Knowlton Memorial Hall, located at 25 Pompey Hollow Road in Ashford, was built in 1924 to serve as a town hall and library. These facilities are located on the second floor, while a large hallway and auditorium occupy the first floor. The building was the gift of Charles C. Knowlton (1844-1924), a native of Ashford who was a partner in a Putnam silk mill. He resided in New York City, where he marketed the firm’s silk, but he would spend summers in his home town of Ashford. He gifted Knowlton Memorial Hall in honor of his father, Jonathan W. Knowlton, and his ancestor, Col. Thomas Knowlton (1740-1776), who had served in the Revolutionary War. Col. Knowlton led a company of men who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and was killed the following year in fighting in New York. Knowlton Memorial Hall was designed by Herbert Loud and is constructed of local fieldstone, reflecting a rustic aesthetic associated with the Craftsman movement. The Babcock Library, originally opened in 1866, was established through a gift of $3,000 from Archibald Babcock (1780-1862), another successful Ashford native who became a brewer in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Initially located in the Warrenville General Store, the library had for many years been housed in the residence of librarian Peter Platt before finding a permanent home in Knowlton Memorial Hall. Babcock also gave $3,000 to establish the Babcock Band, which is the nation’s oldest civilian cornet band.
As described in yesterday’s post, St Philip the Apostle Church in Ashford is a Catholic parish established in 1921. Rev. John Joseph Nilan of Hartford sent Father William J. Dunn to a 135-acre farm he had acquired, land where the church would eventually be built in the 1930s. Until then, Father Dunn resided in an old farmhouse, 48 Pompey Hollow Road, in which he partitioned off a section to serve as a chapel. He had to endure local prejudice against Catholics, but eventually succeeded, with the help of the local Catholic community, in erecting the church. I don’t know who built the Federal-style farmhouse, but it appears to have been erected in 1815. Today the house is home to Antiques at Pompey Hollow.
St. Philip the Apostle Church, 64 Pompey Hollow Road in the Warrenville section of Ashford, was built of native stone in the 1930s through the efforts of the local farming community. Most were of Slovak descent and the church has a Byzantine copper onion dome. The church was erected through the leadership of Father William J. Dunn, who was sent to the new parish, which originally encompassed nine rural towns in eastern Connecticut, in 1921 and celebrated Masses in the old farmhouse in which he lived until the new church was completed. It was designed by New York architect Paul Chalfin, a summer resident of Warrenville.
The house on the right in the picture above is the Tremko-Stebbins House, located on Route 44 in the Warrenville section of Ashford. The building on the left is a former Post Office. The house was built c. 1773 by Thomas Stebbins Sr., who bought 1/4 of an acre from Benjamin Clark. The last owner of the house was George T. Tremko, who bought it in 1946 from Abbie M. Balch (she served on the Ashford Board of School Visitors, to which she was elected in 1898). It was known as the post-master’s house because the Tremko’s were involved with the post office next door. The Town of Ashford bought the house via eminent domain in 1987 and there were plans to take it down and build a new library on the premises. The Ashford Historical Society helped to save the house and to acquire a grant to rehabilitate its exterior (this work was completed in 2014-2015). The town is waiting for another grant to rehabilitate the interior of the house, after which it can be used as a Museum and Tourist Information Center.
Thanks to Joan E. Bowley, Pres. of the AHS, for information on the house.
In the early twentieth century a community of Hungarian immigrants was established in the town of Ashford. There is a Hungarian Social Club at 314 Ashford Center Road and at 200 Ashford Center Road is the former First Magyar Reformed Church. According to Ashford assessor records, the church was built in 1930 and was sold to a private owner in 2003. It was then renovated to become a residence. Next door to the former church is the Woodward Cemetery, which has burials primarily from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
In the first half of the nineteenth century, Ashford Green was the active center of the Town of Ashford. Today, only one building survives from that time: the Ashford Academy, built in 1825. The first floor served as one of the town’s district schoolhouses (the Fifth School District). This schoolhouse was already being planned when a group of local citizens raised money by private subscription to add a second floor for use as a private academy for more advanced students. Academy sessions were held until 1875, after which the building served exclusively as a public school until 1949. Today the Ashford Historical Society uses the building for educational activities and to display some of their artifacts.
The Byles Homestead is an early eighteenth-century house at 125 Ashford Center Road in Ashford. It stands on part of what had been the 226 acre farm bought by Josias (or Josiah) Byles in 1726 (or 1718). Josias Byles (c.1682-1752) was a Boston shopkeeper who is buried in that city’s Granary Burying Ground. His half-brother, Rev. Mather Byles (1706-1788) was a famously witty clergyman, author and poet who was a loyalist during the Revolutionary War. Josias’ son, Ebenezer Byles (1723-1805), settled on his father’s property in Ashford in 1743. The Byles Homestead passed to Ebenezer’s son Josias, then to his grandson Elisha and then to his great-grandson Andrew H. Byles. As related in Genealogical and Biographical Record of New London County, Connecticut (1905):
Deacon Andrew Huntington Byles was born Oct. 3, 1820, on the old home farm in Ashford, which is located on the turnpike between Ashford Centre and Warrenville. He was brought up to a very practical knowledge of farm work, which, however, in his younger days did not appeal to him, as he had a great desire to enter the medical profession. This boon was denied him as his assistance was needed by his father at home. His education was acquired in the common schools, and for several years he taught school in Ashford and surrounding towns. The old farm continued to be his home, and he assisted very materially in its management until after the death of his father, when it became his by inheritance. He resided there until 1888, when he removed to Willimantic and made that city his home until his death May 17, 1894.
Today, 69 acres of the Byles family’s old property is the Josias Byles Sanctuary, given to Joshua’s Trust in 1988. The Byles House is now a bed and breakfast called Henrietta House. The sign for Henrietta House gives a date of circa 1722, around which time the oldest sections of the residence were built.