The building that is called Winthrop House, at 166 Rowayton Avenue in Rowayton, Norwalk, was built in 1848 by Charles L. Raymond as a a four-story summer hotel. It has had many names, being called the Fairview Hotel by the turn of the century. It was a private home around the time of World War I, but then became a hotel again under various names over the years: Colonial Inn (1926), Pleasant Inn (1930) and Rowayton Inn (1935). During the Second World War it was purchased by the Bassler brothers. At the start of the twenty-first century there were plans to demolish the building, but in 2005 the Norwalk Preservation Trust worked with developer Andrew Glazer, the Rowayton Historical Society, the Rowayton Community Association and the Norwalk Planning and Zoning Office to restore the exterior to its nineteenth-century appearance. The interior was converted into three luxury condominiums.
The home of the Rowayton Historical Society is the Seeley-Dibble-Pinkney House, located at 177 Rowayton Avenue in Norwalk. The house was built c. 1790-1820 and has been altered over the years. Part of the basement floor is paved with left over shipping ballast. Alfred Seeley purchased the house in 1820. He was a successful farmer and store-owner. He also built the first packet that traveled between Rowayton to New York. Seeley’s youngest daughter, Hannah Minerva, married Alphonso Dibble, who took title to the house and store in 1890. In turn their youngest daughter, Gertrude Hannah, who was married to William Pinkney, next occupied the house. The house was sold by Dorothy Cowles Pinkney, poet and widow of William Pinkney Jr., to the Sixth Taxing District of Norwalk (Rowayton) in 1971
The current City Hall of Norwalk (125 East Avenue) was built in 1938 as Norwalk High School. Its original entrance, since altered, faced East Avenue. It and other buildings in Norwalk contain one of the largest collections of WPA Depression era murals in the country (45). Twenty-three of the City Hall murals were restored in the 1980s. Others were brought to the building bringing the total on display there to thirty-one (now thirty after the recent removal of a controversial painting). The High School moved to a new building in 1971 and the 1938 building became City Hall in place of the 1912 City Hall in South Norwalk (which became home to the Norwalk Museum until 2011).
Nicholas Vincent, New York ship builder, erected the house at 184 Rowayton Avenue in Rowayton, Norwalk in 1842 for his son John R. Vincent. The house next door was built the same year for his daughter, Catherine. John R. Vincent was a ship carpenter who also owned a livery stable and a saloon.
The building which know houses the Rowayton Community Center in Norwalk was originally built in 1912 as the carriage house and stables for the Rock Ledge estate. The estate’s original mansion, built on the other side of Highland Street in 1911, burned down and was rebuilt in 1913. The carriage house and U-shaped stables wings are constructed with a rough stone first floor and a half-timbered upper story with jerkinhead roofs in the Tudor Revival style.
The Community Center also houses the Rowayton Library. After an brief early attempt to establish a library in Rowayton in 1867, locals established what would become today’s Rowayton Library in 1903. Originally located in the former Craw Store, Craw Hall, at 101 Rowayton Avenue, the library moved into the former home of the Rowayton Fire Department in 1926 and finally into the former stables in the 1960s.
When the historic Silvermine Tavern, located in the Silvermine section of Norwalk, closed in 2009, it was the end of an 80 year local institution. Several buildings make up the original Silvermine Tavern complex, including an old mill with origins in the seventeenth century, a coach house and a gatehouse that has since been attached to the main Tavern building. This structure has a plaque indicating that it was built c. 1810 as the Joseph Cocker Cotton Factory. Cocker’s business was an expensive undertaking and when he passed away unexpectedly in 1812 he left an estate that was heavily in debt. His widow Sally died the following year and Stephen Abbott acquired the property, but he too fell into debt and sold it in 1816 to his son. By that time the building had had new wings constructed for living quarters and a weaving shop. The factory continued on under various owners until, including David Comstock, who manufactured hats, until it was acquired in the 1850s by Henry Guthrie, an immigrant from England who owned a shipyard and three water-powered mills. Guthrie produced knobs for doors and furniture and local girls sanded, varnished and packed them for shipping in what would become the Tavern’s living room.
Otto Goldstein purchased the building in 1906. He also owned the nearby Red Mill, built c. 1800, which he used for his fur processing business. Goldstein lived in the former factory where he also had a taproom where he sold drinks to the local community of Silvermine, which was then becoming an artists’ colony. With the repeal of Prohibition, J. Kenneth Byard bought the property in 1929 and named it the Silvermine Tavern, offering dining and overnight accommodations. Ownership of the Tavern passed to I.M. Weiss in 1948. The Whitman family operated it from 1955 until the restaurant closed in 2009. It then continued for a few years as a bed & breakfast.
In 2013-2014 the property was acquired by developer Andrew Glazer, who is currently redeveloping the site. He renovated the store to become his new office and the mill house (called the Red Mill, it once had a water wheel) next to the Tavern to become his residence. He also built four new houses and a community barn on the Tavern’s old parking lot, the profits from them to support the next phase of the project, which is to extensively modernize and eventually reopen the Tavern itself. The interior is being gutted and the restaurant adapted from the sprawling space that seated 200 to a new space that will seat 60. The picture above was taken in 2014, before the current renovation work on the main Tavern building began earlier this year.
The Samuel Weed House, at 2 Park Street facing Norwalk Green, was built in 1917. It may be named for the Samuel L. Weed who was cashier of the Fairfield County National Bank. The house is now used as offices.