What the Simon Huntington, Jr. House Might Have Looked Like Inside
Updated: Oct 10, 2021
Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting The White-Ellery House, c. 1710, located at the end of Route 128, right off the rotary, across from what remains of the original Gloucester town green. I was on another field trip, determined to get off the computer to see evidence of early 18th century living. Little did I know there was also a wonderful art installation in store for me too....
"The White-Ellery House was built in 1710 upon what was then the Town Green for Gloucester’s first settled minister, the Reverend John White (1677–1760). In 1735, the house was purchased by James Stevens and kept as a tavern. Captain William Ellery (1693–1771) took title to the property in 1740 and after keeping the tavern in operation for a few years, used the house as a home for his family, which continued living in the house for six generations" (This information copied from https://historicmassachusetts.org.)
The unique thing about this First Period home is that a lot of the interior details have remained intact and you can see the remnants of 18th and 19th century paint, stenciling, hardware, original windows, built-in cupboards, framing, and so on. The descendants of the Ellery family owned the home from the 1740s to the 1940s.
This wonderful patina made it the perfect setting for North Shore artist Leslie Lyman's "Love's Labors," an installation she did inside the house and grounds in late September 2021. The exhibit asked us to think about the value of women, their unsung roles, and the love and determination they have for the their family through thick and thin.
The art (and drudgery) of women's daily lives was laid bare but beautiful, "the steady cooking, folding, stitching, mending, and washing of domestic life." Lyman cleverly used her own evidence, as a mother who raised four boys, to make it real: a banged up table with hash marks counting meals made, a threadbare chair, an iconic clothes line for all of 128 to see--those spoke to me as having recently become an empty nester myself.
Simon Huntington, Jr. Homestead, Norwichtown, CT
Now, compare the details of the White-Ellery home to Simon, Jr.'s and Lydia Gager Huntington's home built around the same time period. The Huntington homestead has seen many occupants over three centuries. The latest owners have painted it a brick red, maybe to match a past color? The color is certainly historic-looking. But, from what I have read, 18th century painted houses were rare.
Another noticeable aspect of the Simon, Jr. home is it's asymmetry and reconstructed smaller chimney stacks. The original side looks to be on the left. The windows are old but probably not original. They are 12/12 which is later than early, early 18th century. Finally, interestingly, there does not appear to be a lean-to addition in the back, thus, no "salt-box" style.
Mary Perkins in her Old Houses of The Antient Town of Norwich: 1660-1800 book (1895), reported that the Simon Huntington, Jr. was given this land by Simon, Sr. in 1688-9, a few years after Simon and Lydia's marriage. Thus, the original home was probably built in the 1690s.
The house was used as a weapons' magazine for Norwich as well as a tavern (see previous post on Taverns). The land and home left the Huntington family by 1782, when it was sold in different stages to the Abbot, Carey and Carew families. The home would continue to have many different occupants unlike some of the other Huntington homes in the vicinity which miraculously stayed in family hands into the 20th century.
I do need to try and meet the owners of the Huntington home and get a tour. Unlike the White-Ellery House, I have heard that that interior of Simon and Lydia's old homestead (and many others) has seen a lot of change over time, which was typical of our ancestors--to improve, remodel, add on, etc. The 19th century Ellery family were probably too poor to make major changes to the house. This is a good thing for us history/old house fans.
For more information about the artist/photographer Leslie Lyman see https://www.leslielyman.com