Lewis H. Bailey (1818-1899) was a local banker, merchant, and hotel proprietor in Ridgefield, Connecticut. He had this stunning Italianate Villa home built on Main Street before the American Civil War. Bailey was savvy in realizing the upcoming development boom in town as wealthy New Yorkers began to arrive in town to build summer houses to escape the cramped city living and polluted air, and he began to sell off land and develop streets in the village. To house some shorter-term summer residents, Bailey constructed and operated the old Bailey Inn on a lot adjacent to his own home. The inn was torn down in the 1920s as the town’s dynamic as a summer town began to change with more more year-round residency. The Italianate Villa is a lasting legacy of Bailey and his impact on the town. The home with its square tower and detached carriage house are in a great state of preservation and significantly contribute to the character of Main Street.
When Ridgefield, Connecticut was settled in 1708 by Europeans, there was only one Episcopal Church in the state, and the general assembly allowed dissenters their own churches so long as they continued to pay taxes to support the Congregational Church. Ridgefield’s first Episcopal church, St. Stephen’s was built in 1740 on land granted by the Proprietors who founded the town and laid out lots along the towns new Main Street. In 1776, St. Stephen’s minister, Epenetus Townsend, a Tory (loyal to the British), was ordered to leave town with his wife and five children when the Revolution picked up steam. He was appointed chaplain to a British regiment and in 1779, the battalion was ordered to Nova Scotia. En route by vessel, a severe storm arose and all passengers were lost. The church was taken over by the commissary department of the American Army. During the Battle of Ridgefield, British troops set it on fire as a statement to the townspeople. The church was replaced two more times until 1914 when the present building was constructed. The Colonial Revival church is absolutely stunning and built from plans by (unknown to me) architect Walter Kerr Rainsford. The rubblestone church is one of the most pleasing designs I have seen in Connecticut!
Located next to the Reverend Thomas Hawley House (last post), this gingerbread cottage on Ridgefield’s Main Street looks straight out of a fairy tale! The home appears to have been built around the Civil War (or a renovation of an earlier house) and blends Italianate and Gothic detailing elegantly under one roof. The home was built on land that was owned by the Hawley descendants and was occupied by a few members of the family until it sold out of Hawley ownership in the 20th century. The house was purchased in 2002 by Gregory and Valerie Jensen who restored the home. Mrs. Jensen is the founder of the Prospector Theatre, a non-profit cinema dedicated to providing a higher quality of life through meaningful employment to people with disabilities.