According to tradition, Asa Barnes established a tavern in his home in the Marion area of Southington in 1765, the same year he married Phebe Adkins. In 1781, when French troops under the comte de Rochambeau were marching through Connecticut on their way south, the eighth campsite of their march was established nearby on French Hill. During the four nights of the encampment, Rochambeau and his officers were entertained by Barnes in the tavern. They would stop there again during their return march, on October 27, 1782. Barnes continued to live in his tavern/house until his death in 1819. His son, Philo Barnes, leased the home to Micah Rugg and Levi B. Frost, pioneers in Southington’s bolt manufacturing industry. Frost, a blacksmith, purchased the property in 1820. The original building burned in a fire in 1836 and Frost rebuilt his house in the Greek Revival style. While the Frost House, which is located at 1089 Marion Avenue, features the classic hallmarks of that style of architecture, it is unusually long at 50 feet. This may be due to the house being constructed on the foundations (and perhaps even incorporating the original framework) of the original eighteenth-century tavern.
In the early hours of September 6, 1781, Rufus Avery, on watch duty at Fort Griswold, was the first soldier to observe an approaching British fleet. This force, led by Brigadier General Benedict Arnold and Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Eyre, eventually stormed the Fort in what became known as the Battle of Groton Heights. Capt. Avery later lived in a house at 142 Thames Street in Groton, built for him in 1787 by Henry Mason, another former defender of Fort Griswold. Around 1800, Rufus Avery had a second house constructed next door for his two sons. That home is now known as the Avery-Copp House.
Known as “The Orchard,” the Gen. Gold Selleck Silliman House is located at 506 Jennings Road in Fairfield. A general in the Revolutionary War, Silliman took part in the Battle of Ridgefield in 1777. In May 1779, Silliman and his son were captured in their home by a party of tories who had crossed Long Island Sound in the night. U.S. Navy Captain David Hawley later captured Thomas Jones, a highly reputed loyalist, to exchange for Silliman a year after his capture. Gen. Silliman‘s house was also used as a place of refuge by citizens fleeing the British burning of Fairfield on July 8, 1779. Gen. Silliman’s son, Benjamin Silliman, became the first professor of science at Yale University and the first to distill petroleum.
Happy Fourth of July! During the Revolutionary War, the French General Rochambeau’s army passed twice through Newtown: first in June, 1781, during the march to the Battle of Yorktown, and again in October, 1782, during the return march. On June 23, 1781, Claude Blanchard, the French commissary officer, arrived five days before the army to make arrangements for supplying the French camps. As Blanchard related in his diary (translated by William Duane, edited by Thomas Balch and published in 1876):
Newtown is on a hill surrounded by hills which are still higher. There are only a hundred houses with two temples [churches]. One of them was near the place where I lodged; and, as it was Sunday, I saw many people from the vicinity dismount there. As all the inhabitants of the country are proprietors and, consequently, in pretty easy circumstances, they had come on horseback, as well as their wives and daughters. In the neighborhood of Boston, they come in carriages; but here the country is mountainous and the horse is more suitable. The husband mounts his horse along with his wife; sometimes there are two women or two young girls together; they are all well clothed, wearing the little black hat in the English style, and making as good an appearance as the burghers in our cities. I counted more than a hundred horses at the door of the temple, where I heard singing before the preaching, in chorus or in parts. The singing was agreeable and well performed, not by hired priests and chaplains, but by men or women, young men or young girls whom the desire of praising God had assembled.
To-day I was rejoined at Newtown, where I spent the whole day, by M. de Sançcon, my secretary and some surgeons and apothecaries. I pointed out to them the site which I had selected for the hospital, and set out, on the 25th, to proceed to the American army.
Blanchard stayed in Newtown at the Caleb Baldwin Tavern, which had been built about 1763. Caleb Baldwin was a schoolmaster, postmaster and town clerk in Newtown. The tavern is where local farmers would drink sassafras beer after the sheep grazed in Ram Pasture. According to Newtown’s History and Historian, Ezra Levan Johnson (1917):
Caleb Baldwin’s Inn had the reputation of being the pattern of neatness, homelike in all surroundings and it was also claimed that there could be had the best broiled chicken or sirloin steak to be found in Fairfield county. The motherly reputation of the hostess made it a much sought place for restfulness.
The building remained in the Baldwin family until 1917. Still standing at 32 Main Street in Newtown, the former tavern was later remodeled twice, in the Federal and Victorian eras.
Like the Justin Hobart House and the Isaac Tucker House, the Nathan Bulkley House, built in 1750, survived the burning of Fairfield by the British in 1779. According to The Old Burying Ground of Fairfield, Conn. (1882), by Kate E. Perry, Nathan Bulkley “was deacon in the Congregational Church; a prominent man in town affairs, and Town Clerk for 82 consecutive years. He married Sarah, daughter of Joseph Perry, I. At the burning of Fairfield Nathan Bulkley owned the ‘Colonial home’ which descending to the second wife of the late Dr. J. T. Denison, is yet standing and In good repair.”
Happy New Year!!! Our first building of 2011 is the birthplace of a hero of the American Revolution. Ethan Allen led the Green Mountain Boys in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga and then served in the American military expedition against Canada in 1775. Although famous as a champion of statehood for Vermont, with a Homestead that can be visited in Burlington VT, Allen was born on January 21, 1738 in Litchfield CT. In 1740, his parents Joseph and Mary Allen, moved the family from the Litchfield house, built in 1736, to a new farm in Cornwall. Ethan took over the farm after his father’s death in 1755 and later struck out on his own, establishing a charcoal blast furnace in Salisbury in 1761. He eventually settled in Vermont, having purchased land in the area then known as the New Hampshire Grants. Ethan Allen also wrote a book, Reason: the Only Oracle of Man, first published in 1784.
Built in 1765 by a local cabinetmaker on Beach Road in Fairfield, the Justin Hobart House is one of the few structures to survive the burning of the town by the British in 1779. After the burning, church meetings and court sessions were held in the house until a new meeting house was completed in 1785. The house has had additions over the years, including the current entry portico. A new wing was added to the rear of the house in 1890 and a sun room extension around the mid-twentieth century. During World War One, the house served as the headquarters of the Fairfield Chapter of the American Red Cross.Happy Thanksgiving from Historic Buildings of Connecticut!