Mercy Norton House, Suffield, Connecticut

The house at 451 South Main Street in Suffield, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:


According to a marker on this house, it was “A frame of a house deeded to Mercy Norton” in 1701. This is also the date provided in the National Register of Historic Places listing for the Suffield Historic District, and, if accurate, it would make this house among the oldest in the town. It would also make it a fairly early use of a gambrel roof, as this style did not come into widespread use until later in the 18th century.

The house would have been smaller when it was first built, but is has subsequently been expanded in the back, giving it a saltbox-style appearance. There is also an ell that was later added to the back of the house, although it is not visible from this angle. When the first photo was taken, the house was described as only being in “fair” condition, but it has since been restored, and in 1979 it became a contributing property n the newly-created Suffield Historic District.

James Hall House, Suffield, Connecticut

The house at 15 High Street in Suffield, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:


This house is one of many historic 18th century homes in downtown Suffield. It was built in 1786 for James Hall, with a Cape Cod-style design that was common throughout the region during this time period. Originally, it did not have the oversized dormer windows, but these were added sometime before the first photo was taken. There seems to be little available information about the original owner, but by the mid-1800s the house was owned by Joel Atwater, a harness maker whose shop was located here on the property. His name appears here on maps as early as 1855, and he lived here until his death in 1904 at the age of 93.

After his death, his daughter Mary inherited the house. She never married, and she worked as a dressmaker here at the house. She was still living here during the 1930 census, only a few years before the first photo was taken, but she appears to have died sometime before the 1940 census. When the first photo was taken, the house was listed as being in “fair” condition, with the photographer noting that the interior of the house was “greatly changed” from the 18th century. Since then, the only significant change to the exterior of the house is the removal of the double windows on the left side. These were probably not original, and their removal gives a more symmetrical and historically accurate appearance to the front of the house.

Gay Mansion, Suffield, Connecticut

The house at 222 North Main Street in Suffield, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

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The house in 2017:

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One of the finest 18th century homes in Suffield is the Gay Mansion, which was built in 1795 for Ebenezer King, Jr. He was a very wealthy man, with a net worth of reportedly over $100,000 (nearly $1.5 million today), and this is reflected in his Federal-style mansion. Around the same time that this house was built, King was an investor in the Suffield, Cuyahoga, & Big Beaver Land Company. This company, comprised of a number of other Suffield men, owned entire townships in the Western Reserve, a section of northern Ohio that was, at the time, claimed by Connecticut.

Unfortunately for King, he eventually lost much of his money, and had to sell his mansion in 1811. It was purchased by William Gay, a prominent lawyer and the son of Ebenezer Gay, who had been the longtime pastor of the Congregational church. Aside from his law practice, William Gay was also the postmaster of the town for 35 years, and for much of that time the post office was located here in his living room. After his death in 1844, two of his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, continued to live here. They never married, and after their deaths in the 1880s the house was inherited by the children of their sister Deborah.

The house remained in the Gay family for over 100 years, and by the start of the 20th century it was still filled with old family heirlooms and other antiques. It was even featured in a Good Housekeeping article in 1907, because of its extraordinary level of preservation on both the inside and outside. In 1916, it was sold to Daniel R. Kennedy, Jr., the pastor of the Congregational Church, and he was still living here a couple decades later when the first photo was taken. Very little has changed in the appearance of the house, and it is now owned by Suffield Academy and used as the residence of the headmaster.

Harvey Bissell House, Suffield, Connecticut

The house at 82 North Main Street in Suffield, around 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

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The house in 2017:

Harvey Bissell was originally from Windsor, but around 1815 he built this house in the center of Suffield. It features Federal-style elements that were often seen in upscale homes of the day, including the ornate lintels over the windows, the quoins on the corners, and the Palladian window above the front door. The house also once had a two-story front porch, as seen in the first photo, although it is unclear whether this was an original part of the design. This porch as gone by 1939, when the house was photographed for HABS.

A year after the completion of the house, Harvey Bissell married Arabella Leavitt, and the couple had six children, one of whom died young. He was a storekeeper here in Suffield, but he and his family later moved to Hartford, Vermont. The 1850 census lists him as a farmer, with real estate valued at $40,000, equivalent to over $1.1 million today. He died that same year at the age of 63, and Arabella later moved to Lawrence, Kansas with several of her children.

Now over 200 years old, the house has undergone significant changes in recent years. In 2011, a large addition was built in the back of the original building and became Suffield Commons, a luxury apartment complex for seniors. The architecture of the addition matches the Bissell House, and the original 1815 section has been renovated into a restaurant.

Ebenezer Gay Manse, Suffield, Connecticut

The Ebenezer Gay Manse on North Main Street in Suffield, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

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The house in 2017:

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Ebenezer Gay was 23 years old when he was ordained as the pastor of the church in Suffield in 1742. The Hingham, Massachusetts native had recently graduated from Harvard, and he arrived in the midst of the Great Awakening, which was already sweeping across New England and had resulted in a number of revivals here in Suffield. That same year, he married Hannah Angier, and the following year they moved into this elegant, gambrel-roofed Georgian home in the center of town.

At the time, it was not uncommon for pastors to be hired directly out of college and remain in the same church for the rest of his life. Ebenezer Gay was no exception, and served here for 54 years, until his death in 1796. Towards the end of his ministry, his son, Ebenezer Gay, Jr., became the assistant pastor, and took over the full duties upon his father’s death. Like his father, the younger Ebenezer lived in this house. He also had a remarkable tenure as the pastor here, serving until his death in 1837, for a total of 95 years between father and son.

When the first photo was taken, the house was already about 200 years old, and its historical significance was well-recognized. It was owned by the Suffield School for Boys, which would become Suffield Academy. At the time, it was vacant, but would eventually be put to use as faculty housing for the school. It is still used for the same purpose, and in the early 2000s it was repaired and restored to its original appearance. Along with the other buildings in the area, it is part of the Suffield Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Second Baptist Church, Suffield, Connecticut (2)

Another view of the Second Baptist Church, taken around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

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The church in 2017:

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The first photo was taken as part of a Works Progress Administration program to document historic buildings in Connecticut. Around 100 years old at the time, the Second Baptist Church was among those photographed in Suffield’s historic town center. As mentioned in more detail in the previous post, the congregation was established in 1805 by members of the First Baptist Church. The current building was completed in 1840, and has remained in use ever since.

The church is now nearly twice as old as it was when the first photo was taken, but its exterior has seen little change. The only significant difference is the loss of the parsonage on the extreme right, which was demolished in the 1950s to build a new wing of the church. Along with many other historic buildings in the center of Suffield, the church is a contributing property in the Suffield Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.