Tower Cottage was built in 1880 and is one of the best examples of Queen Anne architecture in the town of Ridgefield, CT. The home was designed and built by Charles Betts Northrup, a carpenter and builder who grew up in town. The home was eventually occupied as a summer retreat for Maude Bouvier Davis, who would spend some summers at the house away from the big city. In Ridgefield, Maude was sometimes visited by her niece, Jackie Bouvier, later known as Jackie Kennedy Onassis, First Lady to President John F. Kennedy. Maude owned the property until 1972 and the home has been lovingly preserved since.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.