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.

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.