The Queen Anne/Colonial Revival building at 105-107 Water Street in Stonington was built in 1901 to house a drugstore and ice cream parlor on the first floor, while the business’ owner, Francis D. Burtch, lived in the apartment above. Various other businesses have been located in the building over the years. In 1954, poet James Merrill (1926-1995) and his partner David Jackson moved into the residence. Merrill‘s epic work, The Changing Light at Sandover, incorporated messages that he and Jackson transcribed from sessions using a ouija board in the house’s turret dining room. Merrill, who was Connecticut’s State Poet Laureate from 1985 to 1995, willed his home to the Stonington Village Improvement Association. The James Merrill House Committee runs a program that makes the Merrill apartment, maintained as it was during the poet’s lifetime, available to writers for rent-free stays of one or two semesters of an academic year.
A sign on the house (now used as a real estate office) at 62 Greenmanville Avenue in Mystic (in Stonington) indicates that it was the home of Joseph S. Williams, yeoman, and was built in 1899. Joseph S. Williams was no doubt related to Joseph Stanton Williams, whose farm once dominated the eastern side of Greenmanville Avenue. In the 1890s, the farm was developed into an industrial area. The old Joseph S. Williams farmhouse, which stood on the hill east of what is now Mystic Seaport, later fell into disrepair and was burned in the 1950s.
Social Society Frohsinn, a German heritage club, was founded in the first decade of the twentieth century by German weavers employed by the Rossie Velvet Mill in Mystic. Frohsinn Hall, at 54 Greenmanville Avenue, was built in 1906, just a few years after the mill. It has a bar upstairs and a hall on the first floor. Over a century later, the building is still used for its original purpose, with some current members being the descendants of the first mill employees.
Dating to 1775 (and probably later modified in the Federal style) is the home of Rev. John Rathbone (1729-1826) at 87 Water Street in Stonington. Rev. Rathbone was the first minister of the Baptist church in Stonington Borough, organized in 1775. According to the Brown Genealogy, Vol. II (1915), by Cyrus Henry Brown,
He was a Baptist, a patriot of the Revolution, member of the Stonington Committee of Correspondence and Inspection, and signer of the memorial to the Connecticut Assembly praying for cannon to protect the town of Stonington against the British attack on Long Point, in 1777. He organized the Baptist Church at Westford, Mass, in 1780, and became its first pastor, in 1781. He preached at Saratoga, NY, in his ninety-fifth year.
Since 1929, the Portuguese Holy Ghost Society and Club of Stonington has used the house at 26 Main Street as its club building. Every year, the club celebrates the Azorean Holy Ghost Festival, a traditional feast that goes back to Queen Isabel of Portugal (1271-1336), also known as Elizabeth, who devoted herself to helping the poor and feeding the famine-stricken Portuguese people. She was canonized by Pope Urban VIII in 1625. The house was built in 1836 by Courtlandt Palmer (1800-1874), first president of the Stonington & Providence Railroad, and it remained in his family until 1913.
The house at 170 Water Street, on the west side of Wadawanuck Square in Stonington, was built in 1833 for Sarah Potter Denison Palmer (1785-1862), a decade after the death of her husband, Luke Palmer (1775-1822). Known as the Widow Luke Palmer House, it was described as follows in Grace Denison Wheeler’s The Homes of Our Ancestors in Stonington, Conn. (1903):
The Widow Luke Palmer’s house is one of the old landmarks although none of the older residents seem to know when this house was built; still it is known that Mr. Palmer married Sally P. Denison in 1804, and they lived there. She used to board the men connected with building the Stonington Railroad, Mr. Almy, Mr. Matthews and others, about 1835. The house has been so added to and improved that but little of the original can now be seen. It was owned by Mrs. William L. Palmer, and her heirs sold it to Mr. Henry Davis, whose heirs sold it to Miss Emma A. Smith, and in 1901, the Roman Catholic Society purchased it of her. At various times three clergymen have lived here: Rev. M. Willey, first Pastor of Calvary Church; Rev. R. S. Wilson, Pastor of the Baptist Church, and Rev. A. G. Palmer, who was so long the good minister of the Baptist Church.
Charles Phelps Williams (1804-1879) was a wealthy shipowner and businessman in Stonington. A ship master by 1825, he was soon involved in seal fishery and, when the sealing industry declined, he turned to whaling. According to Hurd’s History of New London County (1882), Charles P. Williams
was one of the largest individual ship-owners engaged in that important pursuit. With its decadence he withdrew from active commercial life, and was one of the first corporators under the State laws of the Ocean Bank of Stonington, of which he was elected president, and whose immediate and continued prosperity was largely due to his admirable management. In 1856 he went to Europe with his family, and resigned the presidency, but on his return he was elected first director, a position which he retained in the reorganization of the bank as the First National.
Mr. Williams took an active part in the building of the Providence and Stonington Railroad, and was for many years president of that corporation.
His keen business foresight had at an early period in the development of the West convinced him of its importance and future greatness, and he became largely interested there. The management of his accumulating property occupied the later years of his life, and he withdrew entirely from active business. I In 1878 the severe strain of a life of intense mental activity culminated in failing health, and on Oct. 28, 1879, he died of a rupture of a blood-vessel in the brain. […]
One of the most marked features of his personal character was the thorough simplicity of his life. He never sought office of any kind. A man of distinguished and commanding presence, of most courteous and polished manners, he was averse to all ostentation and avoided public life. His integrity was spotless, and in the management of all the vast interests which he controlled, with the innumerable attendant possibilities of error, his reputation stood always above reproach. A man of generous impulse, his charities were as unostentatious as his life, and in his death the poor lost a true and a liberal friend, and the State an upright and valued citizen.