When the historic Silvermine Tavern, located in the Silvermine section of Norwalk, closed in 2009, it was the end of an 80 year local institution. Several buildings make up the original Silvermine Tavern complex, including an old mill with origins in the seventeenth century, a coach house and a gatehouse that has since been attached to the main Tavern building. This structure has a plaque indicating that it was built c. 1810 as the Joseph Cocker Cotton Factory. Cocker’s business was an expensive undertaking and when he passed away unexpectedly in 1812 he left an estate that was heavily in debt. His widow Sally died the following year and Stephen Abbott acquired the property, but he too fell into debt and sold it in 1816 to his son. By that time the building had had new wings constructed for living quarters and a weaving shop. The factory continued on under various owners until, including David Comstock, who manufactured hats, until it was acquired in the 1850s by Henry Guthrie, an immigrant from England who owned a shipyard and three water-powered mills. Guthrie produced knobs for doors and furniture and local girls sanded, varnished and packed them for shipping in what would become the Tavern’s living room.
Otto Goldstein purchased the building in 1906. He also owned the nearby Red Mill, built c. 1800, which he used for his fur processing business. Goldstein lived in the former factory where he also had a taproom where he sold drinks to the local community of Silvermine, which was then becoming an artists’ colony. With the repeal of Prohibition, J. Kenneth Byard bought the property in 1929 and named it the Silvermine Tavern, offering dining and overnight accommodations. Ownership of the Tavern passed to I.M. Weiss in 1948. The Whitman family operated it from 1955 until the restaurant closed in 2009. It then continued for a few years as a bed & breakfast.
In 2013-2014 the property was acquired by developer Andrew Glazer, who is currently redeveloping the site. He renovated the store to become his new office and the mill house (called the Red Mill, it once had a water wheel) next to the Tavern to become his residence. He also built four new houses and a community barn on the Tavern’s old parking lot, the profits from them to support the next phase of the project, which is to extensively modernize and eventually reopen the Tavern itself. The interior is being gutted and the restaurant adapted from the sprawling space that seated 200 to a new space that will seat 60. The picture above was taken in 2014, before the current renovation work on the main Tavern building began earlier this year.
Across the road from the Tavern is the Country Store (pictured here in 2014), which once served as a general store. The building has been moved on its lot several times and has served a variety of purposes over the years: a general store, church hall, blacksmith shop, and dance hall and, in 1908, the living quarters were being used as a Temperance Hall.
2014 image of the old mill house (Red Mill) undergoing renovation work: