One of the five oldest houses in Connecticut is the Bushnell Farm house at 1445 Boston Post Road in Old Saybrook. It began as a two room, one story, thatch roofed post and beam house built by the Elder Joshua Bushnell. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Elisha Bushnell House and J. Frederick Kelly, in his classic Early Domestic Architecture of Connecticut (1924), calls it the Older Bushnell House. The house was expanded over the two centuries that the Bushnell family owned it. The property has a number of outbuildings, including an early eighteenth-century barn, a loom house (the Bushnells were both farmers and weavers) and a building referred to as the slave house. Maintained as a private residence in an excellent state of preservation, the property is often opened to schools, historical societies and the Connecticut River Museum Summer Camp.
The summer cottage at 21 Pettipaug Avenue in the Borough of Fenwick in Old Saybrook was built c. 1880 for Dr. Joseph Wright Alsop III (1838-1891). The Alsops were a prominent family in Middletown: His grandfather, Captain Joseph Wright Alsop I (1772-1844), and his father, Joseph Wright Alsop II (1804-1878), were wealthy merchants; his son, Joseph Wright Alsop IV (1876-1953), married a niece of Theodore Roosevelt and was a politician and farmer in Avon; and his grandson, Joseph Wright Alsop V (1910-1989), was a journalist and top insider in Washington, DC politics. In later life Dr. Joseph W. Alsop III, a democrat, served in the state Senate and was involved in the political deadlock over the gubernatorial election of 1891. After giving an impassioned speech he collapsed at the rostrum and died of a heart attack. The cottage passed from the Alsop estate in 1903 and was acquired by Morgan B. Brainard of Hartford, whose former Fenwick cottage had been destroyed in the Hurricane of 1938. It was acquired in 1959 by his niece, Lucy Brainard Smith. You can read more about the cottage in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 122-128. Read the rest of this entry »
The summer cottage at 26 Fenwick Avenue in the Borough of Fenwick in Old Saybrook was built in 1872 by William Patton of Springfield. One of the first three cottages to be constructed in the borough, it originally stood on the site of the Mary Brace Collins Cottage at 28 Fenwick Avenue. Patton moved his cottage across the street in 1887. In the 1890s the cottage was owned by Richard Crocker, known as “Boss Crocker,” who was a leader of New York City’s Tammany Hall. In 1899 the cottage was bought by Leonard D. Fisk of Hartford, who remodeled it extensively. Fisk married Genevieve (Jennie) B. Judd, daughter Henry C. Judd, wool merchant and partner in the firm of Judd & Root. Fisk was one of two inheritors of the business of his grandfather, Leonard Daniels, who had a successful flower mill on the Park River in Hartford and was one of the city’s prominent citizens. In 1912 the Fisk family sold their cottage to William Waldo Hyde, a lawyer. It was sold by his widow in 1923. You can read more about the cottage in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 80-83.
The summer cottage at 10 Pettipaug Avenue in the Borough of Fenwick was built in 1886 by William H. Bulkeley and was originally located at the site of the cottage of the cottage at 9 Pettipaug Avenue. William H. Bulkeley, (1840-1902) the brother of Morgan G. Bulkeley, is described in the Illustrated Popular Biography of Connecticut (1891):
General Bulkeley was born in East Haddam, March 2, 1840. Seven years later, his father, the late Hon. Eliphalet A. Bulkeley, established his residence in Hartford, and remained here until his death a few years ago. The young man was educated in the district and high schools of Hartford, principal T. W. T. Curtis being one of his instructors. He left the high school before graduation, with an admirable record for scholarship and application, and entered an old and leading dry-goods establishment here as a clerk. In March, 1857, he went to Brooklyn, N. Y., and engaged in the same business with H. P. Morgan & Co. Afterwards he entered the dry-goods trade for himself, and conducted a successful business for six years on Fulton Street, Brooklyn. In 1868 he returned to Hartford and organized the Kellogg & Bulkeley Company, lithographers, of which he has since been the president. He was for several years vice-president of the Aetna Life Insurance Company, and is at present a member of its board of directors. He is also a director or otherwise officially connected with a number of the banking, insurance, and other corporations of Hartford. In 1878 he purchased the “Bee Hive,” a famous dry-goods establishment, which he has since managed with great success, it being the chief secular object of his attention.
[. . .] General Bulkeley was elected to the office of Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut on the ticket with Governor Bigelow, and served through 1881 and 1882 with credit. [. . .] General Bulkeley has a creditable war record, having been one of the first to respond to the call for troops after the attack on Fort Sumter. He was a member of the Brooklyn City Guard, G company, Thirteenth regiment, N. Y. N. G., and advanced to the front with his command, April 19, 1861. The organization was in service for four months. In 1862 he organized Company G, of the Fifty-sixth regiment, N. Y. N. G., and was elected captain. He was with his command through the Pennsylvania crisis of 1863, being in General “Baldy” Smith’s division. The regiment was ordered home during the New York draft riots, after which it was disbanded, its term of service having expired.
Before his death, William Bulkeley sold his cottage to his brother Morgan who sold it in 1905 to Lucius Barbour, who moved it to its current site to make way for his own larger cottage. You can read more about the cottage in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 156-159.
The summer cottage at 41 Agawam Avenue in the Borough of Fenwick in Old Saybrook was built c. 1885 for Rev. James Watson Bradin and his wife Eliza Ann Jackson Bradin. A graduate of Berkeley Divinity School, then located in his wife’s hometown of Middletown, Rev. Bradin become rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hartford in 1882. At that time the church was located on Main Street, but in 1907 the church left its original home, which was demolished to make way for the Morgan Memorial of the Wadsworth Atheneum. The current St. John’s Episcopal Church, on Farmington Avenue in West Hartford, was consecrated on June 9, 1909. Rev. Bradin continued as rector of the church until 1918. He and his wife had seven children. They named their Fenwick cottage the Kennel. The cottage passed to the couple’s daughters. In 1951 the cottage was acquired by Henry S. Robinson, Jr., a lawyer with the firm of Robinson, Robinson and Cole of Hartford, and his wife Constance Brainard Robinson. She was the daughter of Morgan Bulkeley Brainard, president of Aetna Life Insurance, and granddaughter of Leverett Brainard and Morgan G. Bulkeley. You can read more about the cottage in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 148-150.
The summer cottage at 16 Fenwick Avenue in the Borough of Fenwick in Old Saybrook was built in 1880 by Ebenezer Roberts of Hartford for his daughter Florence Clarissa and her new husband, Colonel William Converse Skinner. Ebenezer Roberts was a partner with the Keney Brothers of Hartford in in their wholesale grocery business. As described in American Biography: A New Cyclopedia, Volume 9 (1921), Roberts’ son-in-law, Col. William C. Skinner, was “A man of pleasing personality, kindly, considerate and courteous to all, a levelheaded, finely poised man of affairs, quick and decisive of action, conservative but determined.” As that book further describes,
Colonel William Converse Skinner, son of Dr. Calvin and Jane (Blodgett) Skinner, was born in Malone, New York, January 26, 1855, and there completed courses of grade and high school study, graduating with the high school class of 1872. He then entered Trinity College whence he was graduated A. B., class of 1876, later receiving from alma mater the degree M. A. During the next session of the New York Legislature he was appointed clerk to the Judiciary Committee of the House, and while in Albany attended lectures at Albany Law School. He was deterred from further progress in legal study by a serious throat trouble, and spent a year in Colorado to effect its cure. After his return he located in Hartford, Connecticut, there forming in 1882 a partnership with General Henry C. Dwight which continued for eighteen years, Dwight, Skinner & Company becoming one of the best known firms in the State in the wool trade. In May, 1899, Colonel Skinner withdrew from the firm and has since been connected with the Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company in official capacity. He was elected a director and vice-president of the company, July 2, 1901. and on January 5, 1909, was elected president of the company to fill the vacancy caused by the death of President Grover. President Skinner resigned the office of president, January 1. 1911, becoming chairman of the board of directors, holding that position until the death of President Charles L. F. Robinson, when he was again elected president of the company, July 13, 1916, whose position and importance in the industrial and business world is so well known.
Col. Skinner died in 1922, but around 1885 he had already sold his Fenwick home to Colonel Jacob Greene of Hartford, president of the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company. Jacob Lyman Greene grew up in Maine, but later went to the University of Michigan and became a lawyer. He later served in the Civil War, eventually becoming a Colonel and the Adjutant-General of General George Armstrong Custer. He and Custer became best friends and Greene was best man at Custer’s wedding in 1864 to Libbie Bacon, who was friends with Greene’s wife, Nettie Humphrey. After the War, Col. Greene went to work for the Berkshire Life Insurance Company. In 1870 he moved to Hartford to work for Connecticut Mutual, eventually becoming the company’s president. When President Theodore Roosevelt visited Hartford in 1902 and became the first president to ride in an automobile in public, it was Col. Greene was sat next to him as chairman of Hartford Citizen’s Committee.
The cottage in Fenwick later passed through other owners. You can read more about the cottage in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 64-67. By the time that book was published the cottage was owned by the Dickinson family and is referred to as the Dickinson Cottage. The illustration of the cottage on page 64 of the book reveals that it has been much altered in the last forty years. A number of dormer windows, a balcony, a front porch and sun room have been added and the house house has been given shingled siding to match the many other shingle style houses in Fenwick. I do not know if these are restorations to an earlier appearance the house may have had or new innovations.
The summer cottage at 9 Pettipaug Avenue in the Borough of Fenwick in Old Saybrook has been described as a gem that is “particularly illustrative of shingle style architecture” (by Christopher Little in “A Summer Place,” Places, Vol. 1, No. 3, 1984). It was built in 1905 by Lucius B. Barbour (1878-1934) of Hartford (whose 1865 house on Washington Street still survives). Their daughter Alice was a childhood friend of Katharine Hepburn. In 1953, after the death of Barbour’s widow Charlotte Cordelia Hilliard Barbour, the cottage was sold to Richard F. Cooper and in 1961 it was sold again to Oliver Jensen (1914-2005), a co-founder of American Heritage Magazine. He was also one of the founders and the chief visionary for the 1971 revival of the Connecticut Valley Railroad (today part of the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat attraction). You can read more about the cottage in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 110-114.