The Nathaniel Backus House, at 44 Rockwell Street in Norwich, was built as a Colonial era house in 1750, but is notable for its later Federal-style detailing. The house is named for Nathaniel Backus, Jr., who married Hannah Baldwin in 1726. Backus was one of only six men in Norwich who owned their own carriages in the years before the Revolutionary War. The house originally stood on lower Broadway. In 1951, it was saved from demolition and moved to Rockwell Street by the Faith Trumbull Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Together with the neighboring Perkins-Rockwell House, the Backus House is operated as a museum by the DAR.
Fairfield’s Old Academy was a school founded in 1802 by a group of prominent local citizens. The schoolhouse itself was erected on the Old Post Road in Fairfield and opened in 1804. The original academy was in existence until around 1884. The building then served several purposes over the years, being used by a nearby private school and as a library and place for meetings. In 1920, the Old Academy was faced with demolition but the Eunice Dennie Burr Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Fairfield Historical Society joined to save and restore the building, which was moved to the town green in 1958. Today the Old Academy is owned by the town and still used by the DAR. Opened to visitors several days a year, the building contains historical artifacts and the second floor is maintained as a replica of the old schoolroom.
The Perkins-Rockwell House, on Rockwell Street in Norwich, is an interesting stone Federal Style house. It was built around 1818 by Joseph Perkins, a merchant and Revolutionary War soldier. The house was inherited by his daughter, Mary Watkinson Perkins, who married John Arnold Rockwell, a lawyer and politician, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives. The house was inherited, in 1924, by Mary Watkinson Rockwell Cole. Today it is a museum, operated by the Faith Trumbull Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
George Washington slept many places, but where did George Washington’s horse sleep? In the Wadsworth Stable in Hartford, which was on the estate of Jeremiah Wadsworth, in whose house Washington, Rochambeau and Governor Trumbull had their first meeting in 1780. The original stable, built in 1730, later burned down. It was rebuilt around 1820 in the Palladian style, unusual for an outbuilding, to suit the pretensions of the Federal era. The stable was probably designed by Daniel Wadsworth, Jeremiah Wadsworth’s son. In 1842, the Wadsworth House was moved to a new location (it was torn down in 1887) when the Wadsworth Atheneum was constructed. The stable, which was owned for a time by the Hartford Public Library, remained on its original site, adjacent to the Atheneum, until 1954, when it was saved from demolition and moved to Lebanon. Its original location is now the Travelers Tower plaza. The new home of the Wadsworth Stable was provided by the Connecticut DAR and is adjacent to the Governor Jonathan Trumbull House. A plaque on the stable recognizes the generosity of Katharine Seymour Day, who also established what is now the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, for the restoration of the building.
A portion of what would later be known as the Bradford-Huntington House was built in Norwich on the home lot of John Bradford sometime prior to 1691 (perhaps as early as 1660, although a D.A.R. marker on the property gives the date as 1705). The house was bought by Capt. Joshua Huntington, a merchant, in 1719 (or by his father, Simon Huntington, in 1691). In later years he would enlarge and update the house in the Georgian style, adding a gambrel roof and a new chimney. The house was later owned (1745), and expanded with the addition of a rear ell, by his son, Jabez Huntington, who became Major General of the Connecticut militia in 1776, the same year George Washington spent a night in the home during the Revolutionary War. Later, Huntington experienced mental strain from his efforts and resigned in 1779. He died in 1786 and is buried near his house in the Old Norwichtown Cemetery.
Jonathan Trumbull, Connecticut’s last colonial governor and first state governor (1769-1784), was born in Lebanon in 1710. Educated at Harvard, Trumbull began working with his father, Joseph Trumbull, as a merchant in 1731. He became a delegate to Connecticut’s General Assembly in the 1730s and his later support of the Patriot cause led to his election as deputy governor in 1766, with the support of the Sons of Liberty. He became governor in 1769, after the death of governor William Pitkin. Trumbull was the only colonial governor to support the American Revolution, organizing Connecticut’s resources to serve the war effort and earning the praise of George Washington. Among the children of Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., who died in 1785, were Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. (a later governor of Connecticut) and the artist, John Trumbull.
The Governor Jonathan Trumbull House was built by his father, Joseph, between 1735 and 1740, and was inherited by Jonathan Trumbull in 1755, who enlarged and remodeled it in the fashionable Georgian style. The building is architecturally notable as the state’s only central chimney house with a center hall. It was also moved slightly north of its first location in 1824. The house has been owned and operated as a house museum since 1935 by the Connecticut Daughters of the American Revolution.
The house of Oliver Ellsworth, on Palisado Avenue in Windsor, was originally at the heart of the Ellsworth estate, called Elmwood. It was built in 1781 by Samuel Denslow, to Ellsworth’s specifications. Oliver Ellsworth had been born on the property in 1745 and went on to become a member of the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War, an envoy to France, a framer of the U.S. Constitution, the chairman of the Senate Committee that framed the bill organizing the federal judiciary system, and the third Chief Justice of the United States. Ellsworth married Abigail Wolcott Ellsworth in 1772 and the couple lived in the house until his death in 1807. Two sitting presidents visited the house, George Washington in 1789 and John Adams in 1799.
In 1788, Ellsworth commissioned Thomas Hayden, a notable Windsor architect-builder, to construct a two-story addition to the house on the south elevation. The addition’s first floor was a drawing room, in which Ellsworth’s daughter Abigail married Ezekiel Williams, son of the merchant and Hartford County Sheriff, Ezekiel Williams of Wethersfield in 1794. Ezekiel Williams Sr had served with Ellsworth on the Committe of the Pay Table during the Revolutionary War. The Greek Revival-style colonnaded porch was added by Martin Ellsworth in 1836. Members of the Ellsworth family continued to live in the house until 1903. It was then deeded to the Connecticut Daughters of the American Revolution by Oliver Ellsworth’s descendants. Restored in the 1980s and 1990s, the house is open to the public as the Oliver Ellsworth Homestead.