Located south of the Canterbury Town Green on S. Canterbury Road, this late Georgian style house showcases the style in a more rural setting with a comfortable distance from the street. The home is estimated to have been built by about 1790 and largely added to and updated in 1801 when purchased by Captain John Clark, an Englishman and former shipbuilder who shifted his skill from ships to houses. Clark is also believed to be the builder of the Prudence Crandall House just up the road, completed a couple years later.
The two-story hipped roof home features a prominent balustrade at the roof ridge, twin chimneys, a central triangular pediment with flanking pilasters and a Palladian window at the second floor. The elaborate architectural treatment of the central bay and entrance is synonymous with the “Canterbury” style of Georgian architecture in the region.
The David Nevins House, located at 7 South Canterbury Road, is a gorgeous Georgian style home with a symmetrical facade. The five bay home has a large central stone chimney which appears original to the home, reports state it was restored in the 1970s using large stones found in the home’s basement. The central paired and panelled front doors are surrounded by a Georgian entry with pilasters with a pulvinated frieze and a broken scroll pediment above. The original owner David Nevins (1729-1758) moved to Canterbury from Nova Scotia Canada and worked as a merchant. In 1758, Nevins died when repairing a damaged bridge to reopen trade with nearby Plainfield. According to A History of Norwich (1866),
“He was standing on one of the cross beams of the bridge, giving directions to the workmen, and had his watch in his hand, which he had just taken out to see the time, when, losing his balance, he fell into the swollen stream, was swept down by the current, and drowned before he could be rescued“
After his death, the home was occupied as a parsonage for the First Congregational Church across the street.
While this ca. 1805 Georgian estate was built for Elisha Payne, a businessman and later well-known politician around New England. In 1831, the home was acquired by Prudence Crandall (1803-1890) who both lived in and ran an all-girls school out of the large mansion. Originally serving as a teacher for Canterbury’s wealthy families, she eventually hired Sarah Harris a Black woman, who had lived nearby and wished to become a teacher herself. Local white parents were outraged, urging Crandall to expel Harris. She refused. When white parents withdrew their children, Crandall transformed her boarding school into one for African American girls. That, too, met with hostility from local white men who feared that it would draw more African Americans into their community and would lead to interracial marriage.
Admission to the new boarding school rose to 24 in the first few years. Both Crandall as well as her students endured harassment; shopkeepers refused to sell them food, the building was pelted with stones and eggs, and, in January 1934, the townspeople unsuccessfully attempted to set the school on fire. When Crandall continued undaunted, the Canterbury legislature passed its 1833 “Black Law” (repealed in 1838), making it illegal to run a school teaching African American students from a state other than Connecticut. Crandall was arrested and jailed. Her first trial ended in a hung jury; the second trial resulted in her conviction, which was overturned by a higher court. On the night of September 9, 1834, an angry mob broke most of the school’s windows and smashed furniture. Fearing for her students’ safety, Crandall finally closed the school.
Prudence later married Calvin Philleo, a Baptist minister and abolitionist and they moved to Illinois. After she left Connecticut, and after the American Civil War, Connecticut Legislature and Windham County voted in favor of Black education and black suffrage, eventually sending Prudence a pension for her work while she lived in the state. As a white woman of wealth, Prudence Crandall broke all norms and gender barriers to provide what all would say is a basic human right, education to all. She believed that black girls were worthy of decent education, and she risked her life to provide it. The former school building and home is operated today as the Prudence Crandall Museum.
Located on North Canterbury Road, north of the town green, stands a massive home which appears as a strange blending of styles. This home was built in around 1780 as the Jenks Family Homestead. The home operated as a farm with various outbuildings and orchards surrounding. The minimal Georgian style home was eventually purchased by Hattie and Frank Miller as a country estate. Frank bought his wife Hattie the home after his long career in hotel management. Hattie got the idea to transform the property to resemble George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate with a massive two-story portico supported by columns. The couple completed the completely un-academic version of the two styles and held many events and balls inside the home which was also renovated on the inside with a large ballroom.
Built by local mill owner William Levally, this Federal House is a fairly high style version in a Cape form. The interesting fanlight transom and entry treatment and the decorative corbelling add a pop to the otherwise minimal home. After Levally’s death, the home was purchased by Hezekiah Crandall, Prudence Crandall’s brother.