Way Back When … 1816
Published 12:00 am, Saturday, September 9, 2017
The Judge Roger Minot Sherman House, located at 480 Old Post Road, suffered a fire last weekend. Here’s a bit more information about the home and its history.
The house, also known as the Sherman Parsonage, was built in the post-colonial or Federal style in 1816 by Judge Sherman, the nephew of Roger Sherman, signer of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. According to a 1961 document, written by S.C. Whitaker, the cost to build the house then was $15,000 and it was “the largest and most impressive house in Fairfield at the time.” It was originally situated on eight acres.
Judge Sherman, who died in 1844, was a lay theologian who bequeathed the house to the First Church Congregational of Fairfield to be used as a parsonage after his wife Elizabeth died. She passed away four years after he did, and the house served as the parsonage from 1848 until 1950.
Frank S. Child, one of the founders of the Fairfield Historical Society, immortalized the house in two of his publications: “A Country Parish,” published in 1911, and the 1899 book “The House with Sixty Closets.”
“Someone must have had a mania for closets, for there were 63 of them of every size, shape and kind,” Caroline Rankin Ayer wrote in 1904. Ayer was the daughter of the Rev. Edward E. Rankin, then pastor of First Church Congregational at the corner of Old Post and Beach roads. He moved his family into the house in 1866. (By 2015, after several interior renovations, the home was down to 12 rooms and 40 closets.)
The S.C. Whitaker document cites “Old Houses of Connecticut,” and tells a story about a set of expensive rugs. Apparently the Shermans ordered velvet Wilton rugs from England for two parlors, but when they arrived, the rugs were too long by seven feet each. Rather than shorten the rugs, the Shermans constructed additions to both wings of the house, lengthening the parlors to accommodate the rugs. Some of the wings were removed by the First Church in the 1930s, as the home was then considered too large to heat and maintain.
The year the Judge Roger Minot Sherman House was built on Old Post Road in Fairfield.
Much of the information in today’s column is from a January 2015 article in the Fairfield Citizen by Meg Barone.
The Fairfield Museum is a dynamic non-profit museum, library, cultural arts and educational organization founded in 1903 that provides families in Fairfield County and beyond with a wide array of exhibits and educational programs that teach regional history, celebrate a shared heritage, and prepare students and adults to be more active participants in their community to plan for a better future. Located at 370 Beach Road, the Museum is open seven days a week, 10am-4pm. Members of the Museum and children under 5 are free. For more information, call 203-259-1598 or visit Fairfieldhistory.org.