The building at 1 Waterville Road (AKA 820 Farmington Avenue) in Farmington contains sections of two much earlier houses. In 1807, Pomeroy Strong (1777-1861) purchased the land, which included the gambrel-roofed one-story Woodford House, built c. 1666 by Joseph Woodford Sr. Strong also acquired the Newell Homeasted, built some time earlier (perhaps as early as 1650) by Thomas Newell. Woodford and Newell were among the original 84 proprietors of the town of Farmington and in 1666 Woodford married Newell’s daughter Rebecca. By 1807 the Farmington Canal was being constructed and its path went right through where the Newell House stood. Strong moved the house to the east and, attaching it to the south of the Woodford House. He remodeled the structure, adding a second story. At Strong’s death his estate passed to his two daughters, Julia and Ellen Root Bartlett. In 1862 Ellen sold her interest to Julia and her husband, Dr. Chauncey Brown (1808-1879). He is described in Farmington, Connecticut, the Village of Beautiful Homes (1906):
Dr. Chauncey Brown was born in Canterbury, Conn. He went to Brown University for one year and then to Union College, whence he was graduated with honor. He was a student of Greek, reading the Greek Testament with great pleasure during the remainder of his life. From the medical school of Bowdoin he returned to Canterbury. In the last year and a half of the Civil War he was physician and surgeon in one of the hospitals of Washington. He came to Farmington about 1835 and in 1837 married Julia M. Strong. He was a strenuous believer in abstinence from alcoholic drink and also in anti-slavery when both beliefs were unpopular.
When the Amistad Committee arranged for the Amistad captives to stay in Farmington before returning to Africa, the girl named Temme was to be housed with the family of Horace Cowles. By the time she arrived at the Cowles residence on March 19, 1841, Horace Cowles had passed away and his widow soon moved to West Hartford. Temme then went to the house of Dr. Chauncey Brown, where she lived for most of her stay in Farmington. Dr. Brown’s wife, Julia Strong Brown, described her experiences with Tamme in The Farmington Magazine in February 1901:
It was a most singular episode in the quiet life of Farmington which brought to us the band of Mendians in which were included three Mendian girls.
One of these, by name Tamie, was sent directly to and remained with me until their departure for their native land, and she proved a most interesting personality. About fourteen years of age, she was tall, straight as an arrow, and lithe as a willow, with a soft low voice and a sweet smile which so far as I remember, never developed into a laugh. Her nature was rather serious and yet she was uniformly cheerful.
[ . . .] she was fond of flowers and particularly enjoyed a little garden which she tended carefully. I remember her joy when I had been preparing pineapples, she asked for the green crowns to plant and was so delighted when they began to grow. Her perceptions were keen and her questions innumerable.
The house later passed to the Browns’ son, Philip Brown, and then to his cousin, Eleanor Bartlett Phelps, who owned it until 1963. Since then it has been a commercial property. In 2011 the house was added to the town’s blighted building list because the property had deteriorated and had a shabby appearance. In 2014 there were plans to tear down the rear section (the 1666 Woodford House), but these later fell through. The building is currently vacant and is still a threatened building.
Austin F. Williams (1805-1885), a leading abolitionist in Farmington, was a member of the defense committee that worked to secure the freedom for the Amistad captives in 1841. Before returning home to Africa, the Mendi captives stayed in Farmington (March through November, 1841) while funds were raised for their return journey. Williams constructed a building on his property where the male members of the group lived. The building was later used by Williams as a carriage house. The picture below shows the west side of the carriage house-the section visible from Main Street-which was not added until after the Mendi departed from Farmington.
At the corner of Church and Hart Streets in Farmington is the old Farmington Academy building, also called Union Hall. It was constructed in 1816 by builder Samuel Dickinson and served as a community assembly hall (Union Hall), a chapel for the Congregational Church and the Farmington Academy, a school operated by the church until the 1840s. In the years before the Civil War, the building’s second floor hall was rented out to both abolitionist and anti-abolitionist groups. Women who were church members gathered here in 1841 to sew clothing for the Africans of the Amistad. Later in the nineteenth century, the building was used as town hall, library and meeting place. The Academy building originally stood next to the church, where the Sarah Porter Memorial Building stands today. It was moved a short distance in 1900 to make way for the Porter Memorial and again in 1917 to its present site to make way for the Barney Library. From 1900 to 1917 it was used to house a school for girls run by Theodate Pope. More recently, the building has been home to the Farmington Art Guild.
The house at 27 Main Street in Farmington was built for Samuel Smith in 1769. It was later the home of Horace Cowles (1782-1841) and his wife Mary Ann (1784-1837). In the years before the Civil War, they were stationmasters on the Underground Railroad who his fugitive slaves in their home. One day they had to go out and they left their young daughter, Mary Ann (1826-1899), in charge. She sat at the front door all day long and refused to let anyone enter, including a slave catcher from the South who had to leave empty handed. One of the three Mende girls from the Amistad stayed with the Cowles family when the captives from that ship were staying in Farmington. After Cowles died, his son, Samuel Smith Cowles inherited the house and continued his father’s work aiding fugitive slaves. He also edited an anti-slavery newspaper, The Charter Oak. Samuel Smith Cowles also became Treasurer of the Farmington Savings Bank.
Born in Farmington in 1795, John Treadwell Norton (d. 1869) became successful in the hardware business in Albany, New York. Treadwelll, who had been a surveyor and engineer for the Erie Canal, returned to Farnmington to construct a feeder canal that would supply water to the Farmington Canal from the Farmington River in Unionville. On land inherited in 1824 from his grandfather, he built a Georgian-style mansion at 11 Mountain Spring Road in Farmington in 1832, where he lived as a gentleman farmer. The house of his grandfather, John Treadwell (1745-1823), who served as Governor of Connecticut, had been a station on the Underground Railroad. John Treadwell Norton was also an abolitionist. He was one of the first people to visit the Amistad captives who were confined in a jail in New Haven. He played a major role in bringing the captives to Farmington, where they lived for 8 months before returning to Africa. The property was later owned by Austin Dunham Barney and was called the Barney House. For a time, the house was a used as a conference center and bed and breakfast by the University of Connecticut. In 2001, it was sold to its current owners, who have returned to calling the house its original name of Glenbrook.
The United States Custom House, on Bank Street in New London, was built in 1833 and was designed by Robert Mills, architect of the Washington Monument in Washington, DC. The wood doors are made from planks from the USS Constitution. When the Amistad was brought to New London in 1839, the ship was moored near the Custom House and when it was sold, in 1840, its cargo was auctioned off in the building. The New London Maritime Society was formed in 1983 to save the Greek Revival-style building. It established the New London Custom House Maritime Museum in what continues to be the oldest continuously-operating custom house in the country.
Located on Elm Street, across from New Haven Green, the Ralph Ingersoll House was built in 1829 and was designed by Town and Davis. This early Greek Revival home was built by Nahum Hayward and a letter survives from Ingersoll to the architects explaining that the specifications, required by Hayward, had not arrived with the plans for the house. The brick walls would have originally been stuccoed or painted. The house was bought by Yale in 1919 and restored by Delano and Aldrich; some of the original furniture is preserved in the Ingersoll Room of the New Haven Museum and Historical Society. Ralph I. Ingersoll was a lawyer and politician, serving as mayor of New Haven and U.S. Representative. In 1831, he opposed the creation of a college in New Haven for African-Americans. As a lawyer, he also represented the Spanish Crown during the Amistad case.