Jabez Bacon House (1762)

April 11th, 2016 Posted in Colonial, Houses, Woodbury

Jabez Bacon House

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.

A description of Jabez Bacon can be found in Cothren’s History of Ancient Woodbury (1854):

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.

Post a Comment