The village of North Stonington is on land originally granted to Amos Richardson in 1667, which he gave to his son Samuel on his 21st birthday, April 20,1682. The first settlers to North Stonington were Ezekiel Main and Jeremiah Burch, who in 1667 established settlements in the areas which became the village of North Stonington and Clark’s Falls, respectively. Main, formerly of Massachusetts, had served in the King Philip’s War, and received in return for his military service a land grant. Burch, on the other hand, had been a blacksmith in England before making the crossing to America and establishing a land stake.
North Stonington and its mother town on the coast, Stonington, come by their names honestly. the land was sculpted by retreating glaciers 10,000 years ago and the land is studded with their souvenirs. The southern part of town is a little more amenable to farming and was probably settled first but it didn’t take long for most settlers to realize their fortunes were better pegged to power latent in the town’s rivers and streams. Samuel Richardson, an early farmer and extensive landowner, had a mill going by 1702. There would be enough mills humming along the Shunock River that the village would adopt the name “Milltown.” In the early 1800s it was inhabited by 210 people and included a gristmill, sawmill, fulling mill, cotton mill, and wooden mill, all of which were powered by the Shunock and Assekonk Rivers.
At a town meeting on April 5,1806, it was voted to divide the Town of Stonington into two separate towns. The division of the towns was based on an ancient line creating a North Religious Society of Stonington nearly one hundred years prior to the separation of the country from Great Britain. The line was important because it delineated which of the two Congregational Churches people would attend. It was also decided that the new town to the north of the line was to be called Jefferson in honor of President Thomas Jefferson. The General Assembly of Connecticut confirmed the vote in May of 1807 naming the town, not Jefferson, but North Stonington, because the North Religious Society there had been so named in 1720 and the name had been become identified with the vital interests of the area.
These days the settlement along the Shunock River is known as North Stonington and it rests sleepily on the National Register of Historic Places. Our walking tour will begin at the water and explore both sides. There are no sidewalks but not much traffic either...
42 Main Street
This was the Wheeler general store until 1904 when it was given to the town and converted into municipal offices. Included for a time was the town jail. Since the jail was heated by wood stoves it was a reliable spot for a warm bed and was occasionally the scene of voluntary incarcerations on cold nights. The building dates to a century earlier when it was constructed by Daniel Packer and Jedidiah Randall.
STAY ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE SHUNOCK CREEK AND WALK UP MAIN STREET.
Wheeler Hakes House
34-36 Main Street
This Georgian-style house was large enough in the 1800s to serve as both the home and cobbler shop of Wheeler Hakes. The small, stylish entrance portico with its barrel vaulted pediment and narrow Tuscan columns is typical of late Georgians and early Federal period.
William H. Hillard House
33 Main Street
The prominent center gable stamps this house as under the influence of the Gothic Revival style when it was constructed in 1860. It also retains its lace-like, flat-cut brackets. William Horace Hillard, life-long resident and teacher and farmer, lived in the house in the late 19th century. He was deacon of the Third Baptist Church beginning in 1881 and also became superintendent of the Sunday school.
STAY ON MAIN STREET AS IT BEARS LEFT.
Dudley Stewart House
32 Main Street
Now 150 years old, this exuberant Italianate house retains its high-style Victorian details - picturesque cornice, window hoods and finials - that were on the house when Dudley Stewart built it in 1860. Steven Avery, town clerk, lived here until his house burned down.
William M. Hillard House
28 Main Street
This 1840 house, although sheathed in modern materials, shows the evolution of architectural styles through the 19th century. It retains the symmetrical form of the late Federal era of the early 1800s, the door is of Greek Revival vintage with transom and side lights from mid-century and the full-width porch is a late 1800s Victorian affectation.
CROSS THE STREET TO THE THIRD BAPTIST CHURCH.
Third Baptist Church
29 Main Street
The church was built in 1833 and known as the Milltown Baptist Meeting House. It presents a fine example of the Greek Revival style with a fully-pedimented front gable roof, round window, and open-bed pedimented door crowns and pilasters. Except for rearranging the pews, the original part of the church remains much the same as when it was built. The Fourth Baptist Church was dismantled in 1940 from its site in Laurel Glen and attached to the rear of the Third Baptist Church.
WALK THROUGH THE PARKING LOT BACK TO THE STREET AND TURN RIGHT. WALK BACK TO SHUNOCK CREEK AND CROSS THE BRIDGE. WALK TO THE RIGHT.
The Holmes Block
2 Wyassup Road
This rambling structure has been the village store for over 200 years. It was believed to have been first occupied by the store of Williams and Rogers and later by Augustus L. Babcock, a coffin maker. In the mid-1800s David Holmes sold cabinets and coffins for his undertaking business in the main part of the building and his son Wheeler peddled fruit and baked goods out of the south end. In the 1900s the main proprietors were Frank H. Brown and George Stone.
Stephen Main House
1 Wyassup Road
Stephen Main left North Stonington in 1822 at the age of 17 and went to New York City where he became a butterman, selling enough dairy to begin dealing in real estate. He returned to North Stonington in 1856 and ran a grist and shingle mill. He bought the circa 1781 house in 1861. It was deeded in 1980 to the North Stonington Historical Society and now serves as the organization’s headquarters.
TURN AND WALK BACK DOWN MAIN STREET WITH THE CREEK ON YOUR LEFT.
Black Smith Shop Complex
63 Main Street
This complex includes a reconstructed, fully-operational blacksmith shop built in 1817 by Sam Slocum. The house fronting Main Street was built in 1819 by Andrew Baldwin, a carpenter. One of the first post offices of the town was in the basement of this house and the mail slot can still be found in the door to the basement. At the corner is a one room Schoolhouse.
The present Village Green, created in 1976, was the site of a blacksmith’s shop, a bark mill, and a cobbler’s shop. The Green was planted by the North Stonington Garden Club in 1976 as a project for the national bicentennial and included a flag pole with several memorial plantings. A Garden Club project to replant and create walkways in 2003 resulted in eight regional and national awards.
Gilbert Sisson House
88 Main Street
Gilbert Sisson was a cabinet maker in the late 18th century. As the house evolved it acquired a Greek Revival pedimented front gable roof and a triangular gable-end window. Later a bracketed Italianate front porch came along.
89 Main Street
The Congregational Church, first known as the North Society, began with the early settlement of the town and was formally organized in 1721. In 1848, the present sanctuary, an excellent example of high-style Greek Revival church architecture, was constructed.
Wheeler School and Library
101 Main Street
Major Dudley R. Wheeler was one of the most prominent and successful merchants of North Stonington, accumulating a large fortune from which he gave liberally for his town and the church. This school was the gift of his daughter Jennie in memory of her brother, Edgar. The school provided a free education to North Stonington students and welcomed boarding students from outside the community. Francis H. Kimball, veteran of New York City and Philadelphia, designed a building the likes of which had not been seen in North Stonington. The Renaissance Revival building used Westerly granite for its construction. The lions guarding the steps are made of Italian marble.
TURN AND RETRACE YOUR STEPS ON MAIN STREET BACK TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF SHUNOCK CREEK.