Roswell Burrows Fitch (1833-1908) was born in the seaside village of Noank to parents Elisha and Mary P. Fitch. At twelve years of age he commenced to be self-supporting, and from then until he was fourteen, occupied a clerkship in a general store in town. In his teens, summers were spent aboard ships fishing for a livelihood, and his winters attending school. Upon completing his education, he became clerk in a store, and was afterwards engaged to assume the management of a union store which was erected for the special purpose of being placed under his charge. The store, located on Main Street in Noank, was eventually fully purchased by Fitch, and he did well financially. He may have had this house built or merely bought it years after it was built in the mid-19th century. When he sold his business in 1890, he “Victorianized” the classically designed Greek Revival style house with Queen Anne embellishments. The renovations in 1890 included an octagonal tower, an elaborate porch, a two-door entry likely replaced the sidelights and transom, brackets and applied decoration at the gable and cornice, and a Palladian window which was a Colonial-inspired addition. Hodge-podge or eclectic houses are some of the most fun!
Robert Henry Peckham House // 1872
Another of Noank’s stunning Victorian-era seaside cottages is the 1872 Robert Henry Peckham house which is located across the street from the village’s most ornate cottage, the Deacon Robert Palmer House (featured previously). The house exhibits a gambrel roof which reads as a mansard roof at the side elevations. A round arched window is set into the gable end. Decorative cut bargeboards add much complexity to the design. It appears that in the early 20th century, as Noank was re-establishing itself as an artist colony, the owners added the small wrap-around porch and stone garden wall.
Thomas Jefferson Sawyer House // 1840
Thomas Jefferson Sawyer was born in 1807 in Groton, Connecticut as the tenth of 13 children of William and Prudence Sawyer. It appears that his parents were running out of names by the time they had ten children, so they named number ten after the then President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson Sawyer moved to Noank’s coastal village in 1840 and built this interesting Greek Revival house with an atypical hipped roof. Sawyer was a sea-captain who remained in Noank until his death and he was a very active member of the local Baptist church. The Sawyer House remains as a unique example of the Greek Revival style captains house, which the village is known for.
Robert Palmer Jr. House // 1907
Robert Palmer Jr. (1856-1914) was born in Groton, Connecticut as the son of Robert Sr., a prominent businessman and Deacon in Noank’s seaside village (his house was featured previously). Robert Sr. established the Palmer shipyard, which became the largest business enterprise in Noank. Jr. would later join his father’s business and did well for himself financially, eventually marrying and building this Neo-Classical mansion on Church Street in town. The company, under Sr. and Jr.’s leadership, built many seafaring vessels that were internationally renowned until the company closed in 1914 after the death of Robert Jr. This house is unique in town for the monumental two-story portico, Palladian windows at the first floor, and a projecting entry vestibule.
Deacon Robert Palmer House // 1884
Perched on the highest hill in the coastal village of Noank, Connecticut, you will find this absolutely enchanting gingerbread Victorian mansion. The house was built in 1884 for Deacon Robert Palmer (1825-1913), a wealthy man who wasn’t only deacon of the village’s Baptist church, he was the owner of a flourishing shipyard, and it was his shipyard workers who built him, with loving care, a house he could be proud of! Robert ran the shipyard in town first with his brother, and then with his son. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the shipyard was the largest facility for building and repair of wooden vessels in southern New England, employing over 300 men. The yard specialized in building railroad car floats, schooner barges, and dump scows as well as fishing smacks. Robert Palmer and Son went out of business in 1914 with the passing of the Robert. The Stick style mansion with mansard roofed tower remained in the Palmer family until the early 2000s when it sold and was restored to her former glory. The residence features exposed rafters, a pagoda-like second story balcony, a frieze with geometric cut-outs, and a wrap-around porch which provides sweeping views of the ocean. I can only imagine how beautiful this old Victorian is on the inside!
Josephus Fitch House // 1809
Not far from the Pelatiah Fitch House is this charming Federal Cape house in Noank, CT, built for Pelatiah’s grandson, Josephus (there are a lot of great names in this family)! Pelatiah’s eldest son Josephus was born in 1745 and was equipped for service in the American Revolution by his father. He survived the war, but in 1778, he perished at sea aboard a whaling vessel. Josephus Fitch Jr., his mother and siblings remained in Noank and tried to re-establish a life after losing their father who was just 32 years old. He grew up and married, and eventually purchased land in town, building this cape house in 1809. The house is vernacular with modest trim surrounding the door, 12-over-12 windows, and two small dormers at the roof.
Moses Latham House // c.1845
Noank is a charming seaside village within the town of Groton that is centered on a peninsula at the mouth of the Mystic River where it spills out into the Long Island Sound. Historically, the area was known as Nauyang (meaning “point of land”) and was a summer camping ground of the Pequot people, but they were driven out in 1655 following the Pequot War. White settlement was slow here until the mid-19th century, when the shipbuilding and fishing economy took off here. As a result, houses, stores, churches and industries were built, and an entire village was formed. Most extant homes here were constructed starting in the 1840s as the village (and nearby Mystic) saw economic growth from the maritime trades. This house, the Moses Latham House, was constructed for Mr. Latham in about 1845. The house is Greek Revival in style with flush-board siding, a fan light in the gable which reads as a pediment, and a simple portico supported by fluted Doric columns.
Giddings Homestead // c.1800
This old gambrel-roofed home sits on the beginning of Pautipaug Hill Road just outside the industrial village of Baltic, in Sprague, Connecticut. The house’s history is a little unclear, but it shows up on historic maps as being owned by W. Giddings. This appears to have been Walter Giddings (1788-1854). Walter may have built or inherited this property from his father Nathaniel, who died in 1809. Walter married Laura Lucretia Fillmore in 1811 and they had four children. Laura died in 1827 at just 37 years old and Walter remarried within a year to Lydia Lathrop Ladd. The property remained in the Giddings Family at least into the second half of the 19th century. It was later “Victorianized” with two-over-two windows, side and front porches, and a octagonal bay window. The home has been suffering from deferred maintenance for over 15 years (as far back as Google maps goes) and was listed for sale, so here’s to hoping this old beauty survives!
Smith’s Corner Store // c.1865
One of the largest and most stunning buildings in the town of Franklin, Connecticut is this Italianate style structure along the Hartford-Norwich Turnpike. The building appears to have been built soon after the conclusion of the American Civil War by brothers John Owen Smith (1819-1896) and Prentice Orrin Smith (1817-1898) who possibly operated the building as a tavern or inn along the route between Hartford and Norwich. The three-story, five-bay facade structure featured round arched windows at the top floor, a raised belvedere at the roof, bracketed cornice with overhanging eaves, and later storefronts at the facade. The building is occupied today by Victorian House, a furniture store.
Colonel Jacob Kingsbury House // pre-1815
Jacob Kingsbury was born in Norwich, Connecticut on July 6, 1756, to Nathaniel and Sarah Hill Kingsbury.On July 11, 1775, at the age of 19, he enlisted in the 8th Connecticut Regiment, which was part of the Continental Army in the Siege of Boston. Kingsbury remained in the Continental Army when it was reorganized in 1776, and he was promoted to sergeant and then was commissioned an ensign in Webb’s Additional Continental Regiment on April 26, 1780. He served until the Continental Army was disbanded on November 3, 1783. At this time, Jacob moved back home and appears to have had this house built, or moved back into his father’s home. He would later serve with the United States military on campaigns against British allies and Native tribes. During the War of 1812, Kingsbury was appointed to command the defenses of Newport, Rhode Island. He served as Inspector General for Military District No. 2 (comprising the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island) from April 8, 1813, to October 31, 1814. He was discharged in 1815, and moved back to Franklin to live out his final days. The original vintage of this house in unclear, but it appears to have been built before or shortly after his return to Franklin in 1815. After his death in 1837, the property was inherited by his son, Col Thomas Humphrey Cushing Kingsbury, who updated the old homestead with Italianate detailing including the replacement double doorway, bracketed and dentilled cornice, tripartite window in the gable, and 2/2 windows. What a cool blending of styles here!