Glimpsed through the trees in the image above is a house that was once the home of two of the most famous people of the twentieth century. Located at 232 Tophet Road in Roxbury, it has been much altered over the years. It was built for a Revolutionary War veteran and was later the residence of playwright Arthur Miller and his wife (from 1956 to 1961) Marilyn Monroe. The couple had originally planned to replace the old farmhouse with a new home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but they decided the plan produced by the famous architect was too impractical and expensive. According to Homes of Old Woodbury (1959), p. 247, the house was built about 1783 by Captain David Leavenworth. Sheldon Leavenworth sold it to Elliot Beardsley in 1847 and twenty years later it was acquired by Charles N. Ward. Frederick H. Leavenworth bought the house in 1888 and his son sold it to Miller in 1949, the year the playwright wrote Death of a Salesman at his first Roxbury home. Miller lived in Roxbury from 1947 until his death in 2005. The Leavenworth House has has remained in Miller’s family. Ten years after his death, his daughter donated a 100-acre parcel to the Roxbury Land Trust.
The house at 1 Church Street in Roxbury was built in 1784 by Gen. Ephraim Hinman (1753-1829), a Revolutionary War veteran, merchant and prominent leader in the Connecticut Militia. Gen. Hinman also served in the state legislature and spearheaded the incorporation of the Town of Roxbury in 1796. He was born in Southbury and, as described in William Cothren’s History of Ancient Woodbury (1854):
Gen. Hinman removed to Roxbury about the year 1784, and built a house in the center of the village, which for a country residence at that period, was regarded as belonging to the first class. For about thirty years he was engaged in mercantile pursuits. During this time he became an extensive landholder, having in his possession at one time, about one thousand acres. He was not a practical farmer. but his love of real estate induced him to retain it, until the interest he paid, connected with losses he sustained, greatly embarrassed him in his declining years, and thus operated disastrously on the pecuniary interests of his son, who became involved in attempting to relieve his father.
At 12 Church Street in Roxbury is a house built circa 1790 for Judge Nathan Smith (1770-1835). According to Homes of Old Woodbury (1959), p. 250, the front section of the house was built sometime after the original rear section and the columns in front, like those of the Phineas Smith House in Roxbury, came from a church in New Haven that had burned in a fire. Nathan Smith and his brother Nathaniel both attended Tapping Reeve’s Litchfield Law School. Nathan Smith was a lawyer and Whig politician. He served as Prosecuting Attorney for New Haven County from 1817 until his death and as United States Attorney for the district of Connecticut from 1828 to 1829. He was a delegate to the Connecticut state constitutional convention in 1818 and an unsuccessful candidate for governor of Connecticut in 1825, losing to Oliver Wolcott. Smith served as a US Senator from 1833 to 1835, dying while in office in Washington, D.C., where President Andrew Jackson and his Cabinet attended his funeral in the Senate Chamber. There is a nineteenth-century barn on the Smith property in Roxbury, perhaps built by Smith’s nephew, Nathan R. Smith (b. 1811).
In 1731 residents of the Shippaug district of Woodbury petitioned the General Assembly to have their own minister during the winter months, when travel to the meeting house in Woodbury was difficult. The petition was granted and the following year a small meeting house was erected on the crest of the first ridge west of the present Roxbury-Woodbury town line. In 1743 the residents of Shippaug became a separate Ecclesiastical Society from Woodbury under the name of Roxbury. A new meeting house on the same site was built in 1746. The next meeting house was built in the present town center of Roxbury (approximately at what is now 12 Church Street) in 1795. The following year, Roxbury was incorporated as a town. The current meeting house of the Roxbury Congregational Church was built at 24 Church Street in 1838.
Little is known about the origins of the house at 4 Southbury Road in Roxbury, which originally served as a tavern and stage-coah stop. It is said to have been built in 1785 by a man named Burwell. He may be identified with one of several men named Brothwell (a variant spelling of the same surname) who lived in Roxbury at the time [refer to Roxbury Place-Name Stories (2010) by Jeannine Green, p. 17 for more details]. In 1839 the building was purchased by the Thomas family who owned it for over a century. The most well known member of the family was Harvey Thomas (died 1894). He raised and sold horses. A nineteenth-century barn that survives on the property almost certainly served as his horse barn.
The Parish House of Christ Episcopal Church in Roxbury was built around 1835 as the Old Center Schoolhouse. Roxbury Center School closed in 1942 and the building was sold to Christ Church. An addition was constructed in 1958 and the Parish House (located at 4 Wellers Bridge Road) was thoroughly renovated in the 1990s.