Peter Parley Schoolhouse // 1756

The Peter Parley Schoolhouse (also known as the West Lane Schoolhouse) in Ridgefield, CT, is an excellent example of a well-preserved one-room school building in Fairfield County. The little red schoolhouse was originally built in 1756 and either replaced or enlarged in the early 1800s. As Ridgefield in the early days was primarily an agricultural community, many children split their time either helping family on the farm or in school, with work almost always coming before education. The school is named for its most famous student, Samuel Griswold Goodrich. Goodrich went by the alias Peter Parley and was born in Ridgefield, attending the school between 1799-1803. He was a prolific writer, with over 170 books to his credit, and is believed by many to have written the first American textbooks. Samuel wrote about his experiences as a student there, giving locals and historians a look into early life in the town. In the early 1900s, the town consolidated schools and this building was closed. The town seemed to simply close the building and it saw some neglect over time until the Ridgefield Historical Society assumed a lease of the property, recently restoring it.

Henry Smith House // c.1845

This stunning temple-front Greek Revival home on Main Street in Ridgefield, Connecticut is an absolute dream! The home was built in the mid-19th century for Henry Smith, who operated a shirt factory in town with his father. The house’s gable roof facing the street completes a pediment, which is supported by a projecting portico of four colossal Ionic columns. In the pediment, a gorgeous Palladian window adds so much character to the facade. I love a good temple-front classical home!

First Congregational Church, Ridgefield // 1888

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The First Congregational Church was first established in Ridgefield, Connecticut just four years after the establishment of the town. Civic leaders in October 1712 successfully petitioned the Connecticut General Assembly for permission to levy a tax for “the settling and maintaining of the ministry in the said Town of Ridgefield.” Rev. Thomas Hauley, the first minister, also served as town clerk and school teacher. The first meeting house, on the town green, opened for worship in 1726. Plans for a new meeting house were drawn up in 1771 to fit a growing population, but construction was not complete until 1800. The second church was built in a more traditional style with a steeple. With a shift in the towns demographic from rural homeowners to ritzy exurb to New York City, a more suitable church was required by the end of the 19th century. Josiah Cleaveland Cady, one of the many great New York architects at the time was hired to design a new church suitable for the wealthy New Yorkers who summered in town to consider a neighbor, and he did not disappoint! The building blends many styles from Queen Anne, to Victorian Gothic, to Romanesque Revival in a way that isn’t clunky as in some other versions.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Ridgefield // 1896

Located just a block of Main Street in Ridgefield, Connecticut, St. Mary’s Catholic Church stands out as a rare example of Victorian Gothic architecture in a village full of Colonial (and Revival) and mid-19th century buildings. The first known Catholic to arrive in town was James Brophy, who’s family settled in Ridgefield in 1848. While growth of a local Catholic church in Ridgefield was slowly being established, the character of the town was changing by the second half of the 19th century, with wealthy New Yorkers building homes for vacationing in the summers. From this, many Irish Catholic immigrants were hired to work on the new estates. The first permanent Catholic church in town was built in 1867 as a modest wood frame church. As the congregation grew, a new church edifice was needed, and after a capital campaign, funds were gathered to erect a new church. Connecticut architect Joseph A. Jackson (who specialized in ecclesiastical design), was hired to furnish plans for the new church. The building exhibits eclectic architectural styles. Gothic design is seen in the pointed or lancet windows, arches and cast iron finials. The Queen Anne style is reflected in the use of textured and varied building materials, such as brick, brownstone, and shingles. And St. Mary’s most unique feature, its unusual steeple with its four turreted abutments and conical roof worked in shingles, is representative of the Shingle style.

Keeler Tavern // 1713

Around the year 1713, Benjamin Hoyt built a home for himself and his family on Lot 2 of the laid out building lots along Main Street of Ridgefield CT. The building was originally a one room dwelling with a stone fireplace and no basement and was located next to the David Hoyt mansion (aka The Fountain Inn). After several years, he expanded the property by building around and above the structure, to give it the gambrel roof and size we see today. More than 50 years later, in 1769, the property was purchased by Hoyt’s son-in-law, Timothy Keeler. Timothy Keeler and his wife converted the building into an inn in 1772, just prior to the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. Keeler sided with the American revolutionaries and was active in the local militia. After the Battle of Ridgefield, British forces fired on the Keeler Tavern, because Keeler was an enemy. One of the cannons used to pummel the tavern is still lodged in a corner post of the house to this day. After later owners in the Keeler Family, the property was purchased by world-renowned architect Cass Gilbert, who turned it into his family’s summer home in 1907. In doing so, he made various improvements and additions to the building, in particular he designed a Garden House and added a sunken around the year 1910. Gilbert would also design a fountain as a gift to the town, which sits almost opposite his family’s summer residence. The property was purchased in the 1960s and has since been a historical museum.

The Fountain Inn // 1740

Located on Main Street in idyllic Ridgefield, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, The Fountain Inn provides one of the most welcoming and historical bed and breakfast experiences in New England! The Fountain Inn was built in 1740 as a “city home in the country” for David Hoyt, who showed off his wealth and stature in the young town by having such a high-style home built at the time. Decades later during the Revolutionary War, David Hoyt’s house became a part of the Battle of Ridgefield. After defeating the Colonial militia elsewhere on Main Street, British Gen. William Tryon‘s troops turned their attention to nearby Keeler Tavern, the local militia’s headquarters, which just happened to be neighbors with the mansion owned by David Hoyt, a known Loyalist. General Tryon’s troops practiced their artillery-firing skills on the building pummeling it with cannonballs, sending a message to the head of the local militia. David Hoyt formally demanded a cease-fire, as he was concerned about wayward cannonballs damaging his home. By 1790, with Ridgefield’s British influence diminishing by the day, David Hoyt finally left his Connecticut home and sailed back to England. The home was expanded and modernized over the next two hundred years until the present owners purchased the property and underwent a massive restoration of the Colonial house inside and out as their family residence. In the past year, the inn opened as the Fountain Inn so-named after a Cass Gilbert-designed fountain across the street.

Orrin Holt House // c.1840

Located on Tolland Turnpike in Willington, east of the Town Common, this temple-front Greek Revival home stands in an excellent state of preservation. The home was built for General Orrin Hatch (1792-1855) in about 1840 after his work as a member of the Connecticut State House of Representatives 1830–1832, and in the Connecticut Senate in 1835 and 1836. He was re-elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-fifth Congress, serving until 1839. After leaving Congress, he served as Inspector General of the Connecticut State Militia, until his death in 1855. He likely built this home after leaving Congress in 1839, in his hometown. There is something about a temple-front home like this, they are so stately!

Old Willington Congregational Church // 1876

The Congregational or Town Church of Willington, Connecticut, has existed since the town’s incorporation in 1728, but originally met in a member’s small home on the Town Green. The Victorian Gothic style church we see today was built in 1876, after members gathered funds to construct the building. Land, materials, and labor were donated to offset costs for the small congregation. The church flourished until a split in the beliefs led to the formation of the Baptist Church of Willington. Eventually, the Congregational Church merged with the Willington Baptist Church in 1911 to form The Federated Church of Willington. The congregation then moved to the Baptist meeting house across the Green. In 1924, the Old Congregational meeting house, which was erected in 1877, was sold for $1 to the Town of Willington with certain restrictions, the most important of which was that, if it should cease to be used for public meetings under the control of the selectmen, possession would revert to the Congregational Ecclesiastical Society. From 1926-1974, the church was used as town hall (when the smaller building next door was outgrown. The church’s bell was removed during World War II to allow plane-spotters to use the tower. Instead of being placed back in the tower, it was mounted on a pedestal outside the building, where it remains today. The Willington Town Offices moved to a former industrial building a short distance away, but retain and maintain the building.

Willington Train Depot // 1895

TOOT TOOT! Next stop, Willington, Connecticut. Historically, all of central Connecticut was occupied by various Algonquin tribes which for thousands of years inhabited the region, the larger Pequot and Mohegan, and the smaller Nipmuck, Podunk, Shenipset and Skunkamaug all sharing a common-lineage, and language. In 1720, a party of eight men, originally from England, bought 16,000 acres of the region and called it Wellington after the town in England. Willington was incorporated in 1727. Like many early towns, Willington began as a farming community with modest industry until the 19th century, when the American Industrial Revolution saw mills and factories sprouting up all along the river towns in the region. Villages spouted up in town, mostly following their geographic location in relation to the town center (South Willington, West Willington, etc.) and each had their own industry and character. By the 20th century with industry in decline, many of the former mills and villages closed up and residents moved to “greener pastures”. The town is today mostly rural and serves as a suburb to larger towns nearby.

This train depot is located in West Willington just over the town line of Tolland. Due to this, the depot was originally named Tolland Station. Rail service began here in 1850, when the New London, Willimantic and Palmer Railroad Company built a freight and passenger station near this location. The rail line was later absorbed into the larger Central Vermont Railway in 1871. The original depot burned down in 1894, and was replaced that same year by this structure. The line, and this station, were in use for passenger service until 1947, when it closed. The depot has luckily been occupied by businesses ever-since, preserving this building typology in America that we are losing every year.

Soudant House // c.1850

This eclectic house in Collinsville was likely built in the mid-19th century in the Greek Revival style, with its gable roof serving as a pediment. By the end of the 19th century, the prominent corner tower with mansard roof and porch were added to create the oddly pleasing composition we see here today. The home was likely altered by Walter Soudant, who ran a grocery store in the village out of the Valley House (last post). Walter’s daughter, Belle Julie Soudant, was an established singer, who toured Europe before accepting a position as a singing teacher at the Institute of Musical Art in New York, known today as the Juilliard School.