Most Lovely Things
I’m teaming up with two of my favorite bloggers to share a bit of history behind each of our old homes. Sarah of She Holds Dearly is restoring an old farm house built in 1906 on four acres near Seattle, Washington. Kelly of My Soulful Home lives in a home built in 1886 in Pasadena, California, and is the author of My Soulful Home: A Year in Flowers.
I’m thrilled that I was asked to join Sarah and Kelly because I’m not sure if I would have ever gotten around to finding out the history of our home built in 1900 in New Canaan, CT. My first stop for researching the history was a call to the New Canaan Historical Society. I guess a home built in 1900 is not considered all that old in these parts, but they did have a file on our house on Hoyt Street. It was ready and waiting for me when I walked over to take a look. The folder contained the original field card and a few photos.
The house was originally a three bedroom, one bath house. The home is located very close to the town center. The New Canaan Train Station opened in 1868 on the New Haven Line. Our home is 0.6 miles to the station on the opposite side of town. The original owner, John E. Hersam, built the house in 1900 while working for the Stamford Advocate. In 1908 he started the New Canaan Advertiser.
I had the privilege of speaking with his grandson, V. Donald Hersam.
Early recollections: I sent Donald a few current photos of the house and right away he noticed that what is now the living room, was once divided onto a parlor in the front and then doors that led to the living room and dining room. He said he recalled his father telling the story that his mother died at the age of 42 and her wake was in that parlor. “That’s how it was done in those days.”
One early memory of the house was when Donald was a young boy – a horse drawn wagon delivering the milk to the front porch. “The milkman came up in horse drawn wagon. It was an icy day, the horse had clamp-on cleats and would stop in front of each house.”
I asked Donald if he thought the front door and lanterns were original to the house. “I remember it being a glass door with a skeleton key.”
Hoyt Street had only a few houses back then and across the street John had built a clay tennis court. Donald remembers that he had a sprinkler that he attached to the hydrant to water down the clay.
When his grandfather remarried about 10 years later, he recalled that they did quite a bit of work to the house, adding a sleeping porch on the North side. They also enclosed the front porch.
In 1957, a year after Donald was married, he and his wife Jeanne built a house across the street where the clay tennis court once stood. Years later he would still find remnants of that clay court on the property.
Our family has lived in the house for six years, renovating and cleaning up the property. The house now has a garage that was added many years later. The yard needed a lot of clearing from years of previous owners planting trees and shrubs that then took over the yard. Once cleared, the yard is quite large and private for an in-town street.
When we renovated the kitchen, we uncovered the original brick that we assume was once the cooking stove. Our modern Wolf range fits in its place perfectly with the vent using the original chimney. We tried to make the kitchen modern, but timeless. We used white subway tile, lighting from SchoolHouse, and a rustic marble topped island. Where the pantry and table are located was once a small porch.
The front porch is once again open as it was when originally built. We love the porch and feel that it gives the house so much curb appeal. I love to think about how many people have walked up these steps over the years. It’s special to know that the home has such a distinguished past with the original owner who not only owned the town newspaper, but was active in the New Canaan Fire Department as well as his son, grandson, Donald, and many of their relatives who continue to carry on the tradition even today.
I hope we’ve respected the history of the home and when it’s time…we’ll pass the torch to the next family…
A stone fireplace added many years later. We painted it white and added a modern mantel.
The map of New Canaan shows the location of the house in the shaded area which is the center of town. To the left of the shaded box you can see the train tracks.