Living with the past: A dozen of the oldest homes in Wallingford
Living with the past: A dozen of the oldest homes in Wallingford
July 19, 2015 04:36PM
By Leigh Tauss
WALLINGFORD – Some things get better with age. Decidedly, colonial homes are one of them and over a dozen still stand dating back to the town’s earliest occupants. Here are a list of homes in town known to be over 250 years old:
12. Giles Hall House, 1760 – 337 S. Main St.
First occupied by the lesser-known younger brother of Declaration of Independence signer Lyman Hall the house has many unique original features still intact. Owners Bill Burgess and Gene Lidman say the house is “the love of their life,” and have taken extensive efforts to preserve it, including their choice of period furniture and paintings. The attic of the home includes the remains of a smoke house used to cure meats in the 1700s with walls charred and blackened from centuries of use. The house faces south and away from the street, Burgess said, to capitalize on as much heat as possible in the winter.
11. Rev. James Dana House, 1760 – 104 S. Main St.
Dana was the third pastor at the Congregational Church in Wallingford from 1758 to the 1780s, according to Wallingford Preservation Trust president Jerry Farrell Jr.. Dana was a somewhat controversial figure due to his theology.
“It’s hard to sort out whether he was progressive or conservative,” Farrell said.
The house still stands on the original site, and was owned by the Dickerman family from the late 19th to early 20th century.
10. Samuel Parsons House, 1759 – 180 S. Main St.
The current headquarters of the Wallingford Historical Society. President Bob Beaumont said not much is known about Samuel Parsons himself. One unique feature of the home are the chimneys built on the ends of the house, uncommon at a time when most homes were built with central chimneys.
The house was used as a tavern, horse changing station and inn in the 1700s, functioning as a pit stop between Boston and New York. In 1803 the house was purchased by Caleb Thompson, who operated a carriage, wagon and coffin shop out of it. It was bestowed to the Historical Society by Thompson’s granddaughter in 1920, and has remained essentially unchanged since, Beaumont said.
9. Thaddeus Cook House, 1758 – 1640 Tuttle Ave.
This enormous white house stands out in the neighborhood of mostly newer homes on the outskirts of town. When Cheshire became it’s own parish in 1780 a line was reportedly drawn straight through Cook’s property, Beaumont said.
Thaddeus was a colonel in the Revolutionary War who farmed on his property in town, Beaumont said. The Cook family owned a large amount of property and Cook Hill Road is named for them.
8. John Barker House, 1756 – 899 Clintonville Road
Described by Beaumont as “arguably the oldest brick house still in existence in the state of Connecticut,” this house is across the street from Gungywamp (see below). Owner John Baker reportedly had a slave by the name of Cato, Beaumont said, a talented musician in town whose services were be rented out.
7. Willoughby Williams House, 1755 – 310 Harrison Road.
This sprawling brown house rests atop a scenic hill on the corner of Harrison Road and Woodhouse Avenue. A salt box is atop the roof of the home, which was common in colonial architecture. The house stayed in the Williams family for over 200 years before being sold in the 1940s, Beaumont said.
Willoughby Williams was a veteran of the French and Indian War who was captured in the battle of Quebec but miraculously escaped, due to his athleticism, according to Beaumont.
Aside from being an escape artist, Williams was also a weaver who moved to Wallingford from New Haven.
6. Aaron Cooke House, 1740 – 180 Northford Road
Resting on a sprawling and scenic spread of farmland, this house is still occupied by descendants of the Cook family 270 years later. Dee Cooke said she does her best to keep the house close to its original state, right down to the interior furnishings. One of the key features of the home is the original side door, which still has a Cooke placard. Dee Cooke described it as an “Indian Door,” because the paneling on the outside is vertical while the interior panels are horizontal so that if an arrow was shot through it the boards would not split.
5. Theophilus Jones House, 1740 – 40 Jones Road
This quaint red house is partially guarded by shrubbery, giving it an air of antique mystery. At one point the Jones family owned upwards of 1,500 acres on the west side of town, Beaumont said. The 14-room home contains “ample halls and pantries,” Beaumont said.
4. Samuel Thorpe House, >1701 – 220 Thorpe Ave.
This house was virtually unknown until local realtor Lucille Trzcinski was called in by a contractor to do an assessment on it. She immediately realized the house dated back to at least the 1700s. Town records show the property was owned by Samuel Thorpe, one of the first settlers in town. Little is known about Thorpe, but a 1701 Grand List seems to indicate a house had already been constructed on the property at that time, making it one of the three oldest homes built in Wallingford still standing.
Beaumont and Farrell speculated the house was essentially lost in time due to its remote location relative to other historic homes in town and the obscurity of Thorpe compared to other town founders.
3. Old Gungywamp /Wood-Allyn House, 1679 – Clintonville Road
While some sources date this house back to 1670, Clara Booth Newell in her “History of Wallingford Connecticut” says the house was built in 1679 in Groton. The home has several interesting features including a salt box and a “secret staircase.” The home also reportedly has a gruesome connection to the Battle of Groton .
“It is safe to say it’s the site of a massacre by the British of the colonists during the Revolutionary War in 1779,” Beaumont said.
The home was purchased by Elmer Keith in 1945 and moved to its current location on Clintonville Road across from the Barker home.
2. Samuel Street House, 1673 – 238 S. Main St.
Built in 1793, this was the home of the town’s first minister. The grandfather of Declaration signer Lyman Hall, Street was one of the town’s founders and first landowners. At first glance this house does not appear to show it’s age, but a closer look at the windows and chimney reveal it to be one of the oldest in town.
1. Nehemiah Royce House, 1672 – 538 N. Main St.
The oldest existing home in town, Farrell said the house was saved from demolition by members of the family in 1920. A descendant of builder Nehemiah Royce was visiting town when she learned the house was slated for demolition. She quickly arranged and financed for the house to be moved from its original location on the corner of North Main Street and North Street to its current location.
The Royce House is famous for being visited by George Washington in 1775, Farrell said, who addressed the townspeople from a rock in front of the property under a large elm tree.
Additionally, the Royce family are thought to be the accusers of Winifred Benham, one of the last people to be tried for witchcraft in the state, Farrell said.