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.
The H. E. Bishop House, at 87 East Avenue in Norwalk, is a Colonial Revival residence, built c. 1905-1906. Designed by Joy Wheeler Dow of Wyoming, NJ, architect and author of American Renaissance: A Review of Domestic Architecture (1904), the house is modeled on the c. 1723 house at Shirley Plantation, on the James River in Virginia. The Bishop House attracted much attention after it was built, being featured in several magazines. In “Residence of H. E. Bishop, Esq., at Norwalk, Connecticut” (American Homes and Gardens, Vol. V, No. 21, February, 1908), Francis Durando Nichols writes:
The site chosen for the house was fortunately an elevated corner lot, more spacious by far than is usually to be had in the popular residential section of a city. Taking its situation as a keynote, the designer has given his composition an effect of massive elegance which makes it one of the most striking houses in its vicinity.
The house is surely not one of the million that we are perfectly content to pass by with never a second look. It compels attention, not because of any eccentricity in design, not because of any weird hybrids among its architectural motives, nor because of any unusual and dazzling color scheme, but solely because it does have that elusive quality of architectural distinction.
In “Four Colonial Houses” (American Forestry, Vol. 23, No. 279, March, 1917), Rawson Woodman Haddon writes:
The way by which we may preserve in the domestic architecture of today an undefinable charm—a certain warmth of personality with which American history has invested the wooden house——is what Mr. joy Wheeler Dow shows us in the buildings he has designed, and in his writing upon the various developments of American architecture, both historic and modern.
This is the second oldest ecclesiastical organization in Norwalk. As early as 1729 there appears to have been desultory Episcopal services holden in Norwalk. Rev. Henry Caner of Fairfield, was probably the first clergyman known to have here officiated. His incumbency dates from 1737, at which period the worship of the Episcopal church seems to have been celebrated in a small and temporary frame structure which stood on the extreme northeasterly portion of the present St. Paul’s grounds on Newtown avenue. This structure seems to have served the parish purpose until 1742, when the building, afterward destroyed by Tryon, was erected. [. . .]
A new church edifice rose over the ashes of the temple burned in 1779, which building stood until 1840
That third church building was replaced by a frame Carpenter Gothic structure that stood until it was torn down and replaced by the current church on Norwalk Green. The cornerstone was laid on November 12, 1927 and the church was consecrated on June 9, 1930. Visitors reach the church through its ancient burial ground (see photo) from St. Paul’s Place, a short street along the northern boundary of the Green. Read the rest of this entry »
Today is the Ninth Anniversary of Historic Buildings of Connecticut! It’s been one post a day for nine years!
Frederick Belden (1818-1893) was a wealthy Norwalk merchant. C. 1850 he built the Italianate house at 75 East Avenue across from Norwalk Green. Frederick Belden married twice, first to Catherine E Gruman Belden (1822-1864) and then to Sarah E Hill Belden (1840-1911), the oldest daughter of Ebenezer Hill, a banker and founder of the Norwalk Lock Company and the Norwalk Iron Works. The Belden house is mentioned in Norwalk (1896), by Charles M. Selleck:
The Frederick Belden residence “on the green” supplanted the more ancient Grumman home, and was presided over by those to whom refinement and good breeding seemed a second nature. Mrs. Belden was gracefully dignified and of pleasing presence. Her good mother, Mrs. Gruman, who was for many years her daughter’s care, was, like her near neighbor, Mrs. Senator Thaddeus Betts, a feeling friend. Those of Miss Susan Betts’ school children who yet remain may recall how that good instructress was wont, during the noon recess on the green, to receive warm, appetizing viands, as a mid-day luncheon. She was unforgotten in the school’s generous vicinity. As the Belden children approached maturity the bright home invited the young. The second Mrs. Belden has preserved its reputation.
Most recently used as a funeral parlor, last summer the house sold for $250,000.