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.
While this house appears to have been built in the mid-1800s as a Greek Revival home, it was actually built nearly a century earlier as one of the oldest extant properties on Main Street in Ridgefield, CT! Located on proprietors lot #20, the original building lots laid out for the new town of Ridgefield, this house appears to have been constructed in 1760 for Matthew Seymour (Seamore) and consisted of what is now the ell of the home (left side). Seymour operated one of the trade posts in town that engaged in trade with a nearby native Ramapo Tribe. The home was likely re-oriented and added onto with a more formal Greek Revival wing with its gable roof facing the street before the Civil War, a configuration it retains to this day.
Czar Jones (1789-1869), a woodworker and a justice of the peace, served in the War of 1812 and later was a partner in the local carriage manufacturing company in Ridgefield, CT. Jones bought a circa 1787 house on Main Street in 1818 and modernized it to serve as his family’s residence. The modest late-Georgian house was updated in the Federal style. Not long after Czar’s death (his only wife died 1851) the home was then purchased by New York City publisher, Albert H. Storer and his wife Sophie, the latter was the founder and first president of the local Ridgefield Garden Club. The couple divorced in 1915, and Sophie moved to Europe before remarrying and settling in California. The home that was intended as a summer getaway for the family, became Mr. Storer’s primary residence as he remained in Ridgefield with his son Francis, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren, until his death in 1933.
Built in 1850, likely as a late-Greek Revival or Italianate style home, this property on Main Street in Ridgefield was completely “modernized” in the 1880s in the Queen Anne style popular at the time. The home was originally built for Francis Asbury Rockwell (1818-1881), a tin-smith, wine-maker and inventor who married Mary Lee Everest, who also had deep roots in the community and was a daughter of a local Revolutionary War captain. The couple built a home on Main Street and raised their children there until Francis and Mary died in 1881 and 1883 respectively. The family home was inherited by their eldest son, Charles Lee Rockwell, who became the director of the First National Bank in town. Charles updated the house to give it the Queen Anne Victorian flair we see today.
One of the (many) stately homes on Ridgefield’s Main Street, this massive Neo-Classical mansion is also among the most visited in Fairfield County. Lounsbury House was built in 1896 by former Connecticut Governor Phineas C. Lounsbury. While attending the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Governor Lounsbury was so taken by the Connecticut State Building that he built a replica to serve as his family home. The Connecticut State Building was designed by Waterbury-based architect, Warren R. Briggs at a cost of $112,000! Gov. Lounsbury loved this house, which he named “Grovelawn” until his death in 1925. After his death, his heirs were unable to maintain the massive home, and it started to decay. The Town of Ridgefield did not want to see the mansion demolished, and in an early example of historic preservation, the town purchased Lounsbury House in 1945. A school was built behind and nearly ten years later, the home was leased to the The Ridgefield Veterans’ Memorial Community Association. The home is now managed by a board and rented for weddings and community events.
After the American Revolution, Lt. Joshua King settled in Ridgefield and built the King Mansion in 1801, a Federal style home that commanded the Main Street lot. King was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts and fought in the Revolutionary War near the border of Connecticut and New York. After the war, he settled in Ridgefield and married one of the most eligible bachelorettes in town Anne Ingersoll. Anne was the daughter of the Rev. Jonathan Ingersoll, pastor of the Congregational Church of Ridgefield. After a long life running a store and raising a family, Joshua died in 1839, a year after his wife. The mansion was inherited by their son Joshua Jr. until his death in 1887. In 1889, a fire destroyed much of the house. When it burned down, The New York Times described it as “the grandest old mansion in the village.” It was quickly replaced by the current house, modeled after the original but larger, which was placed much farther back from the road in the Colonial Revival style. Fire damaged the house again in the 1990s, and the present structure was restored and enlarged from 2002-2004, its HUGE!
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!
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.
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.
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.