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.

Deacon John Moore House, Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 37 Elm Street in Windsor, around 1938-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

The town of Windsor is, arguably, the oldest in Connecticut, and it has no shortage of historic houses. Some of the oldest houses in the state are located here in Windsor, and this house is among the oldest, dating back to around 1664. It has been moved several times and considerably altered over the years, with very little of the original material surviving except for the frame itself, but it still stands as a rare example of post-Medieval architecture in the Connecticut River Valley.

This house was built for John Moore, one of the early settlers of Windsor and a leading citizen here. He and his father, Thomas Moore, had immigrated to America in 1630 and settled in Dorchester, where they lived until 1639, when they moved to the newly-established town of Windsor, located along the banks of the Connecticut River. Here, they joined a number of other Massachusetts expatriates in the new colony, and John soon rose to prominence. He was elected to represent the town in the General Court in 1643, and in 1651 he was ordained as a deacon in the town’s church.

When John Moore built this house around 1664, it was located near here at the corner of Broad and Elm, facing east at the town green. He lived there for the rest of his life, until his death in 1677, and the house remained in his family for several more generations. His only son, John Moore Jr., inherited the house, and subsequently gave it to his son Thomas, who was living here by the 1690s.

The house stood at its original location on Broad Street until around 1805, when it was purchased by William Loomis. He moved it a short distance and attached it to a new house that he had built, with the old Moore house becoming a wing for the kitchen. The conjoined homes were later used as an inn, and they stood attached for nearly a century. At this point, though, the historical significance of the Moore house was already recognized, and it was mentioned in Henry Reed Stiles’s 1859 book The History of Ancient Windsor, Connecticut. In the book, he writes that the house “was in its day, and even within the recollection of some now living, a fine house, but is now degraded to the humble office of a kitchen to a more modern house which occupies its original site.”

This arrangement continued until 1897, when Horace Clark purchased the property. He separated the two houses and moved them around the corner onto Elm Street, where they were situated on adjacent lots on the south side of the street. The Moore house was heavily modified during this time, including the removal of the original central chimney and the addition of a large front porch, along with significant interior alterations.

After the 1897 move, the house was still facing east, with the front facade perpendicular to Elm Street. However, in 1938 the house underwent another renovation, which included the removal of the front porch and the 1890s chimneys. As part of this renovation, the house was also rotated on the lot, so that the front faced north toward Elm Street. The first photo was taken shortly after this work was done, and at this point almost nothing was left of the original house besides the frame. Remarkably, though, three of the seemingly-delicate pendants beneath the front overhang are original to the house. Only the one on the far right is a modern replica, with the original having been removed when that side of the house was joined with the Loomis House. Additionally, two ornamental brackets under the left gable are also original, although they are not visible from this angle.

Nearly 80 years after the first photo was taken, very little has changed in this scene. The Loomis house still stands on the adjacent lot, where it is partially visible on the left side of both photos, and the Moore house, now over 350 years old, stands as one of the oldest surviving houses in New England. Because of this, and despite the significant changes over the years, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

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.