Oliver W. Mills House, Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 148 Deerfield Road in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

This brick, Federal-style house was built in 1824, and was originally the home of Oliver W. Mills, who built it shortly before his 1825 marriage to Anna Phelps. Mills was a farmer, but he was also a brickmaker, and he produced the bricks that were used in the construction of his house. His was one of many small-scale brickworks that operated in Windsor during the first half of the 19th century, and by 1850 Mills employed three workers and produced 300,000 bricks per year. He and Anna went on to live here for the rest of their lives, and they had five children: Oliver, Helen, Mary, Alfred, and Arthur.

The younger Oliver inherited this house after his father’s death in 1866, and during the 1870 census he was living here with his mother, plus his wife Sarah and their two young children, Annie and Oliver. He was listed as a farmer, with real estate valued at $11,400 and a personal estate of $2,085, for a net worth of over $250,000 in today’s dollars. The subsequent census, in 1880, provides a more detailed account of the farm’s productivity, which included eight acres of tilled land, 22 acres of pastureland and orchards, and 100 acres of woodland. In 1879, the farm had a diversified output that included 400 pounds of butter, 800 dozen eggs, 100 bushels of corn, 30 bushels of rye, 200 bushels of potatoes, and 4,000 pounds of tobacco.

Sarah died in 1899, and Oliver in 1901, but the house would remain in the family for many more years. His son Oliver inherited the property, and lived here with his wife Catherine and their daughter Marguerite. Like his predecessors, he ran a farm here, but he also worked for many years for the National Biscuit Company, the company known today as Nabisco. Marguerite became a kindergarten teacher, and was later involved in a number of community organizations, ranging from the Windsor Historical Society to the Garden Club of Windsor. She and her parents were still living here when the first photo was taken, but Oliver died soon after, in 1943. Catherine died 10 years later, and Marguerite remained here as the fourth and last generation of the Mills family to live here, owning the house until her death in 1985.

Today, most of the former Mills farm has been developed. Logans Way, a short cul-de-sac, is now located directly behind the house, with an industrial development further in the distance. Just to the left of the house, high voltage power lines now cross the property. However, the house itself is still standing, and remains an excellent example of brick, Federal-style architecture. Very little has changed in its appearance since the first photo was taken about 80 years ago, and the house is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Bissell Tavern, Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 1022 Palisado Avenue in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in the early 1790s for Ebenezer Fitch Bissell, Sr. and his wife Esther. They were in their late 50s at the time, and Ebenezer was a veteran of the American Revolution. In April 1775, he and a number of other Windsor men marched in response to the Lexington Alarm, and later in the year he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 8th Connecticut Regiment. In 1776, this regiment became the 17th Continental Infantry, and Bissell was promoted to captain, serving until he was taken prisoner during the Battle of Long Island in August, 1776. Many American soldiers died in the appalling conditions of makeshift British prisons in New York City, but Bissell survived, and continued serving in the Continental Army after his release.

Ebenezer lived in this house until his death in 1814, and his wife Esther appears to have died around the same time. Their oldest son, Ebenezer, Jr., inherited the house, and operated it as a tavern. The house was located on the main route from Hartford to Springfield, so it was an ideal location for a tavern to serve the stagecoach travelers who passed through here. Variously known as Bissell Tavern and Bissell’s Stage House, the tavern was identified by a sign that featured portraits of Oliver Hazard Perry and James Lawrence, two naval heroes of the War of 1812. Ebenezer opened the tavern about a year after the end of the war, and by the early 1820s it was being run by his son, Fitch Bissell. He operated the tavern until about 1833, a few years before railroads would make the old stagecoach routes obsolete.

Although it does not appear to have been used as a tavern beyond 1833, the house remained in the Bissell family until 1841, a few years after Ebenezer’s death. For the rest of the 19th century, the property passed back and forth between the Bissell and Hayden families several times, but the house remained essentially unchanged on the exterior. By the time the first photo was taken, the house was owned by produce farmer Paul Kazanowski, and was listed as being only in “fair” condition in the WPA Architectural Survey. However, the house was subsequently restored, and today still it does not look much different from how it looked two centuries ago, when stagecoaches would stop here. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it stands as the only surviving early 19th century tavern in Windsor.

130 Hayden Station Road, Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 130 Hayden Station Road in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

The origins of this house are somewhat of a mystery, although it appears to date back to about 1760. It is several years older than the much larger Captain Nathaniel Hayden House on the right side of the photo, although both houses have matching brick, Georgian-style architecture. Nathaniel Hayden owned both houses, and there are several theories as to what this small cottage was originally used for. One possibility is that it was Hayden lived here for a few years before his larger house was completed in 1763, but a more probable explanation is that this cottage was used as his shop for his shoemaking business.

Like the larger house on the property, this cottage remained in the Hayden family for many years. Nathaniel’s grandson, Samuel Hayden, owned the property until his death in 1900. His only child, Lucretia, appears to have owned it until her death in 1918, but by the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, the property was no longer in the Hayden family. However, very little has changed in this scene, and both buildings are still well-preserved, more than 250 years after they were built. Because of this, both the house and cottage were individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Captain Nathaniel Hayden House, Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 128 Hayden Station Road in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

Brick colonial houses are not particularly common in rural New England, but the town of Windsor has an unusual number of such homes that are still standing. This particular house was built around 1763 by Nathaniel Hayden, whose great-great grandfather William Hayden had settled in this area of Windsor more than a century earlier. Nathaniel had grown up across the street from here in his father’s house, but when he was 24 he married Anna Filer, and the couple moved into this new house around the same time.

Like his father, Nathaniel was a farmer, shoemaker, and tanner, but he also served as a captain in the town militia. At the start of the American Revolution, he led a group of 23 Windsor men who marched out following the Lexington Alarm, and he later served as a captain in the Continental Army, where he participated in the Battle of Long Island. However, tragedy struck the Hayden family in early 1776, when Nathaniel’s wife Anna died, at the age of 35.

Two years after Anna’s death, Nathaniel remarried to Rhoda Lyman. He had no children from his first marriage, but he and Rhoda had four children together: Nancy, Nathaniel, Naomi, and Pliney. Nathaniel lived here until his death in 1795, at the age of 57, but the house would remain in his family for many years. Rhoda outlived her husband by nearly 40 years, and lived here along with the younger Nathaniel and his wife Lucretia, whom he married in 1808.

Nathaniel and Lucretia had five children, all sons, who grew up here in this house. Two of their sons, Nathaniel and George, moved out of this house after their marriages, but remained in the Windsor area. Two others, Edward and Uriah, traveled to California in 1849, seeking their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Like most of their fellow Forty-Niners, though, they only had moderate success. Edward would remain in California, but Uriah eventually returned east, where he lived in New York state.

Of the five sons, only the youngest, Samuel, remained here in the family house. He was only nine years old when his mother Lucretia died in 1831, but he lived here with his father and his uncle Pliney, eventually caring for both men in their old age. He married his wife, Sarah L. Halsey, in 1849, and they had one child, Lucretia, who was born in 1851 and named for her grandmother. Nathaniel died in 1864 at the age of 83, and Pliney lived here until his death 11 years later at the age of 89, after having been blind for the last few years of his life.

Lucretia married in the early 1870s, but was widowed at a young age, and by the 1880 census she was living here in this house with her parents. Samuel would remain here in this house until his death in 1900, and his wife Sarah died eight years later. Lucretia appears to have continued to live here for the next decade, until her death in 1918. She had no children, so her death marked the end of over 150 years and four consecutive generations of ownership by the Hayden family.

By the time the first photo was taken around the late 1930s, the house was owned by Willard Drake, a mason whose property also included the neighboring John Hayden House. At the time, it was already recognized as a historically-significant home, and very little has changed in this scene since then. Now over 250 years old, the Nathaniel Hayden House still stands as a good example of a brick, Georgian-style home, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

John Hayden House, Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 160 Hayden Station Road in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

This house was built around 1770 for John Hayden, one of the many members of the Hayden family who lived here in the village of Haydens, located just to the north of the center of Windsor. The main road through here, present-day Hayden Station Road, was once the main road from Windsor to Suffield and points north, and this area was settled in the 1640s by William Hayden. His family would go on to live here for many generations, giving the village its name and building a number of fine colonial houses that still stand today.

John Hayden was the great-great grandson of William Hayden, and was about 20 years old when he built this house. At the time, according to family genealogist Jabez Haskell Hayden in Records of the Connecticut Line of the Hayden Family, John was engaged to Margaret Strong, and this house was to be their home after their wedding. Margaret even participated in a traditional ceremony during the construction, in which the bride-to-be hammered in one of the pins of the house frame. However, according to family tradition, an “unfortunate episode” occurred, and on the night after this event she broke off the engagement.

Margaret went on to marry John’s second cousin, Levi Hayden, in 1772, and about two years later he purchased this house from John, who had, by this point, married Anna Trumbull of East Windsor. A few years later, Levi served in the American Revolution, enlisting as a private in the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons regiment. After the war, he took an active role in town government, including representing Windsor in the state legislature. He and Margaret raised 11 children here in this house, and they went on to live here until Margaret’s death in 1812, at the age of 62.

Levi later remarried to Mary Kent, a widow from Suffield, and he appears to have moved out of this house at some point after Margaret’s death. However, the house would remain in his extended family for many years, and by the late 1800s it was owned by his great-nephew, Samuel Hayden. He lived in the large brick house next door, and rented this house to tenants. It may have been at this point that the house was divided into two units, as seen in the first photograph with the two front doors.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house had been altered from its original colonial-era appearance. Aside from the two front doors, other alterations included the small front porch, as well as the shingled exterior. On the inside, most of the house had been remodeled, although the notes accompanying the photograph indicate that there was still some of the original paneling left in the building. Since then, however, some of the exterior changes have been undone, including the removal of the porch and restoration of a single front door, and today the house looks more historically accurate than it did 80 years ago.

Windsor Grist & Saw Mill, Windsor, Connecticut

The old mill at the corner of Poquonock Avenue and East Street in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The building in 2017:

According to some historical records, this mill building dates back to 1640, when it was established as perhaps the first grist mill in Connecticut. In reality, the present building was built several centuries later, although this site along the Mill Brook was indeed the location of an early grist mill. It was owned by the town’s first minister, John Warham, and was evidently a sort of employment benefit for him. Like most grist mills of the era, farmers did not directly pay the miller for his services; instead, he was entitled to keep a portion of all the flour that was ground at the mill. Here, Reverend Warham, as the mill owner, was also compensated, receiving one-sixteenth of the ground flour.

The original mill building stood for well over 200 years, and was still used as a grist mill until 1862, when the property was purchased by Earl Simons. He demolished the old building and constructed the current mill, with some accounts suggesting that he may have incorporated some of the old mill’s frame into the new one. Like the old one, it was used as a grist mill, and was powered by a water wheel on the Mill Brook. The subsequent owner, Charles F. Lewis, made some changes after purchasing the property in 1878, rebuilding the mill dam and adding a sawmill to the building. Then, in 1916, his son, Charles T. Lewis, brought 20th century technology to the mill, replacing the old water wheel with a modern electric motor.

The mill remained in the Lewis family for nearly 50 years, until it was finally sold in 1924. Under the new owners, Farmers Grain & Supply Company, the mill became a hardware store in addition to its grain business, and the company still owned the property when the first photo was taken around the late 1930s. The building remained in use as a hardware store through several more ownership changes, and the exterior was significantly modified in the mid-20th century. Shortly after the first photo was taken, the building was expanded with a two-story brick addition on the right side, and by the early 1950s the cupola had been removed and plate glass windows were added to the left side of the first floor.

The hardware store remained in business until very recently, although it had closed by the time the first photo was taken in the spring of 2017. However, the building itself is still standing, and although it is not nearly as old as the nearby historical marker claims, it has become historic in its own right as a surviving example of a mid-19th century grist mill. And, perhaps, some of the timbers from the 1640 mill are still buried within the walls of the building, as relics from the first years of Connecticut’s existence.

For more information on this mill, along with additional photographs, see this article on the Windsor Historical Society website.