Set back from tree-lined Main Street in Suffield, the Phelps-Hatheway House is but one of many handsome eighteenth and nineteenth century homes in the town. The house began construction sometime between 1732-1762 as a modest gable-roof Georgian home built by Abraham Burbank. In 1788, the home was purchased by Oliver Phelps. at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Phelps joined the Continental Army and fought in the Battle of Lexington. He left service in 1777 and, relying on his experience as a merchant, became Massachusetts Superintendent of Purchases of Army Supplies, a Deputy Commissary of the Continental Army. He was introduced to Robert Morris, the great financier of Revolutionary times. He supplied troops and received commendation from George Washington for his efforts. After the war ended, he became a prominent businessman and was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1785 and served on the Governor’s council in 1786 (Suffield was still a part of Massachusetts at this point).
Upon returning, Phelps hired architect Asher Benjamin (when he was in his early 20s!) to redesign the home into a gambrel roof mansion and construct numerous additions to make the house a suitable home for a wealthy, sophisticated man such as himself. Phelps was a principal in the Phelps and Gorham Purchase of six million acres of land in upstate New York, making him one of the nation’s largest landowners. Phelps lived here until 1802, when he moved to Canandaigua, New York, to more closely oversee the development and sale of his holdings. Phelps or his heirs sold the house, which was purchased by Asahel Hatheway and it remained in the Hatheway family for a century. It is now owned by Connecticut Landmarks and operates as a house museum.
In 1795, Ebenezer King bought 26 acres of land on Main Street in Suffield, Connecticut for the development of his own house. He at the time was in the height of his prosperity and was estimated of having a net worth of $100,000. He eventually sold his property in 1811 to William Gay, who was a leading lawyer in Hartford County, and the postmaster of Suffield, actually running the town’s post office out of this home for over 30 years. The home is currently owned by Suffield Academy as the headmaster’s home. It is an excellent example of Federal style architecture and features two Palladian windows!
In 1897, Sidney A. Kent, a Suffield native, graduate of Suffield Academy and successful Chicago businessman sought to build a $35,000 library as a memorial to his parents in his home town. Land was purchased from the academy, demolishing a significant academic building, and the new Kent Memorial Library erected. Kent hired architectural giant Daniel Burnham (architect of the famous Flatiron Building in Manhattan) who also designed Kent’s home in Chicago. It sat on the site of land purchased by the first Kent ancestor in Suffield. Sidney Kent furnished nearly 7000 books and periodicals and left an endowment of $25,000. The building was dedicated on November l, 1899. It was eventually outgrown and a new building was constructed across the street.
Initially established as the Connecticut Literary Institute (the school was renamed Suffield School in 1916 and then Suffield Academy in 1937), the mission of this school with Baptist roots was to educate young men for the ministry. As the Connecticut Literary Institute was the only high school in Suffield, the town tax dollars paid for local students to attend. Although town and local Baptists served a major role in getting the school underway, the founders soon moved away from a denominational focus. Built for the Institute in 1854, this large brick academic building was designed in the Italianate style with brackets and decorative brickwork at the cornice. In 1950, the school “Colonialized” the campus beginning with the Memorial Building, removing the Victorian flair for a more traditional Colonial Revival appearance. They also did the same with Fuller Hall next door.
The Connecticut Literary Institute opened in Suffield, CT, with Baptist roots with the goal to educate young men for the ministry. Later rebranding as Suffield Academy, the school was the only high school in town, so it received tax revenue from the town to allow boys outside the Baptist faith to study there. Later, with changing views of women’s right to education, the school allowed women into the school in 1843. Forty years later, the school constructed this building, then known as the ‘Women’s Building’ just next door to the 1854 Memorial Hall. The Second Empire style academic building was heavily modified in 1953, just like its counterpart next door in the Colonial Revival style, adding a cupola and removing the stunning mansard roof.