Thursday Doors – Captain Benjamin Allyn II House

Allyn House
Allyn House

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.

Allyn House
That seems clear

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.

Allyn House
Hmm, this is not so clear.

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.

Allyn House
‘X’ marks the spot

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.

76 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – Captain Benjamin Allyn II House

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    1. That’s true. I’m not sure the door is original, but the sidelights look like they could be. They haven’t been that narrow in a long time. You must know the frustration of thinking that you stumbled onto a gem of history, only to find yourself following multiple leads. It’s frustrating, but it’s also fun.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. What a great post, Dan! Especially since it’s in “my neck of the woods” having grown up in South Windsor. Dating these old buildings does get so complicated, and I enjoyed stepping through all of the contradictory information in your post. And thanks for linking up to the FDP!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No matter who built it or when, it’s a beautiful and important part of the community’s history…with a lovely old door. And I’m sure you had lots of fun trying to figure out the best way to decipher and explain all that confusing info. Great post Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Norm.It was fun to dig through this. I learned a lot about this house. The NRHP entries are always fascinating to me because they go into great detail on the construction and the way the property changed over time. I was surprised that they list both dates as being possible, but they acknowledge that 1670 is the date that was passed down verbally so they accept that as being part of the ‘social record’ as it were.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh that’s just fantastic! I love the whole thing!
    Super old is my favorite :)
    I think if East Windsor is north of South Windsor it should be called North Windsor. I can’t imagine what people were thinking. I often feel that way about our loop. It’s obvious to me that if Indianapolis is unfamiliar, the directions on I-465 don’t make any sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. There are some disadvantages to super old houses. I worked on one in the Windsor Historic District that, at one time seemed attractive, but after being inside, I pretty quickly changed my mind. I have to deal with that on Thursday Doors at some point, maybe in the summer. As for directions, I’ve never understood the Windsors. I also don’t understand why CT Rt-2 (which I take to work) is labeled East and West when it pretty much goes North to South. It looks like a broom handle leaning against a wall on the map, but they decided to go with the E-W aspect. It doesn’t go through any other states, but…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very strange. I wonder if all cities have such directional anomalies.
        I agree old houses are quite a challenge, best not to bite off more than we can chew. For me, that seems to be 100 years and 1500 sq ft. lol

        Liked by 1 person

  4. 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.

    It sounds like the Twin Cities where West Saint Paul is south of Saint Paul and Southeast Minneapolis is on the north side.

    What I hate about places like Minneapolis is that the city layout began as a rational grid with numbered streets running east and west, and alphabetized streets running north and south – then they got creative. Many times I thought I found an address only to discover that I was in the wrong section of the city.

    In Saint Paul it is different, it is more like the rural areas where people use barns as landmarks. In the city, they say, “get off the freeway and keep the cathedral on your left.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Landmark style directions. That was the basis of my post that was freshly pressed. Turn left at the barn (without regard to whether or not the barn is still standing). Seattle was really easy to figure out, but it had the advantage of having burned to the ground. I think the cites that burned at some point are easy to navigate. Cites like Philadelphia and Boston are just hopeless. I grew up in Pittsburgh, the core of which is a triangle, so landmarks were important.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Nice-looking door, Dan. I generally find old doors in vintage brick buildings very appealing, and you’ve captured this one well. Good shots!

    You’re right about the addition being at odds with the look of the house. Maybe it was a matter of money, but if I wouldn’t want to add onto a historic building if I couldn’t at least come close to matching the style.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Paul. If this house had been about 2 miles up the road, inside the Historic District, they would never had been able to add on like that. I’m sure it would have been way more expensive, but they should at least plant some bushes. In the Historic District, the garage would have to be in the style of a carriage house.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s a little hard to believe that door and/or the woodwork surrounding it are in the neighborhood of 300 years old, though I know its certainly possible. I’d jump at a chance to examine it up close and personal. I’d also love to see what’s on the other side of that door as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The NRHB report (linked to in the post) has a lot of details about the interior. I don’t think the door is anywhere near as old as the house, but the side-lights look like they might be. I wasn’t able to find any interior pictures, even to link to. I thought for a while that the house was going on the market and I thought I might get a peek inside, but nothing yet.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It is interesting to me because we are dealing with a conflict between the (sketchy) written record and the folklore record. The National Registry decided to recognize both as being plausible because, well that’s how history was taught – handed down from generation to generation. Sometimes, being able to look up all the facts takes some of the mystery out of life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Folklore may be more interesting than the facts too. Or, I guess there is always the concern of whose perspective was the history recorded. Whether intentional or not, everyone has a perspective and could document with that view.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. The history of old buildings (much like old ancestors!) can really be fascinating. I love a good mystery, and while conflicting historical information can be very frustrating, there is something exciting about chasing “ghosts”, so to speak, isn’t there? I would be ecstatic to live in an area that’s teeming with historical buildings and sites AND had access to all sorts of records, etc. My family dates back to Braintree, Massachusetts in the very early 1600s, and I can’t begin to tell you how much I wish I could just move there for a while to research and take in all the places my ancestors would have walked. I’m sure there’s got to be some old buildings, like the beautiful one you’ve featured today, that were standing when great-great-great-great-etc. grandpa Richard was walking the earth!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Wendy. I agree about the fun and mystery of these things. I get up to Boston quite often. If I ever have time to visit Braintree, I’ll snap some photos for you. Only a single branch of my family dates back much farther than the late 1800s. Beyond that, I’m digging in other countries.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been in and worked in some of these houses. It’s hard to tell what you’re dealing with without some sort of guide. Age, weather, fire, additions all play a role in today’s appearance. They know this house was altered after the 1938 hurricane, but there don’t even seem to be good records of that. Probably because half the houses in town were undergoing emergency repairs at the same time.

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    1. I don’t think the door is that old. I could have survived, but the joinery looks more modern to me. The side-lights look much older than the door and appear to be a somewhat simpler design. I’d love to get a closer look, but it is private property. I think we should have some authority as participants in Thursday Doors, but I’m not sure the owner would agree.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree, although I’m sure I’ve read somewhere on Norm’s blog that he won’t take responsibility for anyone who gets arrested while taking photos of doors – lol. My partner always says I’ll get arrested one day when I’m taking photos for this challenge. However, I just love taking them.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deborah. I figured the map was important to add. I’ve never been able to find anyone that can explain why South Windsor is east of, not south of Windsor and yet we have an East Windsor. I guess we just have to accept that some things remain a mystery. I think the door is younger than the house, but the place is old.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dan, that is an old door. Love the history you added to it. As always I learn a lot about CT that I never knew when I lived there. But, then I was a teenager and young adult with other things on my mind! Happy to read your posts about CT today! Happy Thursday! 💛 Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dan,
    I tend to agree that the door might not be the same age as the house. It is old enough to have what looks like two separate deadbolts. What I am noticing is how the size of the door lites match those of the side lites. And the panels and frame work of the door match the side lites very well. In some ways it is good that history has its own mysteries. It improves the quality of ones drinking time to ponder such weighty matters. Drive and photograph safe !

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am wondering as you mentioned possibility of dyslexia or just transcribing the numbers wrong caused a rather distinctive difference in the two dates? This made me spend awhile studying and re-reading your post, Dan!
    I liked the door and can tell from the old, thin brick lines that it is a very old, super old or (love this one)~ “powerfully old” building. This really has stories to tell, unique qualities in the way the lantern and brick arch looks. “One if by sea, two if by land.” Reminds me of the Ride of Paul Revere. . . so more 1760’s I would bet! 1670 is ancient history, I think Dan! :D

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny Robin, I almost suggested dyslexia as a reason for this. I think 1760 is more likely, but I don’t want to discount the verbal record that was handed down from father to son, etc. These buildings are important, so I’m just glad it has survived.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I am surprised how you manage to find these historic doors week after week. You must be really exceptional at schedule management because even if I find such doors I’m not sure I will be able to do it week after week. Secondly, it will take me months to collaborate and find all the data. You’re truly great. Salute and Respect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, Sharukh, posts like this one don’t take very long. Everything you might want to know about this house is in the filing to the National Registry of Historic Buildings. If you search on “1670 Windsor house” you will quickly find the three documents I used to check the date. Once I see that blue badge next to the door (NRHB) I know somebody else already did the research :)

      Some of the doors posts take longer, but I have lots of pictures already taken and I know which ones need more research. I usually write all four posts for the week, over the weekend. I don’t have much time to write during the week. I do try to look ahead and plan what topics I want to talk about, what doors, etc. but there isn’t a lot of time involved. The posts that take the longest to write are the dialog at the bar. That’s why they show up less frequently.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love the dialog at the bar concept and although some terms in it are very American, which I find tough to understand, I still love the concept. Someday, I will lift that concept and try to Indian-ize it and see how it works for me. I always wait for Thursday Doors and you know what, sometimes I find doors that I want to cover, but I don’t have a damn info about it. I’m not even sure if India has something like NRHB or like that. So, I usually focus on topics where I can showcase Indian destinations.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Can you imagine how difficult it was to heat those places before furnaces? The two chimneys on the building mean fires of warmth on either side but still, I’m sure people got quite cold in those places back when they were new.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s actually one of the reasons people think the house was build in 1760, not 1670. They say that in 1670, people thought brick homes were simply too hard to heat. Although, at that time, it wasn’t a two-story house. They do mention the chimneys being on the side walls as an issue with heating. Later homes had more centrally located fireplaces. I’m with you though, crank up the furnace :)

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh my, no one can get their facts straight it seems on exactly how old this door is. As for the map of Windsor and your explanation, my eyes crossed. Tee hee …… Whatever the real date on this door, I agree it is OLD and looking purty darn good for that number. Great photos, Dan!! As usual, whenever I get on over here, I always seem to have a smile on my face. That happens as well when I see your gravatar show up yon over at Petals. Thank you for that smile!!! And thank you for another great post!! <3

    Liked by 1 person

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