Buttolph-Williams House, Wethersfield, Connecticut

The Buttolph-Williams House on Broad Street in Wethersfield, around 1924. Image from The Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut (1924).

The house in 2024:

This house is one of the oldest surviving homes in Wethersfield, having been constructed around 1711. It is usually referred to as the Buttolph-Williams House, but this name was based on an incorrect assumption about the age of the house. For many years it was believed to have been built in the 1690s by David Buttolph, although subsequent research has shown that it was actually built around 1711 by Benjamin Belden, who later sold the property to Daniel Williams in 1721.

Although built in the early 18th century, this house has many architectural features that were more typical of post-medieval 17th century homes. Among these were the steeply-pitched roof, the overhanging second floor, and the small diamond-paned casement windows. On the interior, the house has a typical hall-and-parlor layout, with two rooms on the first floor that are separated by the large central chimney.

The house was owned by the Williams family for many years, and during this time it underwent some changes and modernizations, including an ell on the back of the house and new sash windows here on the original part of the house, as shown in the top photo around 1924. By this point the overhang of the second floor was hidden by a layer of clapboards, although the overhang beneath the attic on the gable end of the house was still visible.

By the late 19th century the house was owned by James Vibert, a stagecoach driver who was living here during the 1870 census with his wife Mary and their children Sarah, Kate Mary, Frank, and Anna. James’s real estate was valued at $2,500, and his personal estate was valued at $3,000.

Mary Vibert died in 1884, but James outlived her by many years. He resided in this house until his death in 1913, and his children subsequently inherited the house. Kate and Frank were both living in the house when the top photo was taken, and they remained here until their deaths in the 1940s.

The Viberts were the last residents of the house, and the property was then acquired by the Connecticut Antiquarian and Landmarks Society. In the late 1940s it was restored to its original appearance. This included the removal of the rear ell, the installation of new casement windows, and the removal of the clapboards that had covered the second-story overhang.

Today, the house is still owned by the same organization, which is now known as Connecticut Landmarks. It is operated as a museum by the nearby Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum, and it stands as one of the best-preserved First Period house in the Connecticut River Valley. Because of its significance, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1968.

First Church of Christ, Wethersfield, Connecticut

The First Church of Christ in Wethersfield, photographed on July 29, 1940. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

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The church in 2015:

The First Church of Christ in Wethersfield is one of the oldest existing church buildings in the Connecticut River Valley.  Along with Hartford and Windsor, Wethersfield was one of the original three towns in the colony of Connecticut, and today its Old Wethersfield Historic District includes around 100 colonial-era buildings.  The church was built in 1761, and like many New England churches of the era the main entrance is on the side of the building, with the pews facing the left-hand side of the building instead of the back.  Its steeple also reflects mid-18th century tastes, and it is nearly identical to the one on Old North Church in Boston.

Wethersfield is located along two of the three main routes of the old Boston Post Road, which connected New York and Boston, so over the years this church has had several notable visitors, including future presidents George Washington, who attended a service here on May 20, 1781, and John Adams, who climbed the steeple in 1774 while on his way to the First Continental Congress.  Washington’s visit was part of a five day stay in Wethersfield, when he met with French General Rochambeau at the nearby Joseph Webb House to plan the Siege of Yorktown.

At first glance, the church doesn’t appear to have changed much in the past 75 years, but there are a few differences.  In the 1880s, the church was renovated to bring it more in line with Victorian-era styles, which included long stained glass windows that extended almost from the ground to the roofline.  The building is partially hidden by trees in both photos, but some of the windows are visible in the 1940 photo.  In the early 1970s, the tall Victorian windows were removed as part of an extensive restoration that returned the building to its original 1761 appearance, so today the historic church doesn’t look much different from when John Adams stopped by on his way to Philadelphia, or when George Washington planned the final battle of the American Revolution across the street.