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.
Franklin CT History
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!
Dr. Ashbel Woodward House // 1835
The Ashbel Woodward House in Franklin, Connecticut was built in 1835, on land purchased by Doctor Ashbel Woodward, a prominent local physician, a year prior. Woodward, was a graduate of Bowdoin College, and he began practice in Franklin in 1829, serving as the town’s primary medical practitioner until his death in 1885. Though in his 60s at the outbreak of the Civil War, Woodward perhaps lent his greatest service to his country when he served as a battlefield surgeon and medical facilities inspector for the Union army. Besides his work in medicine, Woodward collected literature and numerous artifacts pertaining to Franklin’s past and eventually wrote a book detailing the town’s history. The Ashbel Woodward House is an excellent example of the Greek Revival architectural style in a five-bay form. Interestingly, there are semi-elliptical windows in the pediment gable ends on the side elevations, seemingly a nod to the Federal style that was waning out of style at the time. The property is in use today as a museum, documenting the life of Dr. Woodward and the people of Franklin, Connecticut.
Oliver Johnson House // 1905
Prairie style architecture is not nearly as common in New England as it is in the Mid-western United States. The style was almost always seen in early 20th century residential designs and is characterized by horizontality, low slope roofs, overhanging eaves, and open interior floor plans. This New England vernacular version of the Prairie style employs some Arts and Crafts influence with Tuscan columned porch and wood frame construction, rather than the more bulky and bold use of brick and stone. This residence sits on a busy state route in the sleepy town of Franklin, Connecticut. This house appears to have been built for Oliver Johnson who was about seventy by the time the house was built. Do you know of any other Prairie Style houses in New England?
Rev. Samuel Nott House // 1784
Reverend Samuel Nott (1754-1852) was born in Saybrook, Connecticut and did not have an easy beginning. When he was young, the family home burned, destroying all family possessions. Some years later on a business trip, he was beaten and robbed. At twelve years old, he began working for his father, later becoming a blacksmith by 16. For a while, young Nott lived with a Rev. Dr. Welsh of Mansfield. The older man had a profound religious influence on the young lad. At age 23, Nott entered Yale, but the college closed when British troops entered New Haven. In 1782, he married Lucretia Taylor and passed his examination for the ministry. A year before his marriage, he was invited to serve a parish in West Farms, now Franklin. He was apparently anxious to accept the position at the rural village, as the farmers attending the congregational church had fired their previous two pastors, he accepted the call regardless. During his tenure, he prepared more than 40 young men for college and schooled as many as 300 boys and girls in his home, some as boarding students. He was regarded as one of the most successful educators of the day. Education ran in his family as Samuel’s brother, Eliphalet Nott, would become President of Union College in Schenectady, NY for 62 years, from 1804-1866. Towards the end of Samuel’s life, in his 70s, his wife Lucretia, became an invalid, requiring care and finally passed in 1834. Three of his children also died. Nott passed away at 98 years old in this house, as a result of burns sustained from his own fireplace.
Franklin Congregational Church // 1863
When the town of Franklin, Connecticut was still a part of Norwich, it was known as West Farms. The residents there had a meetinghouse built there as it took too long to travel into Norwich for town meetings and church services. The first meetinghouse was built in 1718 on what became Meetinghouse Hill. Decades later, the primitive building was replaced by a newer structure. That building was replaced two more times until the present Congregational Church was erected in 1863. The building takes cues from the Greek Revival church designs of decades prior and looks to the future with Italianate detailing and steeple. There remains a small, but active congregation here to this day, who maintain the old building very well!
Nathaniel Backus House // c.1702
Welcome to Franklin, Connecticut, which frankly (pun intended) I had never heard of before driving through it not long ago! The town is located in New London County and was originally a part of Norwich, Connecticut and was called West Farms village. The town incorporated in 1786, creating its own town at that time, and the citizens decided to name their new town after Benjamin Franklin. I wonder if there are more place names in the United States after Benjamin Franklin or George Washington…
This is one of the oldest houses in the sleepy town of Franklin, and it was built around 1702 by Nathaniel Backus, about the same time he was married to his wife, Elizabeth. The Georgian Cape house features a large gambrel roof and a small gabled dormer. The house is representative of many of the earliest homes which once existed in this landscape in the early 18th century. The home appears to have been vacant for some time, and in 2022, was auctioned off. Its future is unclear at this time sadly.