Glastonbury has many charming old houses with character
GLASTONBURY‘S RECORD NUMBER OF COLONIAL HOMES
by Jim Bennett and Henry von Wodtke
Mr. Bennett is Executive Director of the Historical Society
and Mr. Von Wodtke is its President
Anyone familiar with Glastonbury knows of its many charming old houses. They provide variety and character. What you might not know is that Glastonbury has more genuine colonial houses--154 homes built before 1800--than any other town in the Connecticut and more than all but one other town in America. Four of Glastonbury’s old homes date from the 1600s, unusually old for an American house.
Glastonbury has long been known for its large number of old homes. In 1961, Dr. Lee J. Whittles, who for decades had been studying Glastonbury’s old houses, counted over 175 of them dating from before 1800. About 25 of these houses have since disappeared and more are threatened.
Colonial settlements in North America include the Dutch settlements primarily in New York State, English settlements along the east coast, French settlements running up the Mississippi River through the Great Lakes and into Canada, and Spanish settlements in Florida and the south west. Few early Dutch, French, or Spanish colonial houses still exist, although houses have been built in these styles since 1800. In contrast, there still are hundreds of genuine English colonial homes.
Today, the largest number of surviving English colonial structures are found in New England towns, where Marblehead, Massachusetts, with over 200 pre-1800 houses, has the most. Newport, Rhode Island, with over 300, has more than either Marblehead or Glastonbury, but it is a city. No Connecticut city has even 100. Other towns with significant numbers of pre-1800 houses include Guilford, Connecticut with 148 in 1982 and probably fewer now, and Wethersfield, Connecticut with about 120.
W hat can sometimes be confusing are the many reconstructed houses that we tend to know about because often they are open to the public. For instance, the Turner House in Salem, Massachusetts, best known as the House of the Seven Gables, is a spectacular house, but not an original. It is a reconstruction, almost exactly like the original. It includes some original elements and is rebuilt on the original site. Even Williamsburg, VA, a city known for colonial architecture, has fewer genuine colonial houses. Much of what you see there are reconstructions or relatively new structures built in a colonial style. READ MORE
PROPERTY OWNED BY THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
by Lin Scarduzio (Curator)
The Town of Glastonbury is resplendent with historical architecture worth keeping safe. Take, for example, the WELLS-SHIPMAN-WARD HOUSE:
Colonel Thomas Welles a wealthy Glastonbury shipbuilder and his wife Martha Pitkin Welles built the house at 972 Main St (Rt 17), S. Glastonbury, in 1755 for their son John Welles. In 1753 John married Jerusha Edwards (daughter of Samuel and Jerusha Pitkin Edwards). They had 6 children born from 1754 through 1763 (one dying in infancy). In 1764, John died from pneumonia at age 35, leaving Jerusha with 5 children ranging from age 10 to 1. In 1773, the eldest son, John Jr. married Mehitabel Goodrich (daughter of William and Mehetabel Hollister Goodrich). They made their home with Jerusha and John’s siblings at this property and had 7 children, born from 1774 through 1788 (the eldest died young).
The Revolutionary War was costly to the Welles family having built 3 privateers, which were not profitable, putting the family heavily in debt. In 1789, the house was lost to two creditors, Stephen Shipman, Jr., and Nathaniel Talcott, Jr. Shipman bought Talcott’s share of the house around 1790, and the Shipman family retained the home for more than 100 years. Dr. and Mrs. James Ward purchased it in 1925. The Historical Society of Glastonbury obtained the House in 1963 through a bequest from Brenda Hart Ward, a Society member.
The House, cited by the United States Department of the Interior “as possessing exceptional architectural interest,” is known for its enormous fireplace in the kitchen. The elaborate paneling and molding in the parlors have been noted in books on New England architecture as prime examples of their style. Upstairs, the Glastonbury Weavers display their craft on antique equipment, while the Northeast Chamber has children’s drawings etched on the walls. The Glastonbury Garden Club maintains the 18th century-style herb garden and grounds. The barns are filled with antique farming, household, and 19th century horse-drawn vehicles.