Dr. James Percival House (1784)

October 10th, 2016 Posted in Berlin, Colonial, Houses

Dr. James Percival House

Dr. James Percival (d. 1807) was a prominent physician in the parish of Kensington in the town of Berlin. He was the father of the poet and naturalist James Gates Percival (1795-1856). The doctor is described by Julius H. Ward in The Life and Letters of James Gates Percival (1866):

He had a strong constitution and a vigorous mind. He easily grasped a subject, and was noted for keeping his own counsel and doing things entirely in his own way. He was social and persuasive in society, but divided his time mostly between his profession and his home. He was not liberally educated, but he had a taste for letters, and was as well read as most Connecticut doctors in his day. Except in winter, when he could use a sleigh, he made his calls on horseback, turning his saddle-bags into a medicine-chest. He was prompt in business and eminent in his profession. It was said of him by a friend: “Few physicians in a country town ever performed more business in a given time than Dr. Percival. This may be asserted of him both as it respects his whole professional life and also his daily visits. With a practice of nineteen years, he left an estate that was inventoried at fourteen thousand dollars.”

The same book describes the doctor’s house (381 Percival Avenue), built in 1784, in which James Gates Percival was born in 1795, and the surrounding neighborhood:

The house of his birth is still standing. It is a plain wooden building, bordering close upon the street, with a long sloping roof in the rear,-—a style of dwelling which our ancestors brought from England. It has now quite other tenants, and its shattered windows and uneven roof and weather-beaten paint show the marks of age. It is situated in one of the most romantic and charming regions in Connecticut. Near at hand is the parish church, standing on an elevated site, in the shade of fine old trees of buttonwood and oak, its low steeple cropping out just above their tops; in front of the house and over the way is an orchard slope; around it are patches of mowing and pasture; and at its foot is a beautiful sheet of water, which turns several mills in its progress, and then dashes over the rocks, and winds away among green meadows. Farm-houses are scattered everywhere among the neighboring eminences and in the valley. The whole neighborhood is remarkable for the rich and varied beauty of its scenery

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