Main Street home built for Newtown Bee publisher
NEWTOWN — It might come as no surprise to anyone who comes across the house at 17 Main St. that it was originally built in 1905 as two, identical homes connected by a central hall.
The structure’s main entrance is found in the middle of a large front porch, with matching columns on each side. The rest of the house is similarly symmetrical — with matching multistory towers at each end and four, equally-spaced chimneys on the roof.
“That makes it a little different than any of the other buildings here — that it was a duplex,” town historian Dan Cruson said.
What wouldn’t be obvious from the outside, though, is that the homes were originally built for two of Newtown’s most prominent families.
The house was built by Arthur Smith, whose family took over the Newtown Bee newspaper three years after it was created in 1877 and still operates it today.
Smith moved from Massachusetts back to Newtown, where his father had been a reverend at the Congregational Church, to enter the newspaper business with his brother Elison, Cruson said.
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He then married Frances Scudder, the daughter of Isaac Scudder, one of Newtown’s most prominent farmers at the time. Scudder Road would later be named after the family in the 1950s.
Smith and Scudder lived in one side of the home and let Scudder’s unmarried sisters, Susan and Elizabeth, live in the other side. Susan became well-known in the community too, Cruson said, when she was the first woman elected to the Board of Education in the early 1900s, before women were given the right to vote in non-local elections.
Back then, the two sides of the house were mirror images of each other, with identical kitchens, living rooms and dining rooms, said Cyndy DaSilva, the current homeowner and the house’s listing agent.
DaSilva said many of the original features of the home still exist, such as the six fireplaces, copper or tin ceilings and woodworking details. But, over the years, the home has been repurposed as a single-family house with updated systems, roofing and shingles.
“I almost feel like it’s the best of both worlds,” DaSilva said. “The charm has been retained but the functionality is completely modern.”
The DaSilvas now use the sisters’ side of the house for Cyndy’s husband’s office. The house is on the market for $995,000.
DaSilva added that one of the best parts of living in the home was its proximity to the center of town. People often immediately recognize the house when she tells them where she lives, she said.
“When I describe where we are on Main Street, people will say ‘Oh my god, we love that house,’ ” DaSilva said. “Living in the center of Newtown is just fantastic...it’s really amazing to be on Main Street.”