The Borough of Fenwick (pdf) in Old Saybrook has long had its own nondenominational house of worship, St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea. Religious services for the Fenwick summer community were initially led by Rev. Francis Goodwin in his own home. A leader of both Hartford and Fenwick society and an amateur architect, Rev. Francis Goodwin (1839-1923) championed the development of more parks in Hartford as the city’s first commissioner of parks. In 1883, Rev. Goodwin designed and built a small chapel on his property for Sunday worship. By 1886, the chapel was too small to accommodate the number of worshipers, so it was moved to its current location (30 Agawam Avenue) and enlarged with additional pews and a bell tower. St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea is a Shingle style structure, as are so many of the Fenwick summer cottages. You can read more about St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 37-49.
Continuing our look at the cottages of the Borough of Fenwick in Old Saybrook, we come to a house that has been much expanded over time. Leverett Brainard (1828-1902) purchased one of the original Fenwick lots in 1871, but he and his wife, Mary Jerusha Bulkeley (sister of Morgan G. Bulkeley) did not immediately undertake the building of a summer cottage. In 1877, Brainard acquired a Fenwick cottage that had been built circa 1871 by J.A. Eldridge of Springfield and had it moved to his own lot and remodeled to suit his needs. Over the years, as the family expanded, they added new rooms to the cottage, which came to bear little resemblance to its original appearance. Leverett Brainard, who lived on Washington Street in Hartford, was born in Colchester and attended Bacon Academy. He moved to Hartford in 1853 to work for the City Fire Insurance Company. He eventually became the president of The Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, which was one of the largest publishing companies in New England. As his obituary in the New England Stationer and Printer (Vol. XVI. No. 5, August 1902) stated, Brainard was “one of Hartford’s most prominent citizens, and closely identified with the commercial progress of Hartford, Conn., for nearly half a century.” The house passed to the Brainard’s son, Newton C. Brainard, who left it to his nephew, his sister Edith’s son, Frank Kelso Davis. You can read more about the cottage in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 91-99. Read the rest of this entry »
The actress Katharine Hepburn (1907–2003) had long-standing connections with the Borough of Fenwick in Old Saybrook. Her parents, Dr. Thomas Norval Hepburn and Katharine Houghton Hepburn, who lived in Hartford, began spending their summers there in 1912. After the family’s original wooden Shingle-style cottage on Long Island Sound was swept out to sea in the hurricane of 1938, they built a new one of brick based on a design the family had modeled out of blocks and dominoes. The house, which covers about 8,000 square feet, was a frequent retreat for the actress, who eventually moved there to spend her final years. In the 1930s and 1940s, Howard Hughes would land his seaplane in the Sound, right in front of the Hepburn home. Katherine Hepburn shared the house with her brother, the playwright Richard Hepburn, who died in 2000. After Katherine Hepburn passed away in 2003, the house was acquired by the major New York City developer, Frank J. Sciame, Jr., who completely renovated the house in 2005 and put it up for sale. Although Taylor Swift came close to buying the house, Sciame took it off the market last summer because he had received no offers that matched the $30 million asking price. Sciame, who recently reduced the height of two granite posts at the end of his driveway from five to four feet after an extended legal drama with the Borough of Fenwick Historic Commission, will continue to use the house as a summer home. You can read more about the Hepburn “cottage” in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 171-179. Next month, a special exhibit will open at the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford: Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen, which runs until September 13, 2014. Read the rest of this entry »
Edith Brainard Davis spent 95 summers in the Borough of Fenwick (pdf) in Old Saybrook. She was the daughter of Leverett Brainard, president of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company of Hartford, and Mary Bulkeley Brainard, who was the sister of Morgan G. Bulkeley. In 1907, Edith Hollister Brainard married John Henry Kelso Davis, who worked at Case, Lockwood & Brainard. The couple continued to summer at the Leverett Brainard Cottage in Fenwick until they hired the builder George Sheffield of Old Saybrook to erect their own cottage at 6 Pettipaug Avenue in 1913. Two picture windows on the ground floor facing Long Island Sound were added to the Davis Cottage in 1930 by her sons as a gift to Mrs. Davis. The cottage is now owned by E. C. Gengras, Jr. of the Gengras Auto Group. You can read more about the cottage in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 159-162.
Perhaps the most impressive of the Shingle-style summer houses in the Borough of Fenwick (pdf) in Old Saybrook is the one built in 1900 for Morgan Gardner Bulkeley. A legendary politician, Morgan G. Bulkeley was a four-term mayor of Hartford, 54th Governor of Connecticut (1889-1893), U.S. Senator, first president of Baseball’s National League and the third president of the Aetna Life Insurance Company for 43 years. Bulkeley lived on Washington Street in Hartford and was one of the leaders of the summer community of Fenwick, In 1899 he commissioned the Hartford architect, W.E. Becker to design his summer cottage at 5 Pettipaug Avenue in Fenwick. You can read more about the cottage in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 99-108. Read the rest of this entry »
We continue our look at the Borough of Fenwick (pdf) by considering one of its many Shingle-style summer “cottages.” The cottage at 8 Agawam Avenue was constructed in 1890 by local builder George Sheffield for James B. Moore. Like his father, George W. Moore, James B. Moore acquired his wealth by brokering mortgages in the southern and western states after the Civil War. For the past five years, he and his family had spent their summers staying at Fenwick Hall, but in 1890 he was furious to find the hotel fully booked for the entire summer. He proceed to build his own Fenwick cottage in just six weeks. Designing it himself without an architect, he had no halls built on the second floor and hardly any closets in the entire house! The cottage was finally sold out of the family by James Moore, Jr. in 1946. You can read more about the cottage in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 166-169.
This week the focus is on the Borough of Fernwick in Old Saybrook. A peninsula of land located where the Connecticut River flows into Long Island Sound, Fenwick was purchased in 1870 by the New Saybrook Company, with the financial backing of the Charter Oak Life Insurance Company of Hartford. The land was thereafter developed as a summer resort for wealthy citizens, many from Hartford. By 1899, when it was incorporated as a borough, the avenues of Fenwick were lined with numerous summer houses, referred to as cottages. There was also the Fenwick Golf Course, opened in 1896. The New Saybrook Company also constructed a large hotel at Fenwick, called Fenwick Hall. In 1887 the Charter Oak Life Insurance Company went bankrupt, and Fenwick Hall was acquired by Edward S. Stokes (d. 1901), who had connections with the New York City political machine and had famously shot his rival, James Fisk, in 1872. Stokes welcomed politicians and celebrities to the hotel. Following a tax dispute, the hotel was bought at auction in 1894 by Fenwick resident Morgan G. Bulkeley, former Governor of Connecticut. The hotel then served as a social center for residents of Fenwick and accommodated guests from the same social circle. Fenwick Hall burned in 1916, but its functions were taken over by the Riversea Inn, a Colonial Revival building at 20 Fenwick Avenue. The Riversea Inn had been built as a residence in 1885 and was remodeled into its present appearance around 1910. Since the 1950s, the building has again been a residence. You can read more about the Riversea Inn in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 67-75.