Oliver Ellsworth Homestead, Windsor, Connecticut (2)

The Oliver Ellsworth Homestead at 778 Palisado Avenue in Windsor, around 1900. Image from Connecticut Magazine, Volume VI.

The house in 2023:

As explained in an earlier post, this house was the home of Oliver Ellsworth, a prominent Connecticut politician in the post-Revolution era. The main part of the house was built in 1781, but it was later expanded in 1788 with an addition on the right side, and later in the 19th century with the addition of the columns and porch on the right side. The house is located on the east side of Palisado Avenue in the northeastern part of modern-day Windsor, a few hundred yards to the west of the Connecticut River.

Oliver Ellsworth was born in Windsor in 1745, and he grew up in an earlier house on this site. As a young man he attended Yale and the College of New Jersey (modern-day Princeton), and after graduation he became a lawyer. In 1772 he married Abigail Wolcott, and they had nine children who were born between 1774 and 1791: Abigail, Oliver, Oliver, Martin, William, Frances, Delia, William, and Henry. Ellsworth inherited the family house in the early 1780s, and the original house was evidently demolished in order to build the current one in 1781, although it is possible that a portion of the old one was incorporated into the newer structure. He named the house Elmwood, and planted 13 elm trees in the front yard, representing the original 13 states.

In the meantime, Oliver Ellsworth became involved in politics during the American Revolution, including serving as a Connecticut delegate to the Continental Congress throughout most of the war. After the war he became a state judge, but in 1787 he was selected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, which drafted the current United States Constitution. There, he worked with fellow Connecticut delegate Roger Sherman to create the Connecticut Compromise, establishing the current bicameral federal legislature with proportional representation in the House and equal representation for each state in the Senate.

Ellsworth had to leave the Philadelphia convention before the Constitution was finished, so he did not sign the final draft of it. However, once the Constitution was ratified, he played several important roles in the new government. He was one of Connecticut’s first two senators, serving from 1789 to 1796, and during this time perhaps his most significant contribution was writing the Judiciary Act of 1789. In the Constitution, the structure of the judicial branch was intentionally left vague, to allow Congress to establish courts as they saw fit. This act set the size of the Supreme Court, and it also established a system of lower federal courts and judicial districts.

The first Chief Justice of the United States was John Jay, who served from 1789 to 1795, when he resigned to become governor of New York. George Washington then nominated John Rutledge as the next Chief Justice, and Rutledge served for a few months as a recess appointment. However, the Senate ultimately rejected his appointment, so Washington instead nominated Ellsworth, who was unanimously approved by the Senate. He became Chief Justice on March 8, 1796, and he served in that role for the next four years. At the time, the Supreme Court was not generally seen as being anywhere near as important as the other two branches of the federal government, so there were no landmark cases during Ellsworth’s time, although he did institute the practice of justices issuing a single majority opinion, rather than each justice writing an individual opinion.

In 1799, while Ellsworth was still serving as Chief Justice, President John Adams sent him to France as an envoy, where he negotiated with Napoleon in order to prevent war between the two countries. However, the trip to Europe left Ellsworth in poor health, and he ultimately retired from the court in December 1800. This decision would prove to have far-reaching effects; it came in the closing months of Adams’s presidency, after he had already been defeated for re-election by Thomas Jefferson. However, Adams was still president until March 1801, and as such he nominated John Marshall as Ellsworth’s replacement. Confirmed by the Senate in 1801, Marshall would go on to serve as Chief Justice for the next 34 years, where he played a crucial role in establishing key precedents and upholding Federalist ideals, long after the Federalist party itself had faded into obscurity. Had Ellsworth not retired when he did, his successor would likely have been someone appointed by Thomas Jefferson, which would likely have radically altered the course of American history.

This house remained Oliver Ellsworth’s home throughout his political career, and during this time he entertained visitors such as George Washington and John Adams. Washington’s visit came on October 21, 1789, when he stopped here during his tour of the New England states. He spent an hour here on his way from Hartford to Springfield, writing in his diary:

By promise I was to have Breakfasted at Mr. Ellsworths at Windsor on my way to Springfield, but the Morning proving very wet and the rain not ceasing till past 10 Oclock I did not set out till half after that hour; I called however on Mr. Ellsworth and stay’d there near an hour.

A decade later, on October 3, 1799, John Adams became the second sitting president to visit this house. This occurred exactly a month before Ellsworth departed for France, so it seems likely that much of their visit involved conversation about diplomatic issues and the potential for war with France.

Following his return to America and his retirement from the Supreme Court, Ellsworth came back here to his home in Windsor, where he lived for the rest of his life, until his death in 1807 at the age of 62. The house would remain in his family for nearly a century after his death, and it was still owned by his descendants when the first photo was taken around 1900.

The first photo shows several exterior alterations that had occurred during the 19th century, including the columns and portico on the right side, along with exterior shutters on the windows. Overall, though, it still looked much the same as it did when Oliver Ellsworth lived here a century earlier. There were also many large elm trees in the front yard in the first photo, which were likely the same ones that Ellsworth had planted here.

In 1903, shortly after the first photo was taken, the Ellsworth family donated the house to the Connecticut chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. It was then preserved as a museum, and over the years it has seen few exterior changes, aside from removing the exterior shutters. The elm trees that Ellsworth had planted are now long gone, having probably fallen victim to Dutch Elm Disease in the early 20th century, but the house itself still stands as an important Connecticut landmark. It is still owned by the DAR, and it is open periodically for public tours.

Medlicott House, Longmeadow, Massachusetts (2)

The house at 720 Longmeadow Street in Longmeadow, on November 4, 1916. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Paesiello Emerson Collection.

The scene in 2023:

As explained in more detail in the previous post, this house was evidently built sometime in the early 19th century. It was originally the home of Calvin and Experience Burt, but in 1851 it was purchased by William G. Medlicott, a woolen manufacturer who lived here until his death in 1883. During this time, he made substantial renovations to the house, including adding the porch and Mansard roof, both of which significantly altered the original Federal-stye architecture of the house.

His son, William B. Medlicott, subsequently owned the house and lived here until 1917. It was then demolished around 1921, and a around 1927 a new house was built further back on the lot. That new house is still standing, as seen in the distance on the right side of the first photo, but the only surviving remnant from the first photo is the Brewer- Young Mansion, which is visible on the left side of both photos.


Medlicott House, Longmeadow, Massachusetts

The house at 720 Longmeadow Street in Longmeadow, on August 10, 1909. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Paesiello Emerson Collection.

The scene in 2023:

The house in the first photo was built as the home of Calvin and Experience Burt, although the exact date of construction seems unclear. Some sources cite 1786, which would be about two years after their marriage. However, contemporary newspaper accounts indicate that the Longmeadow home of Calvin Burt was “entirely consumed” by an accidental fire in 1814. Assuming this is the same Calvin Burt, that would indicate that the house in the first photo was not the same one that was built in 1786, unless there was enough of the structure of the house that survived and enabled it to be restored.

However, despite this apparent discrepancy in construction dates, the house was definitely the home of the Burt family. Calvin was a merchant, and in 1805 he built a store just a little to the south of here, which still stands on Longmeadow Street. He and Experience had nine children, who were born between 1785 and 1801. The couple would live here for the rest of their lives, until Experience’s death in 1833 and Calvin’ s death in 1848.

The next owner of this house was William G. Medlicott, who purchased it in 1851. Originally from England, Medlicott was the son of a shipping merchant. He became a sailor, but made a rather inadvertent arrival in America as a young man when he was shipwrecked on Long Island. He subsequently shifted his efforts to industry, eventually becoming a woolen manufacturer in Enfield and Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

William Medlicott was about 35 years old when he purchased this house. He had married his first wife, Marianne Dean, in New York in 1842. However, she evidently died at some point afterwards, because in 1854 he married his second wife, Eliza. The 1855 state census shows William and Eliza living here with four children. The three oldest—Arthur, Mary, and Agnes—were presumably from his first marriage, but the youngest child—three-month-old Bertha—was from his second marriage.

It was during Medlicott’s ownership that he significantly altered the exterior of the appearance, in keeping with changing architectural tastes. This work occurred around the mid-1860s, and included the addition of a front porch, a Mansard roof, and a two-story bay window on the left side of the house. The result was an architectural hybrid that combined the original Federal-style house with newer Italianate and Second Empire features.

Aside from his industrial pursuits, Medlicott was also a rare book collector, specializing in Anglo Saxon and early English literature. He eventually amassed one of the world’s most extensive collections in these fields, with about 20,000 volumes in his library. He made the books available to researchers, many of whom traveled to his home here in Longmeadow to study these works. Medlicott experienced a financial setback in 1876, and he had to sell a large portion of his collection. However, he retained about 13,000 works, and he continued to live here until his death in 1883.

By the time the first photo was taken in 1909, the house was still owned by the Medlicott family. According to the 1910 census there were 12 people living here. These included the homeowner, William B. Medlicott, who was the son of William G. Medlicott. He lived here with his wife Grace and their six children: William, Grace, Arthur, Alexander, Robert, and Harriet. William’s older sisters Bertha and Mary also lived here, as did Irish-born servants Annie Flynn and Julia Devaney.

William B. Medlicott worked as an insurance agent, and in 1917 he moved to Cambridge to accept a position at a Boston-based firm. That same year, he sold his Longmeadow house to Stanford L. Haynes, who lived in a neighboring house directly to the north of here. He owned it until his death in 1921, and his heirs subsequently sold the former Medlicott house, which was then demolished.

A 1921 article in the Springfield Republican reported the concerns that many residents had about the demolition of this house, noting how “[t]his town is in danger of losing some of its identity by the removal of so many old landmarks. The tearing down of the Medlicott house is the cause of much regret, at least to older residents.” Despite this concern, though, the house was demolished, and it was later replaced by a new house that is set further back from the road. The new house was built around 1927, and it is partially visible beyond the trees on the left side of the scene.

Today, more than a century after the Republican suggested that the town might be losing some of its identity, many of the old homes are still standing here on Longmeadow Street. The town has grown significantly since the 1920s, and is now a busy suburb of Springfield, but Longmeadow Street has maintained much of its colonial-era identity, including a number of historic homes that still line the street. These houses are now protected as part of the Longmeadow Historic District, which restricts exterior changes to homes along the Longmeadow Green.

Calvin Cooley House, Longmeadow, Massachusetts

The house at the corner of Longmeadow Street and Cooley Drive in Longmeadow, on June 12, 1910. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Paesiello Emerson Collection.

The house in 2023:

This house is one of a number of homes in this part of Longmeadow that were once owned by the Cooley family. It was built in 1827 as the home of Calvin Cooley, and it would remain in his family for well over a century afterwards. It still stands today as a good example of Federal-style architecture, and it stands out as one of the few brick homes in Longmeadow from this time period.

Calvin Cooley was born in 1765, so he would have been in his early 60s when he built this house. He and his wife Eunice had eight children, although three of them died young. Their surviving children included their oldest son James, who went on to become a diplomat. In 1826, he was appointed as the first US Chargé d’affaires to Peru. He likely never saw this particular house, though, because he traveled to Peru in 1827 and died there a year later from an illness.

Calvin and Eunice both died in the 1840s, and their son Alford subsequently inherited this house. He had married his wife Caroline in 1833, and they had five children who were born between 1835 and 1847. Alford and Caroline both lived here for the rest of their lives, until their deaths in 1889 and 1886, respectively.

Two of Alford and Caroline’s daughters, Martha and Mary, never married, and they lived here in this house for the rest of their lives. The 1900 census shows them here along with farm laborer Patrick White and domestic servant Lucy Shipley. Patrick was 23 at the time and had come to America from Ireland as a child, and Lucy was a 39-year-old African American woman from North Carolina. Given her age and birthplace, she may have been born into slavery and later moved north for greater opportunities.

By the time the first photo was taken in 1910, the property here was still being operated as a farm. As was the case for 18th and early 19th century farmhouses on Longmeadow Street, it was originally located on a long, narrow lot that extended over a third of a mile to the west, to the top of he bluff overlooking the “meadows” that form the floodplain of the Connecticut River. However, by this point change was underway in Longmeadow. It had long been a rural farming community, but its proximity to the rapidly-growing city of Springfield to the north made it a desirable place for commuters, especially once a trolley line opened along Longmeadow Street. By the early 20th century, many of the old farms had already been subdivided into new streets and house lots, and many more would soon follow.

Martha Cooley died in 1927 at the age of 90, and Mary continued to live here until her death a decade later in 1937, when she was just a few months shy of her 90th birthday. Since neither Martha nor Mary ever married or had children, the family home then went to their grand nephew, Noah Saxton Eveleth, who was the grandson of their sister Caroline.

At some point in the mid-20th century, most of the property here was subdivided, and Cooley Drive was laid out behind the house. However, the old house itself was spared, and the Eveleths continued to live here for many years. Noah died in 1971, but his widow Margaret lived here until her death in 1984. The house was subsequently sold, ending more than 150 years of ownership by the same family.

Today, this house still stands as one of the many historic homes that line Longmeadow Street. And, if anything, it is actually more historically accurate now than it was in 1910, since the metal roof from the first photo has been replaced with slate. Because of its historic and architectural significance, the house is now a contributing property in the Longmeadow Street–North Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

South Parlor, Josiah Cooley House, Longmeadow, Massachusetts (4)

A self portrait of photographer Paesiello Emerson, in the south parlor of his house in Longmeadow, in June 1916. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Paesiello Emerson Collection.

The scene in 2023:

As with the previous post, these two photos show the south parlor of the Josiah Cooley house, a colonial-era home that was built around 1760 on Longmeadow Street in Longmeadow. The subject here in the first photo is Paesiello Emerson, an amateur photographer and retired boot manufacturer who moved here to this house in 1907 to live with his half siblings Annie and Henry Emerson.

Paesiello was originally from Hopkinton, but he later moved to Ashland and Spencer. He was a Civil War veteran, serving in the 5th Massachusetts Battery from 1863 to 1865, and he was wounded in battle in 1864, during the Overland Campaign in Virginia. Although his main occupation was as a boot manufacturer, he took up photography as a hobby around 1902, when he was about 70 years old. He continued this after his move to Longmeadow in 1907, eventually taking hundreds of high-quality photographs of the town during the 1910s and 1920s.

The first photo is a self portrait that Paesiello took here in his home. He was 84 years old at the time, but he was still living a very active life. Aside from his photography, he also enjoyed traveling, and in his later years he made long journeys to places like Bermuda, Panama, and California. He also regularly attended Civil War reunions, including one that he traveled to in Fairhaven, Massachusetts in 1927, when he was 95. The previous year, his family had tried to discourage him from attending that year’s reunion because of his advanced age. So, in 1927 he avoided potential confrontations by slipping out of the house without telling anyone. This prompted several missing person articles in newspapers, which expressed concern about his well-being. He successfully attended the event, and found the articles about himself to be amusing, but it proved to be his last reunion, because he died a few months later.

After Paesiello’s death, his sister Annie inherited his collection of photographs. She was the town’s leading historian of her era, and she had done extensive research on many homes in Longmeadow, including this one. Because of this, she likely recognized the historic value of her brother’s images, which captured scenes from the town during the time period when it was transitioning from a rural farming community into a busy suburb of Springfield. She subsequently donated the images, including the one here in this post, to the Longmeadow Historical Society, and they have since been digitized and made available online.

Annie died in 1941, followed by her brother Henry in 1943, and the house was later sold. At some point in the late 1940s or early 1950s it underwent a restoration, as shown in the second photo. This included reinstalling the original wainscoting here in the south parlor, which had been removed and taken upstairs during an early 19th century renovation. The mid-20th century work also involved moving the doorway further to the left. The door itself was removed, and the doorway was widened to about twice the width of a standard door, creating more of an open floor plan between these two rooms. As a result, one of the windows in the back of the house is partially visible on the left side of the scene. This window appears to be one of the original windows in the house, predating the later 6-over-6 windows that were installed in the front part of the house in the 1820s or 1830s.

South Parlor, Josiah Cooley House, Longmeadow, Massachusetts (3)

The south parlor of the Josiah Cooley House in Longmeadow, probably sometime in the 1910s or 1920s. Photo from author’s collection. Probably photographed by Paesiello Emerson.

The scene in 2023:

These two photos show a view that is nearly identical to the ones in the previous post. But, while the early 20th century photo in that post shows just the room itself, this photo here shows two people seated next to the fireplace. The room here is the south parlor of the Josiah Cooley House, which was built sometime around 1760. As explained in the previous post, the room was remodeled around the 1820s or 1830s, so it looked very different in the first photo than it would have looked during the colonial era.

The two people in the first photo are the homeowner, Annie Emerson, on the left, and her half brother Paesiello Emerson on the right. They are both notable figures in the history of Longmeadow; Annie was the town’s leading historian during the early 20th century, while Paesiello was an amateur photographer. He documented many scenes throughout the town from about 1907 to 1927, during a time when Longmeadow was transitioning from a rural farming community into a suburb of Springfield. Together, Annie’s historical research and Paesiello’s photographic collection form a valuable resource for subsequent Longmeadow historians.

Annie moved into this house in 1872, when her father William Emerson purchased the property. She later attended Westfield Normal School, and worked as a public school teacher, including at the truant school in Springfield. After her retirement in 1915, she had a number of different roles here in Longmeadow. She served as a school committee member, as a Sunday school teacher at the First Church, and she was also a member of the Longmeadow Historical Society, the Longmeadow Women’s Club, and the Longmeadow Cemetery Association. However, she is best remembered for her extensive research into the town’s history, including the history of the many early homes in Longmeadow.

Annie inherited this house after the death of her parents, and by the turn of the 20th century she was living here with her younger brother Henry. Neither she nor Henry ever married, and in 1907 they were joined by their much older half brother, Paesiello. Born in 1832, he was the oldest child from their father’s first marriage. He was originally from Hopkinton, but had subsequently moved to Spencer and Ashland. He married his wife Nancy Hartshorn in 1855, and for much of his life he worked as a boot manufacturer. During the Civil War he joined the Union war effort, enlisting in the 5th Massachusetts Battery in 1863. He was wounded in action by an artillery shell on June 8, 1864 during the Overland Campaign in Virginia, and he had a scar on his hand from this injury for the rest of his life. Despite this wound, he continued to serve throughout the rest of the war.

Paesiello’s wife Nancy died in 1891, and then in 1907 he moved here to his sister’s house in Longmeadow. In the meantime, though, he took up photography as a hobby, starting around 1902 when he was about 70 years old. He would continue his photography for several more decades, and was still taking pictures well into his 90s. He died in 1927, leaving a collection of about 1,500 glass plate negatives, which Annie later donated to the Longmeadow Historical Society. This collection is now available to view online, and it includes many photos of this house. Paesiello may have taken the first photo here in this post as a self portrait, although this particular image does not appear among the negatives in the Longmeadow Historical Society collection.

Annie died in 1941, and her younger brother Henry died two years later. The house was subsequently sold, and around the late 1940s or early 1950s the new owners renovated the interior of the house, including here in the south parlor. As part of this, the colonial-era wainscoting was restored, as shown in the second photo. This wainscoting had been removed as part of the 1820s-1830s renovation, and had been installed in an upstairs room. The subsequent mid-20th century renovation apparently reinstalled the original materials here in this room, although it does not seem clear as to whether all of it is original, or whether some of the panels were modern replicas.

Aside from restoring the wainscoting, this renovation also involved removing the door to the right of the fireplace, which had likely opened into a closet or possibly the basement stairs. This door was reinstalled around the corner in the front entry hall, where it is now used as a closet door beneath the stairs. The other door in the first photo, on the left side of the scene, was also removed. The doorway was shifted further over to the left and widened, creating more of an open floor plan between the south parlor and the back room.

Other changes since the first photo was taken have included the installation of electrical outlets and central air vents. Overall, though, the room is still recognizable from the first photo, and it still has many of its historic features, including the fireplace, the corner posts, and the wide pine floorboards, which were hidden beneath the rugs in the first photo.