One of Durham‘s best examples of the Greek Revival style is the house at 313 Main Street (which was 138 Main Street before the numbers were changed a few years ago). The house was built around 1840 on land acquired the year before by Phineas Parmalee, a shoemaker, whose own house and shop were across the street. He sold the house for $1200 to his son, William A. Parmalee, in 1842. William A. Parmalee, a manufacturer of shoes like his father, had married Mary J. Camp in 1840. He also served as Town Clerk and as a representative to the General Assembly.
In the colonial period, Connecticut residents were required by law to attend all-day church services on Sunday. Meeting Houses were unheated and a mid-day break allowed people to eat and warm up before the afternoon services. For those who lived too far away to return home during this break time, towns sometimes built small “Sabbath Day Houses” where they could take shelter. Several Sabbath Day Houses were once located on Durham Green, but were taken down as the attendance requirement ended at the start of the nineteenth century. One surviving structure, built around 1780, was moved to Indian Lane in Durham and converted into a residence. Facing destruction in 1966, it was moved back to the Green and restored by the Durham Historical Society.
A description of Durham’s Sabbath Day Houses is related in William Chauncey Fowler’s History of Durham (1866) as follows:
These houses were from twenty to twenty-five feet in length, and from ten to twelve feet in breadth, and one story high with a chimney in the middle dividing the whole space into two rooms with a partition between them, for the accommodation of two families, who united in building the house. The furniture consisted of a few chairs, a table, plates and dishes; some iron utensil, it may be, for warming food which had been cooked. Besides the Bible, there was sometimes a book on experimental religion, like Baxter’s Saints’ Rest, or Allein’s Alarm. On the morning of the Sabbath the mother of the family with provident care, put up her store of comforts for the dinner, substantial or slight fare as most convenient, a bottle of cider almost of course. The family then set off from their home in a large two horse sleigh, or on saddles and pillions. They stopped at the Sabbathday house, kindled a blazing fire, and then went forth “to shiver in the cold during the morning services.” At noon they hurried back to their warm room. After they had taken their meal and by turns drank from the pewter mug, thanks were returned. Then the sermon came under review, from the notes taken by the father of the family, or a chapter was read from the Bible, or a paragraph from some favorite author, the service concluding with prayer or singing. After again visiting the sanctuary, the family would return to the Sabbath-day house if the cold was severe, before they sought their home. The fire was then extinguished, the door was locked, and the house remained undisturbed during the week.
In time the custom of repairing to these houses changed; the houses themselves became dilapidated or furnished a refuge for the poor. They were better suited to those times when so much was thought of private family religion, than they would be to ours, when religion has become more of a public and social concern. The last Sabbath-day house which I remember, stood on the land owned by the first minister. It was occupied by John King, a Hessian deserter from the British army. It was owned by one of the Nortons. The present writer can recollect as many as half a dozon of these houses. They grew up out of the type of religion which existed at that time. It was a family religion, rather than a public one.
Asahel Strong (1781-1863) was a farmer and a prominent citizen of Durham who served as Justice of the Peace and five terms as a representative in the Connecticut General Assembly. Strong had a Federal-style house on Fowler Avenue, but also had a vernacular house, built c. 1830 on Main Street on parsonage land he leased from the First Ecclesiastical Society of Durham for 999 years (essentially a way for the Society to sell it). Another house built on this parsonage property is the Robinson-Andrews House, located just south of the Strong House. The 1830 house remained in the Strong family until the 1850s.
The Bela Davis House at 31 Main Street (formerly 12 Main Street) in Durham has a Greek Revival central doorway and Greek Revival cornice returns on the gable ends. The house was built in 1865 by farmer Bela Davis (1800-1887) who had purchased seven acres from Zebulon Hale. He owned the house for ten years.
The Hall-Camp House, on Main Street in Durham, is a Colonial center-chimney saltbox house, built just before the start of the Revolutionary War. It was built on land that Daniel Hall received from the estate his father, Timothy Hall, in 1773. Hall was a leading citizen of Durham who was a delegate to the Convention to adopt the Federal Constitution. He sold the property to Heth Camp in 1783 and it remained in the Camp family until 1900.
Happy Halloween!!!The Robinson-Andrews House, at 202 Main Street in Durham, stands on a lot that had originally been intended for public use and for support of the ministry. The First Ecclesiastical Society of Durham leased the land to Asahel Strong in 1826 for 999 years (essentially a way of selling it). In 1838, Strong conveyed the land to Henry Robinson, a farmer, who built his house around 1840. The property was sold to Dr. Chauncey Andrews in 1844 and it was later owned by the Tibbals family, who may have made the later Victorian-era additions to the Greek Revival house.
Lemuel Camp built his house on Main Street in Durham in 1806 and it was soon opened as a tavern. Lemuel Camp died in 1843 and his widow, Martha Pickett Camp, in 1860. The house was then divided between their surviving children, Edward Pickett Camp of New Haven and his unmarried sister, Sophronia Camp, but neither lived in the house. Sallie B. Strong bought the property near the turn of the century and rented rooms to tenants. Edward P. Camp’s daughter, Hattie Camp, married the watercolor painter Wedworth Wadsworth (1846-1927) and they rented rented the house as a summer residence. The house has passed through other owners over the years and was restored in 1978.