Are you ready to see a 346 year old door? Um, how about a 256 year old door? Confused? Yeah, so am I. So are a lot of people, including the National Register of Historic Places.
I drive by this house every time that traffic on I-84 West is a mess around 3:45 pm. That’s just about every day now that the State of Connecticut has decided to start messing with access from Rt-2W to I-84W. This forces me to take I-84 East to cross the river in Windsor. By the time I make it across the river, I’m fed up with highways and I exit into the Deerfield section of Windsor. I drove by this house and I noticed that the sign near the door says 1670 – That’s old! Of course, I knew I had to submit it for Norm’s Thursday Doors series.
I snapped a few photos from the road. I’m not sure if the house is occupied at this time, but I’m always a little reluctant to get too close when photographing private residences. The good thing about historic houses, especially the ones in Windsor, Connecticut, is that it’s easy to conduct some research. Well, that’s how it usually goes. This time, that’s where things sort of went off the rails.
The marker on the door clearly says “Built by Capt. Thomas Allyn in 1670.” The Historic Buildings of Connecticut website says that the house was built by Benjamin Allyn II, in 1760. Benjamin was a descendent of Thomas. The Windsor Historic Society list of historic buildings says the house was built in 1670, possibly 1690 by Thomas Allyn. Finally, the National Register of Historic Places lists the house as being the Captain Benjamin Allyn House 2nd, and /or The Captain Thomas Allyn House, and, as shown above, lists two possible dates.
The controversy stems from a series of four iron tie rods that connect the internal wood framing to the brick façade. The tie rods had iron numbers at the end. The outer two rods have the numerals ‘1’ and ‘0’ attached. The center two rods no longer have numerals attached, but there is widespread agreement that the numerals that were there were a ‘6’ and a ‘7’. So, 1670 or 1760. I’m not sure where the Windsor Historic Society came up with a possible 1690.
The hard evidence, such that it is, points to 1760 as the better choice. The bricks are similar to bricks made in Windsor, by Thomas Eggelston who was born in 1741. He would have been a pretty young brick maker, but the story is plausible because the bricks are consistent with the bricks he made. Windsor was a center of early brickmaking, and brick manufacturing plants still operate on the east side of the Connecticut River in South Windsor.
For those trying to follow this, there’s a confusing element that you need to understand. Windsor is on the west side of the Connecticut River. South Windsor is directly across the river on the east side. The town of East Windsor is north of South Windsor. I hope that clears things up.
The owner of the house says that stains on the brick indicate the date was 1670. A historian (Stiles) wrote a history of the buildings in Windsor in 1859. He is the one making the association with the bricks and he is the first to suggest that the date was 1760. There was a similar house in West Springfield, MA (about 20 miles north of Windsor) that was built in 1758.
The problem with making a comparison to a similar house is the fact that the Allyn house was remodeled extensively from its original form and again after damage from the 1938 hurricane. Throughout the life of this house, people didn’t keep very many documents to serve as records. Deb, over at the Front Door Project recently mentioned similar issues with documentation associated with The Sarah Whitman Hooker House in West Hartford, CT. I guess the builders and owners of these houses never considered that the houses would stand so long and become so important.
256 years isn’t nearly as long as 346 years, but, if the door is original, it’s powerfully old. The door and the narrow sidelights are very impressive, and I’m pretty happy to add them to Norm’s collection. You can check out the other doors this week by visiting Norm’s page.