The Wolcott Homes


The Home of Oliver Wolcott Sr.


In 1754, Oliver Wolcott Sr. built a home on the land bequeathed to him by his father Roger. After Oliver's death in 1797, the home passed to his son Frederick. Frederick built a law office on the property, just northwest of the house. That office was removed in 1858.

In 1843, Frederick's children, Joshua Huntington and Mary Ann Goodrich, sold the Wolcott home. The home was brought back into the Wolcott family in 1883, when Frederick's granddaughter, the daughter of Frederick Henry Wolcott, Alice Wolcott, purchased it. It remained in the Wolcott family into the 1970s. Now located at 89 South Street in Litchfield, the home is privately owned.

Description


Photograph taken by Richard Wurts of Litchfield, Connecticut
According to the Historic Resources Inventory, conducted in 1980 by the Connecticut Historical Commission, the Oliver Wolcott Sr. home is the earliest extant Georgian home in the area. The home has a 5-bay, massive central chimney pile and doric columns in the front. The original frontspiece is believed to have been moved during the colonial revival additions, and replaced by a "federal open saffit pedimented porch with fluted columns carrying a stylized Doric entablature."

The colonial revival south wing was added during the 1890s. "It has a shed-roofed front veranda with square posts and leaded glass windows." In addition, a two-story "octagonal-ended pavilion" was joined to the house in the same period.

The eighteenth-century portions of the home remain in excellent condition both on the interior and exterior.

The Revolutionary Period

There are two noteworthy stories about the Oliver Wolcott home during the Revolutionary War.

In the midst of the war, George Washington was traveling to West Point to meet with Benedict Arnold. On the night of September 23, 1780, Washington stopped at the home of Oliver Wolcott to eat dinner and sleep. Some believe that Oliver Sr. was out of town at the time and that it was his son, Oliver Jr., who received Washington. It would be fifteen more years until Oliver Jr. would serve under Washington as his Secretary of the Treasury.


Bullet Mold found in the
orchard of the Wolcott House
The more famous story about the home involves the making of bullets out of a statue of King George III. Alain C. White tells the story in The History of Litchfield, Connecticut 1720 - 1920: "In the summer of 1776, occured the event, so dear to local tradition, when the leaden statue of George the third, torn from its gilded glory on Bowling Green [in New York City], was brought to Litchfield and turned into rebel bullets by a few of the women and young people of the town. This was done, it is supposed, at the instance of Oliver Wolcott, who had just returned to Connecticut from Philadelphia, and was always keenly alive to the needs of the army" (79 -80). The bullets where made in the apple orchard located behind Oliver Wolcott's house.

The Litchfield History Museum hosted an exhibit titled "The Tale of the Horse: Spinning Litchfield's Revolutionary Stories" from April 21, 2006 to November 26, 2006. A main part of the exhibit focused on the story of King George's horse being melted into bullets.


The Home of Oliver Wolcott Jr.


Photograph taken by Richard Wurts of Litchfield, Connecticut
In 1814, Oliver Wolcott Jr. purchased Elijah Wadsworth's home on the opposite side of South Street from his father's and, successively, his brother Frederick's home. The house was originally built in 1799 and is now located at 160 South Street. In 1963, it was donated to the Litchfield Historical Society, which traded the building with the Wolcott Library for space in a building closer to the Litchfield green. It now houses the Oliver Wolcott Library.

Description

According to the Historic Resources Inventory, conducted in 1980 by the Connecticut Historical Commission, the Oliver Wolcott Jr. home is a "symmetrical, four-bay Federal house" which "features superb interior woodwork." There is a "slightly recessed, two-story south wing" that Oliver Jr. added in 1817, a few years after purchasing the home.

"The exterior of the original block is simply detailed with molded cornice caps over the six-over-six windows and a later Greek Revival-style Doric-pilaster frontispiece at teh entrance bay. The interior is arranged the four-room plan with the large entrance/staircase with inland consoles, slender squares balusters and ramped handrails."

The south wing was remodeled during the colonial revival movement of the late nineteenth century. The windows, the "eared architraves," and "the handsome pilastered dormers" are all products of the 1890s.

"The rear (west) wall of the original portion of the house is pierced by a wide opening to accomodate the 1965 brick, library wing."