Henry B. Norton was one of the most prominent businessmen in Norwich in the nineteenth century. Born in Branford, he arrived in Norwich as a penniless young man in 1824, eventually forming a merchant partnership with Joseph Backus in 1827. Norton rose to leadership of the Norton Brothers Grocery store, the Norwich Bleaching, Dyeing and Printing Company, the Norwich & New York Transportation Company (he owned shares in steam ships) and the Attawaugan Mill, which manufactured cotton cloth. He was also a founding trustee of the Norwich Free Academy and the Norwich Y.M.C.A. His Greek Revival house, at 188 Washington Street, was built in 1840. After his death his death in 1891, his two unmarried daughters continued to live in the house into the twentieth century. In recent years, the house has been restored.
The house at 242 Broadway in Norwich was built c. 1865. It was once the home of James Lanman Hubbard (1832-1890), a wealthy paper manufacturer and director of the Thames National Bank. His sister Marianna was married to the manufacturer John Fox Slater. James L. Hubbard married Charlotte Peck Learned in 1854. They moved to the house at 242 Broadway in 1869/1870. It was later the home of their son, Charles Learned Hubbard (1855-1918), who was by 1910 the wealthiest man in Norwich. By that time, he had already sold the house at 242 Broadway to John Porteous, who was the president of the Hislop, Porteous and Mitchell dry goods store.
In 1760, Eleazar Lord, Sr. deeded an acre of land at what is now 86 Town Street in Norwich to his son, Eleazar Lord, Jr., who proceeded to build a tavern (c. 1760-1770). Lord’s Tavern was also called the Compass House because it faces due north. The tavern popular with lawyers, who came to attend session at the court house which was located across the street. The tavern’s hooded entryway is a nineteenth-century addition. At various times, the ell of the building was used as a post office. Lord’s Tavern was in danger of being torn down in 1972. After a lengthy court battle, the building became the first purchase of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation in 1976. Today the restored building is used for offices.
Dr. Joshua Lathrop (1723-1807) graduated from Yale in 1743 and joined his older brother, Dr. Daniel Lathrop, in Norwich, where they opened the first drug store (apothecary), in Connecticut. As explained by Frances Manwaring Caulkins in her History of Norwich (1866), soon after graduating, he
went to Europe, where he prosecuted his medical studies in London. On his return, after an absence of several years, he brought with him a large quantity of medicines, as well as various other merchantable goods, and established himself in business in his native place. His shop was on the main street, near his family residence.
Dr. Lathrop furnished a part of the surgical stores to the northern army in the French war. He often received orders from New York. His drugs were always of the best kind, well prepared, packed and forwarded in the neatest manner. This was the only apotliecary’s establishment on the route from New York to Boston, and of course Dr. Lathrop had a great run of custom, often filling orders sent from the distance of a hundred miles in various directions.
Indeed, I think I see now his small, well knit, perfectly erect form, his mild, benevolent brow, surmounted by the large round white wig, with its depth of curls, the three-cornered smartly cocked hat, the nicely plaited stock, the rich silver buckles at knee and shoe, the long waistcoat, and fair ruffles over hand and bosom, which marked the gentleman of the old school; and he never yielded to modern innovation. A large oil portrait of him, in this costume, with one of his beautiful wife, courteously presenting him a plentiful dish of yellow peaches, adorned their best parlor, covered with green moreen curtains, at which I gazed when a little child with eyes dilated, as on the wonders of the Vatican.
He was a man of the most regular and temperate habits, fond of relieving the poor in secret, and faithful in all the requisitions of piety. He was persevering to very advanced age in taking exercise in the open air, and especially in daily equestrian excursions, withheld only by very inclement weather. At eighty-four, he might be seen, mounted upon his noble, lustrous black horse, readily urged to an easy canter, his servant a little in the rear. Continual rides in that varied and romantic region were so full of suggestive thought to his religious mind, that he was led to construct a nice juvenile book on the works of nature, and of nature’s God. Being in dialogue form, it was entitled “The Father and Son;” and we, younglings, received a copy with great gratitude from the kind-hearted author. It was stitched in coarse flowered paper, and sometimes presented as a Thanksgiving gift to the children of his acquaintance, or any whom he might chance to meet in the streets. How well I recollect his elastic step in walking, his agility in mounting or dismounting his steed, and that calm, happy temperament, which, after he was an octogenarian, made him a model for men in their prime.
In 1763, Joshua Lothrop had a house built at 377 Washington Street in Norwich, across the street from his brother’s home. Benedict Arnold may have stayed in the house when he was an apprentice to the Lathrop brothers.
In 1738 Jabez Lathrop sold his family‘s property in Norwich to Captain Joshua Huntington (1698-1745), a prominent merchant. This land probably included the house that exists today at 19 East Town Street, which Huntington proceeded to enlarge. As related in by Mary E. Perkins in Old Houses of the Antient Town of Norwich (1895):
The house, now owned by Mrs. John White, is said to have been built by Joshua Huntington, about 1740. As a large price was paid for this property, and the house has many features which seem to indicate an earlier origin than 1740, it is possible, that, instead of destroying or removing the old Lathrop mansion, Joshua may have altered and remodeled it, but of this we have have no positive proof.
Capt. Joshua Huntington gave his earlier house, at 16 Huntington Lane, to his son Jabez Huntington. The house at 19 East Town Street was later extensively remodeled: the prominent gable on the front facade was added after 1895 (when the book by Perkins was published).
Sarah Kemble Knight (1666-1727) was a colonial-era teacher and businesswoman. She is best known for the diary she kept of a journey from Boston to New York City in 1704 (pdf). Born in Boston, she came to Norwich in 1698 and was a storekeeper and innkeeper. Sarah Knight later returned to Boston but came back to Norwich in 1717. A two-handled silver communion cup that she gave to the Church of Christ in Norwich in 1722 is now at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The tavern she operated in Norwich was built c. 1698-1717. It was enlarged by Andre Richards in 1734. A later innkeeper was Joseph Peck (1706-1776), who purchased the building from Capt. Philip Turner around 1754. As related by Mary Elizabeth Perkins in Old Houses of the Antient Town of Norwich (1895):
This inn was one of the three celebrated taverns on the Green, and some old people still remember the large old elm which stood in front of the house, among the boughs of which was built a platform or arbor, approached by a wooden walk from one of the upper windows. From this high station, the orators of the day held forth on public occasions, and here tables were set, and refreshments served.
On June 7, 1767, a notable celebration took place at Peck’s Tavern to celebrate the election of John Wilkes to Parliament. In front of the building, which is located at 8 Elm Avenue, is a cast iron fence, erected in the late nineteenth century.
Thomas Danforth was a noted pewterer. He produced a variety of pewter tableware and was the first of several generations of pewterers. Born in 1703 in Taunton, Massachusetts, Thomas Danforth was one of fourteen children of Rev. Samuel Danforth, the town’s Congregational minister. Thomas moved to Norwich in 1733 and opened a pewterer’s and brazier’s shop on the Norwichtown Green. Two of his sons, Thomas II and John, also became pewterers. Thomas II set up shop in Middletown and became the father of six more pewterers. John worked with his father until the latter retired in 1773, when the firm of Thomas Danforth & Son was dissolved (Thomas I died in 1786). John‘s son Samuel later took over his business in 1792, finally selling it in 1802 and moving to Ellsworth, Ohio. Thomas Danforth I’s Norwich home was the house at 25 Scotland Road. It was built in 1746.