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Welcome to our news and history blog!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

'This Old House on Lafayette Place' (1899)

Source: Greenwich Graphic. May 13, 1899, page 1.

Was Built When the Street it is Now on Was a Cow-Path-The Inside of it is Antique. Indeed.

Everybody about the village will recognize this picture. Its the old house on Lafayette Place and it sits perched on a bank as though it was not "part of parcel" of the houses surrounding it, and neither is it.

It has so much in contrast with its neighbors, that it is the conspicuous building on this short street.

"When was it built?" That is hard to say. Some who pretend to know will tell you that it was put up in 1650. Its appearance indicates that it is at least two hundred years old. Look at the old shingles, the hand-wrought nails sticking out here and there, and the big stone chimney, and the general dilapidated appearance of it -although that is not always a sign of age, but in this case it is easy to see that it is very old.

Lafayette Place was but a cow-path when its timbers were first put there, and there was no other building between it and the Sound, and the view in those days from its doorstep must have been fine, indeed. 

This property was owned way back in 1725 by John Hobby, who sold it to Nathaniel Mead.

It was known at one time as the Dunton Homestead, where lived Royal Dunton and his family.

Its size and shape is different from the homes that were built during the Revolutionary War. It's a very old settler and was famous years ago.

Mrs. Mary Thompson, whose maiden name was Banks, with whom we talked about the old house, said that her grandchildren and her mother and she were all born there, and the house was very old in those days. She thinks it is about 250 years old. But it can't be quite as ancient as that, for Greenwich was settled in 1645, but this was probably one of the first houses erected.

Mr. Joseph E. Russell considers it one of the oldest houses in town. When he was a boy it looked as aged as it does now.

When Nathaniel  Mead occupied it, which was during the Revolutionary War. Cowboys and British made raids upon his herd of cattle, and he always kept his musket handy night and day. In the field and by his bedside it was his constant companion. We can well imagine what a beautiful farm it must have been in those days, the lay of the land must have been ideal.

They tell funny stories of one Thomas Mead, who was known as the fat fiddler, who lived there. He weighed, it is said, 400 pounds. He disliked to walk any distance, and when they wanted him to play, they would back a cart with oxen up to the door and he would get in and off they would go carrying him to the place where his fiddle and bow were wanted.

He was extremely popular with the young people, and his presence was always necessary for a merry evening. It is said, too, that notwithstanding his great weight, and disinclination to walk, he was a graceful dancer and was light on his feet when whirling a Colonial girl over the floor. Mr. Mead lived in this house many years and when he died the door sash had to be removed to allow the coffin to pass out.

Some years ago the house was purchased by Augustus Lyon. At one time Azra Banks resided there and worked in the little shop near the house as shoe maker but this small building has disappeared. 

It is said that an English officer who who had been wounded was taken to the house and died in the South room.

But if you want to judge the house and its age, go inside and see that long, wide room on the first floor, which is almost the same as when around the big fireplace the family and neighbors gathered 150 or more years ago. The ceiling is so low that a man of six feet must stoop to walk about. The quaint doors hang on the same hinges, and the little iron latches appear to have been made at the time the house was erected. There is, perhaps, no house in Greenwich that would more impress you with its age, than this one, after you had taken a look at the inside of it.

It is going to pieces rapidly, and can't last but a few more as it now stands.

It is owned by Mrs. Francis Warburton.