Gad Lane Tavern, Suffield, Connecticut

The house at 1007 Halliday Avenue West in Suffield, around 1921. Image from Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of Suffield, Connecticut (1921).

The house in 2017:

Different sources identify this house as having been built in 1726, 1740, or 1744, but either way it is one of the oldest houses in Suffield, and was originally owned by Samuel Lane. Born in Hadley, Massachusetts, Samuel later moved to Suffield, where he married Abigail Hovey in 1709. In 1723, he purchased 23 acres of land here in the northern part of the town, and subsequently built this house at some point over the next two decades. At the time, Suffield was part of Massachusetts, but was part of a border dispute that was eventually resolved in 1749, when the two colonies established the present-day border, about a third of a mile north of Samuel’s house.

Samuel owned this house until 1765 when, a few years before his death, he transferred the property to his grandson, Gad. About 21 years old at the time, Gad’s father Samuel had died in 1748 when Gad was just a few years old. But, as the oldest son of Samuel and Abigail’s oldest son, he inherited the family home, along with 40 acres of land. The house was situated on the main road from Suffield to Westfield, Massachusetts, and for some time Gad operated a tavern in the walk-in basement on the left side of the house. Here, 18th century cattle and sheep drivers could satiate their hunger and thirst at the tavern, while their herds and flocks did the same in the surrounding pastures and at the stream that flows just to the left of the house.

In 1772, Gad married the curiously-named Olive Tree, and the couple had five children: Hosea, Gad, Comfort, Ashbel, and Zebina. However, in 1798 Gad filed for divorce, alleging that Olive had run off with another man and had stolen many of his possessions. A March 19, 1798 notice, published in the Hartford Courant, provides the details of her infidelity, with Gad stating that: “Olive formed an improper connection with one Joſeph Freeman: That ſhe has frequently and privately took and conveyed to ſaid Freeman, the petitioners bonds, obligations, papers, cloathing and other property: That ſaid Olive hath committed adultery with ſaid Freeman — hath eloped from the petitioner and now lives in a ſtate of adultery with ſaid Freeman.”

Gad subsequently remarried to Margaret Ferry, and in 1827 he gave the property to his son Ashbel. He owned the house for 20 years before selling it in 1847, and after changing hands several times the property was purchased by David Allen in 1849. He and his wife Mary went on to live here for nearly 40 years, running a modest farm that, during the 1880 census, consisted of eight acres of tilled land, plus six acres of meadows and orchards, and four acres of woodland. His primary crops were corn, oats, rye, potatoes, and apples, and his property had a total value of $2,500, plus $100 in farm machinery and $150 in livestock.

The Allen family would remain here until 1888, when David sold the property a few years before he and Mary died. The property changed hands several times over the next few decades, and by the time the first photo was taken the house had been significantly altered, including the addition of three dormers. Well into the 20th century, the house lacked modern conveniences such as heat and bathrooms, and by the late 1930s it was owned by Raymond Kent, Sr., a tobacco farmer who used the house as a residence for his field hands. However, in 1942 his son, Raymond Kent, Jr., restored the house, and today it still stands well-preserved as one of the oldest surviving houses in Suffield.

Moses Rowe House, Suffield, Connecticut

The house at 78 South Main Street in Suffield, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

This house in the center of Suffield was built in 1767 as the home of Moses Rowe, who lived here with his wife Huldah and their children. They had been married for about ten years when they moved into this house, and were in their early 30s at the time. There seems to be little information about how long the family lived in this house, but Moses lived in Suffield until his death in 1799, and Huldah died in 1822.

At some point in the first half of the 19th century, probably in the 1830s or 1840s, the exterior of the house was modified from its original colonial appearance, in order to bring it in line with architectural tastes of the Greek Revival era. In particular, this included the pilasters on the corners, the wide entablature, and the front doorway. Along with this, the porches on the left and right sides of the house were also added sometime before the first photo was taken.

The first photo was taken about 80 years ago, but very little has changed in this scene, aside from the fence in the front yard. The house is one of the many 18th and early 19th century homes that line Main Street in Suffield, and it is now part of the Suffield Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

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.

Jonathan Rising House, Suffield, Connecticut

The house at 472 South Main Street in Suffield, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

This house is located at the southern end of South Main Street, right where the road curves to the southeast, toward Windsor Locks. It was built around 1750, and was the home of Jonathan Rising, Jr., who moved in here shortly after his 1749 marriage to Rebecca Mather. They were both in their early 20s at the time, and together they would have eight children: Rebecca, Jonathan, Eli, Silence, Lucina, Eusebius, Asa, and Apollos. It does not seem clear as to how long the family lived in this house, but Jonathan and Rebecca lived in Suffield until their deaths in the 1790s.

Aside from the fact that Jonathan Rising lived here in 1750, the historical record appears to provide few details about the subsequent history of this house. When the first photo was taken around the late 1930s as part of the WPA Architectural Survey, the house was listed as being just in “fair” condition, but the survey provided few other details about the home. However, it seems to have retained much of its original exterior appearance, and today it is one of the many well-preserved colonial-era homes that form the Suffield Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Captain Jonathan Sheldon House, Suffield, Connecticut

The house at 1321 Sheldon Street in Suffield, Connecticut, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

According to some sources, this saltbox-style house is the oldest in Suffield. There are a few other houses in the town that could be older, but this seems to be the oldest one with a verifiable construction date. It was built in 1723 for Captain Jonathan Sheldon, who moved here from Northampton, Massachusetts after purchasing 1,100 acres of land here in West Suffield. He became a leading resident of Suffield, including serving as a town selectman, and he and Mary had a total of ten children, three of whom were born after their move here.

Captain Sheldon built homes for five of his sons along this road, which came to be known as Sheldon Street. He and Mary lived here for the rest of their lives, until her death in 1768 and his death the following year, and their son Gershom inherited the property. Gershom’s son Ebenezer later owned the house, making him the third and last generation of the Sheldon family to live here. He was a veteran of the American Revolution, serving as the captain of a company of militiamen, and he owned the house until 1800, when he sold it and moved to Ohio.

The next owner was Isaac Owen, another officer from the American Revolution. He was an ensign at the Battle of Saratoga, and was later promoted to captain before the end of the war. Along with this, he represented Suffield in the state legislature in 1781 and 1782. By the time he purchased this house from Ebenezer Sheldon, he and his wife Zerviah were in their mid-60s, and they lived here until their deaths in 1816 and 1817, respectively. Their son Benajah then inherited the property, and he owned it until the 1820s.

The house was already over a century old when Gustavus Austin purchased it around 1829, and after his death in 1855 his son, Thomas Jefferson Austin, inherited the property. During the 1860 census, Thomas was living here with his wife Charlotte, their children Charles and Nellie, and his mother Lydia. The family also employed a farm laborer and a domestic servant, both of whom lived here, and the property was valued at $10,000, plus another $5,000 for Thomas’s personal estate.

Thomas died in 1891, and his son Charles inherited the property. He sold it in 1901, a year after his mother’s death, and in 1904 it was purchased by Christopher Michel, a tobacco farmer who lived here with his wife Eunice and their two children, Frances and Phillip. He and Eunice were still living here more than 30 years later, when the first photo was taken as part of the WPA architectural survey of historic buildings in Connecticut. Despite being over 200 years old at this point, the exterior was still well-preserved, and survey noted that the interior of the house was original, while also describing the house as having a “wonderful setting” that “overlooks valleys and hills.”

About 80 years after the first photo was taken, the setting has not changed much. Overall, the town of Suffield has changed considerably, going from a farming community to an affluent suburb midway between Hartford and Springfield. However, this house still stands as an excellent early 18th century saltbox home, and the property remains an active farm. In 2007, the town purchased the development rights of the 36-acre property, ensuring that this nearly 300-year-old farm continues to be used for agricultural purposes for many more years.

Thaddeus Leavitt Jr. House, Suffield, Connecticut

The house at 281 North Main Street in Suffield, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

Thaddeus Leavitt, Jr. was the son of Thaddeus Leavitt, a prominent merchant and landowner whose own house was located just a short walk to the north of here. Unlike his father’s relatively plain, Colonial-era home, though, the younger Thaddeus’s house reflects the more ornate Federal-style architecture that had come into popularity in the late 1700s. The house was built around 1800, when Thaddeus was just 22 years old, and it is remarkably similar to the Gay Mansion, which was built across the street from here just five years earlier.

In 1801, shortly after the house was completed, Thaddeus married his wife, Jemima Loomis, and they went on to raise their four children here. Like his father, Thaddeus was a merchant with a store in Suffield, and he is also referred to in historic documents with the title of Colonel, so he probably served as an officer in the state militia. However, also like his father, he died relatively young, in 1828 at the age of 50. Jemima outlived him by nearly two decades, until her own death in 1846.

In the meantime, Thaddeus and Jemima’s oldest child, Jane, married Jonathan Hunt, a lawyer in Brattleboro, Vermont. He was the son of former Lieutenant Governor Jonathan Hunt, and he went on to have a successful political career of his own, serving in Congress from 1827 until his death from cholera in 1832. He was only 44 when he died, leaving Jane with five young children.

Three of these children, who were the grandsons of Thaddeus Leavitt Jr., would go on to achieve fame as artists in the second half of the 19th century. Their oldest, William Morris Hunt, studied art in Paris, and became a prominent painter in Boston until his death in 1879. Jane’s third son was Leavitt Hunt, a photographer whose work included some of the earliest known photographs of the Middle East, which were taken in the early 1850s. However,  probably the most notable of Thaddeus Leavitt’s descendants was Jane’s second son, Richard Morris Hunt. He was one of the leading American architects of the late 19th century, and was particularly well-known for designing a number of Gilded Age mansions, including The Breakers in Newport.

At some point, probably in the mid-19th century, Thaddeus Leavitt’s former mansion was renovated, bringing it in line with architectural tastes of the era. It took on a more Italianate-style appearance, with new features such as a cupola on the top of the house. The bay window on the left and the porches on the back part of the house were also probably added during this time, and they can be seen in the first photo, which was taken as part of a WPA survey to document historic architecture in Connecticut.

In the 80 years since the first photo was taken, the house has been restored to a more Federal-style appearance, including the removal of the cupola. The exterior is also painted plain white, as opposed to the multi-color paint scheme that is seen in the first photo. Along with the other nearby homes, it is now part of the Suffield Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.