At 353 Main Street in Cromwell, between the First Congregational Church and the former Baptist Church building, is an Italianate house built around 1853. It was constructed for Rev. C.W. Potter, pastor of the Baptist Church, who had acquired the land to build the church and then built his own house next door. Rev. Potter sold the house when he left Cromwell in 1855.
The former parsonage of the First Congregational Church in Cromwell was constructed in 1834-1835 on Main Street. It was the second of three buildings to be constructed by the Church at the time, following the Academy building of 1834 and preceding the Meeting House of 1840. All three buildings are brick and in the Greek Revival style. The house remained a parsonage until the Church sold it to a private owner in 1965. The house’s Stick style circular side porch is a later addition.
Middletown’s Second or North Ecclesiastical Society was incorporated in 1703 in the community known as “Middletown Upper Houses,” now the Town of Cromwell. A minister was settled in 1715 and the congregation had their first meeting house on Pleasant Street. This was succeeded by a larger second meeting house, built in 1735-1736 on the town green. When Rev. Zebulon Crocker was pastor, the congregation undertook several ambitious building projects, constructing an Academy (1834), Parsonage (1835) and the third meeting house (1840), all designed in the Greek Revival style. The foundation stones of the church were dragged by volunteers across the ice on the Connecticut River from the Portland brownstone quarries. The architecture of the church was influenced by the Greek Revival of the old Middletown Court House, designed by Town and Davis. The upper tier of the steeple was lost in the 1938 hurricane and replaced in 1976.
The Riley-Gridley House was probably built around 1780 by Julius Riley, in Cromwell, at a time when it was a part of Middletown known as “Upper Houses.” Riley sold his house in 1784 to Isaac Gridley, with the stipulation that his two unmarried sisters could live in the house until they married; they never did and remained in the house, both living to be over 100 years old. Isaac Gridley was a graduate of the Yale Class of 1773 and had been a roommate there of Nathan Hale. He bought the house in Cromwell the same year he married Elizabeth, the daughter of Capt. John Smith. From 1855 to 1880, the house was owned by Elizabeth Crocker, the widow of Zebulon Crocker, the former minister at the First Congregational Church of Cromwell.
D. Luther Briggs and Albert J. Briggs were brothers from Sackville, New Brunswick, who came to Cromwell in 1871 and set up D. L. Briggs & Company, a wholesale meat-packing firm which imported western beef by railroad. The company is described, in The Leading Business Men of Middeltown, Portland, Durham and Middlefield (1890), as “dealers in Chicago Dressed Beef, Lamb, Mutton, Pork, Lard. Hams, etc.” D. L. Briggs moved to Middletown (to a house on Washington Street), eventually becoming the mayor (1890-94). Albert Briggs remained in Cromwell, living on Main Street in an 1891 Queen Anne style house, with Stick elements, until his death in 1901. His widow, Eugenia C. Briggs, was in Europe when the First World War started in 1914. 400 American “refugees,” who had gathered in Genoa, found passage home on the steamship Principe Di Udine.
The Edward S. Coe House, on Main Street in Cromwell, was built in 1876. Coe was the son of the Middletown butcher, Samuel Coe. He married Elizabeth Strickland Savage, a daughter of Ralph Bulkely Savage. By 1869, Edward Coe was treasurer for the J. & E. Stevens Company, founded by his uncles, John and Elisha Stevens. He eventually became president of the company (1898-1907). He was also president of the Cromwell Dime Savings Bank and was Cromwell‘s delegate to Connecticut’s 1902 Constitutional Convention. Coe’s house is in the Italianate style, which was favored by other members of the Stevens Family.
Constructed on Main Street in Cromwell in 1834, when it was still part of Middletown, the Upper Middletown Academy served as a private and a public school from 1834 to 1902. It was originally built as an extension of the Ecclesiastical Society, being right across the street from the old Congregational Church. In 1938, the Academy was acquired by the Belden Library Association (which later moved to a new location on West Street). The Greek Revival building, now used as offices, originally had a bell tower which was later removed.