A group of buildings surviving from the J & E Stevens Company manufacturing complex can be found on the north side of Nooks Hill Road in Cromwell. The J. & E. Stevens Company was formed in 1843 by brothers John and Elisha Stevens. The company, which operated into the mid-twentieth century, is noted for its manufacture of cast iron toys, especially mechanical iron banks and cap pistols. On the left in the image above, at the corner of Shadow Lane, is the earliest surviving Stevens factory building, a white-painted brick structure, which later served as the main office building (it once had a cupola, since removed). The adjacent brick structures to the right were erected sometime later in the nineteenth century: the Assembly Building (white-painted brick, center) and the Pattern Shop (unpainted brick, right). Across Nooks Hill Road is the factory‘s former 1865 foundry building (not pictured), which has been much added to over the years. Other structures that were part of the complex have since been torn down. The buildings above are now home to Horton Brasses, 49 Nooks Hill Road.
In 1851 John Haskell acquired property from the Bulkeley family on Main Street in Cromwell. He took down the Bulkeley Homestead, built in the mid-eighteenth century by Jonathan Stow, and in 1852 erected an Italianate house on the site (current address: 358 Main Street). Haskell was a joiner and a partner in the lumber firm of Willard and Haskell. It is uncertain that Haskell and his wife, Maria Wilcox Haskell, ever lived in the house. In 1861 he sold it to Rev. Stephen Topliff, a retired Congregational minister who, from 1829-1838, was pastor of the Third Congregational Church, located in the Westfield section of Middletown. The house remained in the Topliff family until 1905.
The Italianate house at 385 Main Street in Cromwell was built circa 1863 and once had a stuccoed brownstone exterior that was incised to resemble dressed masonry. The house has many high style decorative features. The front veranda dates to the later nineteenth century. The house was built by Elisha Stevens, who founded J. & E. Stevens with his brother John in 1843. The company produced toys and hardware and Elisha Stevens became very wealthy. In 1869 he started a new company with toy designer George W. Brown called Stevens & Brown. The company failed in 1874 and a bankrupt Stevens had to sell the house. In 1875 it was acquired by Osbourn Coe, a Middlefield farmer, who occupied it until his death in 1899. The house is currently part of a large health care facility and is connected to modern additions.
The brick Greek Revival house at 354 Main Street in Cromwell was built c. 1840 by Charles H. Hubbard, a mason born in Litchfield. Hubbard married Nancy Haskell of Middletown in 1839 and lived on River Road in Cromwell before moving to his new house. Hubbard died in 1847 and his family sold the house to Eunice Sage, widow of Dewitt C. Sage, in 1865.
The sign on the house at 14 Prospect Hill Road in Cromwell identifies it as the Hezekiah Ranney House with the date of 1797. In that year, Hezekiah Ranney (1742-1826), a school teacher, sold the house to Samuel Kirby, a farmer, and moved out of the state. Ranney had inherited the property in 1775 with a house built in the 1740s for his father, Capt. Joseph Ranney. Hezekiah Ranney possibly built the current house around 1788, when he mortgaged the property, and it was in existence by 1816, after the property was acquired by Benjamin Wilcox. The house is also known as the Kirby-Wilcox House. Benjamin Wilcox had a farm and operated a cider mill with his brother Eliphalet, who acquired his brother’s holdings in 1830. When Eliphalet Wilcox died in 1839, his son, Eben Wilcox, inherited the property. Eben gave the house to his son, Joseph E. Wilcox, in 1854. Joseph Wilcox, probably made the Italianate Victorian-era alterations to the house, c. 1870. His brownstone carriage step still stands in front of the house. The house was sold out of the Wilcox family in 1915.
The house at 591 Main Street in Cromwell was built on the site of an earlier house, purchased by Amos and William Savage from the estate of Joseph Ranney in 1756. Samuel Spencer (1744-1818) purchased half of the house and land in 1771 and the other half six years later. He may have incorporated the earlier residence into the new house he built c. 1777. After Spencer‘s death, the house passed to his daughter, who was married to Dr. Titus Morgan. Another daughter, Sarah “Sally” Spencer, married Joseph Morgan, Dr. Morgan‘s cousin, who was the grandfather of J. Pierpont Morgan. In 1873, the house became the first Cromwell residence of Russell Frisbie, who later bought the house on Main Street that is now home to the Cromwell Historical Society. It was probably Frisbie who added the Italianate decorative elents to the facade of the Spencer House, which originally had a gambrel roof.
The house at 380-382 Main Street in Cromwell was originally a center-chimney residence. Built between 1744 and 1758, probably by Israel Wilcox, it was sold by Charles Wilcox to Capt. Daniel Ranney in 1757. Capt. Ranney, who had become wealthy in the West Indies trade, died the following year and the house eventually was passed on to his grandson, Capt. James Butler and then was owned (1831) by Stillman K. Wightman, a lawyer who had married Butler’s daughter Clarissa. After his son Edward K. Wightman was killed in 1865 in the Civil War, Stillman K. Wightman made a long journey through a war-torn countryside to recover his son’s body in North Carolina. Greek Revival additions were made to the house around 1830. The property remained in the family until 1912. Colonial Revival alterations were made around 1920. The house, also called the William Ranney House, is haunted and was featured in an episode of the TV series “A Haunting.”