Trinity Episcopal Church in Southport was built in 1862. Eight years later the parish began to consider plans to build an adjacent chapel that would serve as a Sunday school. The Parish School opened on September 23, 1872 in the new Carpenter Gothic-style Chapel, which features board-and-batten siding. Originally a free-standing structure, the Chapel, which now serves as a parish hall, has been connected to the church complex through twentieth-century additions.
The Wakeman Boys & Girl Club was founded in 1913 by Miss Frances Wakeman (1835-1918) of Southport. She was the granddaughter of Jessup Wakeman, who settled in Southport in the early nineteenth century and became a well-known merchant, and the daughter of Zalmon Bradley Wakeman, a successful businessman who left a large property to his family at his death in 1865. A description of Frances Wakeman and of the club she founded can be found in Volume II of the History of Bridgeport and Vicinity (1917):
Miss Frances Wakeman was reared to womanhood in her native town of Southport, where she has spent her entire life. Her beautiful home, Rose Hill, which commands a view of Long Island Sound and surrounding sections of Southport, is one of the most attractive places in this part of the state. Miss Wakeman is a lady of innate culture, possessing refined taste and artistic temperament. She is one of the best known women of Fairfield county and she takes a most active and helpful interest in the public affairs of the village of Southport and its institutions. This was manifest in the beautiful gift which she and her cousin, Miss Crapo, made to the people of Southport. The gift was a red brick building known as the Wakeman Memorial and erected in memory of their grandfather, Jesup Wakeman, at a cost of fifty thousand dollars, to be used by the boys and girls of Southport as a club house. The building is maintained by Miss Wakeman and in it are found a reading room, a sewing room and rooms for dancing and recreation where the boys and girls may find entertainment amid delightful and beneficial surroundings. Instruction is given to the girls in sewing and dancing is also taught. This building was opened in 1913 and it contains a bronze tablet on which is engraved the following: “The Wakeman Memorial, 1913. This building was erected and equipped for philanthropic work with funds contributed by Frances Wakeman and Cornelia Wakeman Crapo. Their grandfather, Jesup Wakeman, is remembered in its name. On Christmas day of 1913 it was opened to the youth of Southport in the hope that its privileges would enable and persuade them to grow up worthy in the community which the donors love, regardless of circumstances or creed. Their welcome here depends alone upon the regard they show for that which the place provides.”
Among the new buildings that our workers have not had an opportunity of visualizing is the Wakeman Memorial at Southport, Conn. The accompanying illustration shows the front elevation overlooking the Long Island Sound. The basement provides accommodation for industrial classes, and the two floors above are divided into reading, game and club rooms, together with a kitchen and living quarters for the Superintendent. The extension at the rear is the gymnasium. This building was erected and furnished throughout by Miss Wakeman. Securities were also set aside for the permanent endowment of the work. Southport is a village with few industries, therefore this building not only serves the boys, but is made the center of quite an extensive community work. Dr. George W. Phillips is the Superintendent.
The Wakeman Boys & Girl Club has since moved out of its original home, which is now a private residence. The building was photographed for the Historic American Buildings Survey.
At 3237 Bronson Road in Fairfield is the parsonage of the Greenfield Hill Congregational Church. It is a Greek Revival residence built in 1874. As related in Ye Church and Parish of Greenfield (1913), by George H. Merwin:
About the time Mr. Smith accepted the call to Greenfield, the parsonage matter was agitated again, perhaps to some extent due to the suggestion in the pastor’s letter of acceptance in regard to a home “for himself and family free from rent.” A committee consisting of Morris M. Merwin and Oliver Burr was appointed to investigate the matter. This committee, on June 24, 1873, reported that Dea. William B. Morehouse had that day purchased an acre of land of B. B. Banks for $1,000, and offered the same to the society for $400; and in addition Dea. Morehouse offered $1,000 more as his subscription towards a building. Other subscriptions were coming in rapidly, and the parsonage question was now solved. The following were appointed as a building committee: Oliver Burr, M. M. Merwin, Rev. H. B. Smith, Dea. W. B. Morehouse and Dea. N. B. Hill. Work was started at once by the contractor, Mr. Uriah Perry, but the building was not entirely completed until the spring of 1874, the pastor’s family living in the meantime in the small house owned by Mr. B. B. Banks.
Some of the items of expense in connection with the building of the parsonage are these:
- One and one-fourth acres land $1300.
- Contract for house $3575.
- Extras on house $150.
- Barns and out-buildings $405.
- Well, etc. (dug by Joel Banks) $231.
- Fences, painting, etc. $325.
- Flagging stone, drain, etc. $200.
A vote of the society ordered that no more be spent on the parsonage than should be subscribed for that purpose, so no indebtedness was incurred.
A sign on a tree on the Parsonage property reads:
Rev. H.B. Smith in
1876, the Church’s
The Greenfield Hill section of Fairfield began as a farming community in the early eighteenth century. Local residents successfully petitioned the General Assembly to establish a Congregational church in 1725 as a new Northwest Parish, separate from the Fairfield Congregational Church. The first meeting house was erected in 1727. As related in Ye Church and Parish of Greenfield (1913) by George H. Merwin:
The new meeting-house which was so acceptably framed during the summer of 1727, was not completed at once. The members of the parish were evidently not inclined to tax themselves too heavily during any one year, for we must remember that all parish expenses were met by a tax rate levied at the annual parish meeting precisely the same as we now levy the annual town tax. So each year, for five years or more, the parish voted to raise a rate for Mr. Goodsell’s salary, and for the carrying on of the work on the meeting-house. We have conclusive evidence that the new meeting-house was in use at least as early as 1730 for the records of the meeting held October 13 of that year state that “ye school shall be kept in ye old school-house where ye parish used to meet in.”
Mr. Pomeroy had been pastor but a short time when the society decided to build a new meeting-house. The old meeting-house had been in use scarcely thirty-three years, yet it was becoming dilapidated, and out of date. Its shape was like that of the common country school-house, perfectly plain; there was no steeple and no place for a bell. A young and active preacher and a parish of loyal and prosperous people demanded a more up-to-date house of worship.
So on February 4, 1760, it was voted “that a new meeting-house be built; that it shall stand on the Place of Parade, where now stands a monument of stones, and that Samuel Bradley Jr. shall be a committee to apply to the county court in behalf of the parish, to affix and establish the place on which it shall stand.” A few weeks later it was decided that “the dimensions of the building shall be 60 by 42 feet, with a well-proportioned and well-built steeple; that Samuel Bradley Jr. and Moses Dimon Esq. shall be the committee for building said new meeting-house.”
As related by Merwin, the next meeting house was built in 1845:
Soon after Mr. Sturges’ settlement, the subject of building a new house of worship was agitated. It seemed unwise to expend more in the repair of the old meeting-house, which had been in use for more than eighty years. The hardest problem to solve was not the raising of funds, but how to get the consent of the pew-owners, who held their pews by deeds derived from their fathers. But after much labor on the part of the pastor, Governor Tomlinson, and others, the necessary vote was secured to pull down the old and build a new meeting-house.
[…] The plans and specifications had been furnished by the noted New York architect, Richard Upjohn, the designer of Trinity Church, New York, and many other churches and public buildings. The style of the church was what was commonly known in architecture as “Gothic,” and considered by everyone as very beautiful. During the few years it remained standing it was known as the handsomest church in this section.
On November 2, 1850, the Ladies’ Sewing Society asked permission to place a furnace under the church at their own expense; their request was readily granted, but the furnace, perhaps through improper management, proved to be a poor investment and most disastrous in destroying property, for three years later, after having been in use but little more than five years, between Sunday evening, November 13, and the morning of November 14, 1853, this most beautiful and much-admired house of worship was entirely consumed by fire. The loss was a great disappointment to those who had built the church at much expense, toil and sacrifice, and we do not wonder that they felt somewhat discouraged.
The Gothic church was soon replaced by a new one:
It was voted that this church should have a basement under at least two-thirds of it, and Thomas Merwin and William Sherwood took the contract for the excavation. Albert C. Nash furnished the plans, for which he was paid $100. The mason work of the underpinning was performed by John Conrad, the contractor for the carpenter work was David Smith of Black Rock (brother of Franklin Smith of Greenfield), the contract price being $5,500. The interior decorating of walls, considered at the time a work of art, was done by Oris Fritz of New York, for $250. A new bell was purchased at a cost of $276.80, and put in place October 4, 1854, but the building was not entirely completed and accepted by the society until February, 1855[.]
The current Greenfield Hill Congregational Church was dedicated on April 10, 1855.
The house at 72 Willow Street in Southport was built in 1796 by Paul King Sheffield (1764-1845). Born in Stonington, Sheffield engaged in privateering during the Revolutionary War with his father and brother in an armed vessel they equipped and sailed themselves. After the war he moved to Fairfield and married Mabel Thorp, daughter of Capt. Walter Thorp, and became a ship-master and ship-owner. The house on Willow Street was the childhood home of Paul King Sheffield’s son, Joseph Earl Sheffield (1793-1882), who grew up to become a wealthy railroad magnate and philanthropist. Later a resident of New Haven, Sheffield gave Yale University a building and a $130,000 endowment for its scientific department, which was renamed the Sheffield Scientific School in his honor.
At 3015 Bronson Road in Fairfield is a windmill erected in 1893-1894 by Frederic Bronson on his estate, called Verna Farm. Standing 105 feet high, the Bronson Windmill pumped water from a well 75 feet below ground into a 7,500-gallon wooden storage tank 70 feet up inside the windmill. Note: the wheel on top of the windmill was not installed at time the photo above was taken. It remained in operation into the 1930s. The estate became the property of the Fairfield Country Day School, which gave the windmill to the Town of Fairfield in 1971. The windmill was restored around 1980. Damaged after a storm in 1996, the Bronson Windmill was restored under the management of the Fairfield Historical Society. Today it also serves as a cell phone tower: Sprint restored and rebuilt part of the structure as part of its leasing agreement.
The building at 227 Main Street in the village of Southport in Fairfield was built in 1833 as a bank. It was originally a branch of the Connecticut Bank of Bridgeport, chartered in 1832. The branch later became the Southport Bank, independently chartered in 1851 (it became the Southport National Bank in 1865). After an embezzlement (Oliver T. Sherwood, the bank’s Cashier, was charged with defaulting on bank notes after he fled town; he was later imprisoned) the Southport National Bank went into receivership in 1903 and was reorganized as the Southport Trust Company. The building was converted into a residence in 1923.