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  • Writer's pictureMaggie Meahl

Norwich's Washington Street, Then and Now

"Norwich" was the traditional land inhabited by Eastern North American indigenous groups, including the Mohegan tribe. They struck a deal with some of the Saybrook English settlers in 1659. This region was taken over by the land-thirsty settlers.

Washington Street, Norwich, CT
Circa 1854 wall map of Norwich's Washington Street area. Arrows point to Arnold birthplace, CP Huntington homestead, original location of Leffingwell tavern, and the northern reach of Washington Street (called "Town Street" in colonial days)

I set out last Saturday on my latest field trip to Hartford's Connecticut Museum of Culture and History. First, I stopped in Norwich since it is only 35 minutes away. The sunny day was most welcome, and for once, I made good time on the roads.

Connecticut Museum of Culture and History.
Connecticut Museum of Culture and History. Vast collection of all things Connecticut and has an impressive online "emuseum" of their artifacts. Staff at the Waterman Research Center is VERY helpful.

I am writing a book about the rise and fall, of just one branch of the Huntington family of Norwich. This blog is a companion to the book and a way for me to loosely write about them and imagine each chapter.

This particular branch remained in Norwich from 1660-1893--remarkable. They stayed because they were comfortable, wealthy, and privileged--until they weren't anymore.

I have reached the Federal period in my timeline and am now researching how things played out for the grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, of the Jabez Huntington (1719-1786) family of Norwich. Thus, yet another sojourn to CMCH--it has a vast repository of Huntington family papers.

Charles Phelps Huntington (1779-1850), was born during the Revolution (to Andrew and Hannah Phelps Huntington) and died within reach of the Civil War. After his first wife (Charlotte Lathrop) and child died, he soon married another former neighbor, Maria Perit (1783-1854).

Many boys to carry on the Huntington name. Maria's early life was dominated by exhaustive maternal cycles and childrearing.

Charles (and Maria) was able to regain some of the lost wealth (and perhaps prestige) that happened to his father and grandfather during the war. Maria Perit was the grand-daughter of Philadelphia financier (and father of the Constitution), Peletiah Webster (1726-1795).

C.P. or Chas (not to be confused with Collis Potter Huntington or Charles Phelps Huntington of Hadley, MA) would be the first in his paternal line to move OUT of the Huntington Square/Lane area.

In 1810 or so, he and his young family moved to Washington Street between the Leffingwell homestead and the Benedict Arnold family homestead. They were inching closer to the expanding Chelsea business district and away from the increasingly quiet Green area. I think they lived in the former home of Hezekiah Huntington.

1850s map image of Washington Street. I believe it was called "Town Street" in colonial days.

Washington Street, Norwich, CT
Circa 1854 wall map of Norwich's Washington Street area. Arrows point to Arnold birthplace, CP Huntington homestead, original location of Leffingwell tavern, and the northern reach of Washington Street.
Google map of lower Washington Street area, Norwich, CT.
Google map of Washington Street. Yellow shading indicates: Arnold house location, CP and Maria house location, original location of the Leffingwell tavern, and the road to Lathrop Manor.
Washington Street, Norwichtown
Washington Street, Norwichtown. Looking south toward Chelsea and the ThamesRiver.

Washington Street's Lathrop Manor
Upper Washington Street: Lathrop Manor. Benedict Arnold and the famous writer Lydia Huntley Sigourney both lived here in their early years. The Lathrops and the Huntingtons intermarried often. Sigourney and Hannah Phelps Huntington shared books together.

Lathrop Manor
Upper Washington Lathrop Manor circa 1900. A familiar site in Norwichtown. Photo owned by The Connecticut Museum of Culture and History.

Lydia Huntley Sigourney
Famous Connecticut writer: Lydia Huntley Sigourney, young companion to childless Jerusha and Daniel Lathrop of Lathrop Manor. Also, corresponded with Hannah P. Huntington (wife of Andrew).

Leffingwell Inn
Leffingwell Tavern. Home to Ruth Webster Perit Leffingwell (1755-1840) and Christopher Leffingwell (1734-1810) after their marriage in 1799. Removed to this location, on Town Street, in the 1950s, to accommodate roadwork.

Leffingwell Inn
Washington Street: Leffingwell Inn/home on its original site just up the road from C.P. and Maria Perit Huntington.

Washington Street location of C.P. Huntington land.
Washington Street today: Circa 1870s Italianate home on the former land/homesite of C.P. and Maria Perit Huntington.

Benedict Arnold birthplace. Photo owned by: Leffingwell Museum.
Washington Street, 1850s: Benedict Arnold birthplace. C.P. and Maria lived next door to the hero/traitor's infamous home.

Benedict Arnold birthplace.
Washington Street: Humble ranch house now sits on the site of Benedict Arnold's family home growing up. The Arnolds were not part of the ruling class of Norwich and that irked Benedict Arnold who was very ambitious.

Washington Street, Norwich, CT
Washington Street connector looking at the Leffingwell Tavern/Inn present location. To the right is Norwichtown.

After this photo romp through Norwich's busy Washington Street area, I discovered the Yantic cemetery by accident--final resting place of C.P., Maria, and some of their children. Back in the day, they could view it from their front door.

Yantic Cemetery
Yantic Cemetery (behind Backus Hospital) C.P. and Maria would have had a distant view of it from their front door. Their graves are located there.

Yantic cemetery
Yantic Cemetery, Norwich, CT: gravestone for C.P. (1779-1850) and Maria Perit Huntington (1783-1854). Needs a cleaning!


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