-built house opposite the Palisado Green. The house appears to have been built as a wedding gift from Oliver Ellsworth, who died only a month after his son’s marriage. The newlyweds lived here for about 11 years, with Martin running a merchant business. During this time, he also served in the state militia, attaining the rank of major during the War of 1812. However, after the death of Martin’s mother Abigail in 1818, he and Sophia moved to the family homestead, where they lived for the rest of their lives.

After they moved, this house was sold to Dr. William S. Pierson, a physician who purchased the house after moving to here from Durham, Connecticut. Born in 1787, he was the great-great grandson of Abraham Pierson, one of the founders and the first rector of Yale. William himself graduated from Yale in 1808, and subsequently earned his M.D. from Dartmouth. He and his wife Nancy had nine children who grew up here in this house, and he practiced medicine here in Windsor for many years. He died in 1860, and Nancy died three years later.

William and Nancy’s oldest child was William S. Pierson, Jr. He was also a Yale graduate, and went on to become a lawyer. Like many other Connecticut residents of the era, he moved west and settled in Ohio, where he became a successful businessman and eventually the mayor of Sandusky, Ohio. During the Civil War, he was placed in command of a prisoner of war camp on Johnson’s Island near Sandusky, eventually earning the rank of brevet brigadier general at the end of the war. After the war, though, he returned to Windsor and lived here at the family homestead, having inherited it after the death of his parents.

General Pierson died in 1879, and in 1923 his former house suffered serious damage from a fire. However, it was restored and in good condition by the time the first photo was taken a little over a decade later. The side porch on the left and the fence in the front yard have since been removed, but otherwise its appearance has changed very little in the past 80 years. Like the neighboring William Russell House, it was purchased by the First Church in the 1950s, and it continues to be owned by the church today. Both properties are also part of the Palisado Avenue Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

First Church, Windsor, Connecticut

The First Church of Windsor, located on Palisado Avenue just north of the Farmington River, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The church in 2017:


The area of present-day Windsor was first settled by  colonists in 1633, making it the first English settlement in Connecticut. As a result, the church, which was established the same year, is also the oldest Congregational Church in the state and among the oldest in the nation. The original church building was located across the street from here on the Palisado Green, which at the time was the town center. However, over the years the southern part of the town, on the other side of the Farmington River, began to grow. After a fire destroyed the church in 1754, there was considerable debate about the location of the new church, since the river posed a significant obstacle to travel. Ultimately, two new churches were built, with one on the north side and the other on the south.

This arrangement remained in place until the early 1790s, when the two congregations were reunited, and in 1794 the current church building was completed. As part of a compromise, the new church was located on the north side of the river, with the school was on the south side, and a new covered bridge across the river to facilitate travel. The chairman of the building committee was Oliver Ellsworth, a Senator who was no stranger to negotiating compromises, having been involved in crafting the Connecticut Compromise while serving as a delegate the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787. Ellsworth, who lived about a mile and a half north of here, would later serve as Chief Justice of the United States from 1796 to 1800, and after his death in 1807 he was buried in the cemetery next to the church.

Although the church building dates back to 1794, it was heavily modified in 1844, with renovations to both the interior and exterior. The original tower was replaced, and front of the church was redesigned with a columned portico, which was a common feature in Greek Revival-style churches of the era. However, there are still a few signs of its original Federal-style design, including the quoins on the corners of the building and the keystone design above the windows. These are easily visible in the first photo, and they are still there, although mostly hidden by the trees in the foreground. Today, the well-preserved building continues to be in active use as a church, and it is a prominent part of the Palisado Avenue Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.