Built for love.
Conserved for generations.
Edwin Sullivan Fitch was a 22 year-old orphan from the neighboring town of Windham when he came to Mansfield Center in 1834 and promptly fell in love with Alice Adams, daughter of a prominent local physician. Hoping to impress, he purchased a small parcel of land in town, and, over the next year built the most magnificent home the town had ever seen. Completing the house in 1836, he and Alice wed on September 6 of the same year.
Fitch was just beginning his career as a country builder-architect, and he drew on all his skills to construct this monument to his love. He found inspiration from the Greek Revival style described in Chester Hills' The Builder's Guide: A Practical Treatise on the Several Orders of Grecian and Roman Architecture (published in Hartford in 1834) and based most of the home's layout and design on Hills' model. The house would inspire a Greek Revival trend in the region and serve as Fitch's calling card for decades.
The Fitches were happy and relatively prosperous, but financial problems soon forced them to sell half of their interest in the home to Edmund Golding, a local silk manufacturer, whose family then occupied the north half of the house. Such arrangements were not uncommon in early nineteenth century, although soon the Fitches sold the remaining portion of the house to Golding and moved to a new home just a few blocks away on Centre Street, where Edwin continued to design and build houses, mills, and churches--including the Italianate First Congregational Church of Mansfield two doors down Storrs Road.
The 1843 deed for Edmund Golding described the house as having a center hall surrounded by four rooms on both the first and second floors, and an additional one-story wing. Under the Goldings, the house was likely used as a hotel--the first in Mansfield Center.
The next owner, Zalmon Storrs, completed his purchase of the house in 1853. Storrs was a Yale-educated lawyer who served as probate judge, represented Mansfield in the Connecticut legislature, and became the town's postmaster general. In 1865, Storrs sold the home to Lewis D. Brown, who was looking to get into the thriving silk industry by purchasing the Atwoodville Silk Mill.
In 1906, the home was purchased from the Brown family by Carrie Havens of Norwich. Haven's married Oliver Perry (grandson of the famed naval commander of the same name), and embarked on the most ambitious remodeling of the home to date. Havens-Perry brought the house into the twentieth century by enlarging the kitchen and adding the conservatory, side entrance hall, and bathrooms.
Exactly 100 years after Edwin Fitch imagined a monument to his love, Dr. Kenneth Kinney was inspired to purchase the house as a Valentine's gift for his wife Claire. The Kinneys made few structural changes to the building, save for relocating bathrooms and modernizing the kitchen, but worked to restore much of the original detail and luster to the home. Dr Kinney, who was a prominent radiologist, acquired many of the surrounding parcels of land--nearly 70 acres--including the old stone town pound, built in 1801. Their two daughters Katherine and Candace, grew up in the house, and, in 1972, Katherine and her husband Hamilton Holt took ownership of the Fitch House.
Kay and Tony Holt continued the meticulous care of the house, adding an expanded and redesigned kitchen and a formal garden designed by Rudy Favretti. After raising their family, the Holt's opened the Fitch House to guests beginning in 1995 and quickly gained a reputation as charming and graceful innkeepers. After donating the bulk of the property to Joshua's Trust, northeast Connecticut's largest land trust, the Holts sold the Fitch House to us in June 2016.
As the newest stewards of this marvelous piece of living history, we are grateful to have the opportunity to continue the tradition of preserving this heritage for future generations.