Aaron Phelps was a successful farmer in Andover who built one of the first mills on Staddle Brook and also donated land in 1747 for the future town‘s first Congregational meetinghouse. He also donated land for a road to neighboring Hebron. In 1740 Phelps erected a house at what is now 40 Hebron Road. His house and barn were often used for worship services and Society meetings before the meetinghouse was built. Phelps’ house has a one-room deep main block with a rear ell and a later Greek Revival doorway. After Phelps died in 1750, 112 acres of his property on both sides of Hebron Road, including the house, were acquired by the Bingham family.
Travelers along the Old Post Road could once find accommodations at Josiah Fowler’s Tavern in Northford (current address 1710 Middletown Avenue). Fowler, who came to Northford in North Branford from Durham, built his tavern in 1776. The front entrance’s original five-pane colonial overlight survives as part of a later Federal doorway. Josiah Fowler‘s son, Maltby Fowler started Northford’s first industrial enterprise when he built a Button Shop in 1830.
Jabez Bacon (1731-1806) was a wealthy merchant who is thought to have been Connecticut’s first millionaire. In 1758 he acquired property on Hollow Road in Woodbury where he erected a grand residence by 1762. The house has original paneling in five formal rooms that each have a distinct design. The property, unusual for Connecticut, has the original detached summer kitchen with an intact smoke room on the second floor. This structure was once referred to as the “slave quarters.” Although Bacon had at least one indentured servant, Matthew Lyon, he is not known to have owned African slaves. There is also an early barn on the property. Bacon built a store next door, which is now used as a private residence. In 1834, the Bacon family sold the property to the Curtiss Family, who owned it until 1927. The next owners of the house were the Marvin family. Harlan H. Griswold (1910-1989), a leading Connecticut preservationist, purchased the house in 1953.
As a man he was one to make an impression on every one that came near him. The energy of the man was amazing, and, this directing all his powers to the single business of accumulation, wealth flowed into his coffers on every side. He was for years the sole merchant of this town and all the neighboring towns; and so large at times was his stock in trade, that, it is credibly reported, merchants from New Haven sometimes visited Woodbury, and purchased from Jabez Bacon goods to retail afterwards in that city.
His way of doing business was often rash, apparently, and seemingly no safe rule for others. An aged merchant of New York told the writer of this many years ago, that he (Mr. Bacon) would sometimes visit his store, make him a bid for a whole tier of shelf goods from floor to ceiling, amounting in value to thousands of dollars, and have the whole boxed and shipped in an hour to the sloop at the foot of Peck Slip bound for Derby. His vast wealth also, together with his business skill, sometimes gave him the command of the New York market so that, to a degree moderns can hardly credit, he could, with a turn of his hand, ” put the screws” on an article, and make its price in the great metropolis rise and fall like a barometer. An anecdote, an unquestionable fact, illustrates this. He was a large dealer in pork, this being the “circulating medium,” it would seem, for this region, judging from the vast quantities of it that found their way to “the old red store in the hollow,” as it was called, thence down to “Darby Narrors” where it was shipped to New York. The old gentleman had once shipped an exceedingly fine lot of this article for the city, but when he arrived there he found his purchasers indisposed to his price, as two immense ship loads were that day expected from Maine. The old gentleman merely set his teeth firm, an ominous trick of his in a bargain, and left the store. He instantly took a horse, rode some six miles up the East River shore, to about what is now Blackwell’s Island, boarded the sloops as they came along, and purchased every pound of their cargoes, staking his whole fortune for it. This at that day put the whole New York market in his hands, and tradition says he cleared forty thousand dollars by this single operation.
He was kind-hearted, open and generous, though in a bargain close to a fault. His hospitality was unbounded. A long table was kept set forth in the west parlor of what is now the residence of Daniel Curtiss, Esq., the whole year round. This might have been policy, but it was also a part of a large heart, that took pleasure in giving in this form. As a citizen he was public-spirited and useful for his day. As a husband and father his affections were endearing and indulgent, and he was the centre of a large circle of relatives and friends. But it was as a business man where he deserves to be noted; where he deserves signal mention for posterity. He was the centre of a great commotion; the main-spring of a mighty watch, such as we in this day almost consider apocryphal; and with him has passed away a business era, such as shall not soon be seen in this valley again.
In 1790 Andrew Fowler transferred ownership of a partially finished house in Guilford to his son, Jonathan Fowler, for five years’ service. The house was erected on an island next to the West River (current address 55 York Street). The property has a modern barn.
The house at 1091 Main Street in South Windsor is currently attracting the attention of the preservation community who have sought to delay its demolition. Its current owners claim that renovation of the building, which has suffered deterioration through neglect over 80 years, is not feasible. Built in 1782, it is known as the Asahel Olcott House and was built by either Asahel (1754-1831) or his father Benoni Olcott (1716-1799). It is an unusual example in Connecticut of a house with a “Beverly jog” (usually only found in houses on the North Shore of Massachusetts). Asahel Olcott was a soldier in the Revolutionary War who responded to the Lexington Alarm in 1775.
The house at 1832 Poquonock Avenue in Windsor was built c. 1790 by Capt. Sylvanus Griswold (1733-1811). A prominent and wealthy man, Sylvanus Griswold served as a lieutenant in the Revolutionary War. His son, Gaylord Griswold, was admitted to the bar in 1790. He is described in Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College, Vol. IV (1907), by Franklin Bowditch Dexter:
the fourth son and fifth child of Captain Silvanus Griswold, of Windsor, Connecticut, one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Hartford County, and grandson of Captain Benjamin and Esther (Gaylord) Griswold, of Windsor, was born on December 20, 1767. His mother was Mary Collins, of Wallingford, Connecticut.
Gaylord moved to New York State in 1792. The house was owned by Charles W. Hathaway in the mid-nineteenth century.