Way Back When … 1840
Jonathan Sturges, the original owner of the Sturges Cottage on Mill Plain Road, was a Fairfield native who became part of the generation of leaders who founded banks, railroads and businesses that fueled America’s rise as an economic power. Author Robin McPhillips will talk about her new book, “Jonathan Sturges: Merchant of Old New York,” at the Fairfield Museum on Thursday, May 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. as part of a “Museum After Dark” event.
Striking out from his home in Fairfield in 1822, Sturges rose to become the lead partner of the largest coffee and tea trading house in New York. For five decades, he rode the American wave of growth and ingenuity from the opening of the Erie Canal, through the Civil War, to the dawning of the Gilded Age — when robber barons such as his son-in-law, J.P. Morgan, were gaining prominence. His intimate circle of friends and associates were a “who’s who” of national politicians, generals, businessmen and men of the arts. He was also one of the originators of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Sturges family had a long history in Connecticut and Jonathan’s grandfather represented Fairfield in the Continental Congress during the American Revolution.
The Sturges Cottage, a Gothic Revival with more than 30 rooms and 11 staircases, was built in 1840 as a summer residence for the Sturges family. While the main home was built in 1840, additions were added in 1883, 1846 and 1890. It had indoor plumbing before the White House did. The cottage was named a National History Landmark in 1994.
McPhillips’s engaging historical biography is a quintessential American success story and provides a window into iconic events in American history as experienced by Fairfield’s own Sturges family. The event is open to the public and free for Fairfield Museum members with a $5 suggested donation for non-members. A reception will be held at 6 p.m. and the presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m. For more information visit Fairfieldhistory.org.