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.
Fairfield County CT Architecture
Seymour House // 1760
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 House // c.1787
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.
Rockwell House // c.1850
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.
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
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.