Background:

Circa 1740 Gem: ‘Joseph Lyman House’ in Coventry, CT is For Sale

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I toured this circa 1740 house (2275 Boston Turnpike) many years ago, perhaps in 2008, and I remember at the time feeling as though I had stepped back in time 200 years.  Fires were crackling in the fireplaces, and everywhere I turned, there were beautiful raised paneling walls.  The wide sawn wood floorboards added more to the effect.  It all created a pervasive sense of what life may have looked like — and felt like — during the Revolutionary War era.  Even before I had the opportunity to tour the house (after a client of mine purchased it), I had for years admired the curb appeal of the place — with its classic New England proportions and Saltbox-style profile on one side.  And better yet, there was a little antiques mall within walking distance where I occasionally stopped to buy antiques! 

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Speaking of location, that’s another great thing about this house.  It sits just 15 minutes drive to Storrs, CT — home of the University of Connecticut, where I completed my Masters in History in 2004 (Go Huskies!).  Living at this house, you could enjoy the cultural life associated with a large university to the west, but also, to the east, easily access the amenities of the cities of Manchester (large mall and lots of restaurants) and Hartford (capital city, and lots of restaurants).  I-84 is about 10 minutes away, and on Rt. 44, the picturesque villages of Connecticut’s “Quiet Corner” are just a short drive to the east, just past UConn.  Not to mention Boston is about 90 minutes away.

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Anyway, from my perspective, which is admittedly biased because I so love Connecticut and New England, this house is located in the center of it all.  But its location is just the start of its rare and unique offerings.  The house has undergone significant restoration.  While I can’t personally vouch for which features are original (c. 1740) or just “really old,” the house is marketed as (remarkably) boasting an original closet on the second floor that has never been painted; original floors grace three room; four original paneled walls; four stone fireplaces; an original closed stringer staircase; and the original double front door (with what past owners have called “an Indian Bar” to secure it). In the east chamber, there are two cupboards to the left of the fireplace, and the bottom one has an all stone interior — possibly to keep something warm.  Very interesting feature I haven’t seen anywhere else.  There is also a full bath and bedroom on the first floor and a full bath with shower on the second floor.

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When researching Joseph Lyman, the house’s first occupant, I couldn’t find a whole lot of information.  But I did find a picture of his super-cool gravestone!:

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(A more detailed view of the gravestone is below).  Jospeh’s father, Lt. Jonathan Lyman, from Lebanon, CT, reportedly bought the property in September of 1740 and had the house built.  His son Joseph, who was apparently a doctor, lived there for about 10 years.  He was married in December of 1741 and lived in the house until his death in 1751.  The house changed hands with descendants a few times, but one owner of note was Dr. John Waldo — who served as a surgeon with Col. Jedediah Huntington’s regiment during the Revolutionary War.  Dr. Waldo died in 1786 of consumption, leaving his wife, Lucy, with 5 sons and a daughter.

Gravestone detail

Before getting back to the house, since we are talking about the history in Coventry, I must make a quick mention of two famous historical figures from Coventry — one well-known, the other probably less so, even though he was a major figure during the 1700s.  The first is Nathan Hale, the state hero of Connecticut.  Even if you’re not from the Nutmeg State, you may have heard of him — or at least his famous act.  During the Battle of Long Island, he volunteered for an information gathering mission behind enemy lines in New York City, but was captured by the British and quickly executed. But his last words before being hanged were:  “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”

000_hanging-nathan-haleAnother (very) interesting figure from Coventry is Lorenzo Dow — one of the most famous and captivating itinerant preachers of early America:   “Because the churches were closed to him, Lorenzo Dow preached in town halls, farmers’ barns, and even in open fields. He would preach anyplace where he could assemble a crowd. He preached to Methodists, Dow-Lorenzo-contBaptists, Quakers, Catholics, and atheists alike. He liked to appear unexpectedly at public events, announcing in a loud voice that exactly one year from today, Lorenzo Dow would preach on this spot. He never disappointed his audiences; he always appeared exactly 365 days later at the appointed place, usually met by huge crowds.  Dow’s public speaking mannerisms were like nothing ever seen before among the typically conservative church goers of the time. He shouted, he screamed, he cried, he begged, he flattered, he insulted, he challenged people and their beliefs. He told stories and made jokes. It is recorded that Lorenzo Dow often preached before open-air assemblies of 10,000 people or more and held the audiences spellbound.  Lorenzo Dow was personally unkempt. He did not practice personal hygiene and his long hair and beard were described as “never having met a comb.” He usually owned one set of clothes: those that were on his back. When those clothes became so badly worn and full of holes that they were no longer capable of covering him, some person in the audience usually would donate a replacement. The donated clothes often were not the correct size for his skinny body. When he traveled, he carried no luggage other than a box of Bibles to be given away. Throughout most of his life, what little money he ever collected was either given away to the poor or used to purchase Bibles. In his later years, he did accumulate a bit of money from the sales of his autobiography and religious writings. His singularities of manner and of dress excited prejudices against him, and counteracted the effect of his eloquence. Nevertheless he is said to have preached to more persons than any man of his time.  Below is a portrayal of Dow preaching:

Dow

Anyway, back to the Joseph Lyman House . . . an artifact of the time period when these figures lived in Coventry, which is very cool.  The evolution of the Lyman House is a little tricky.  The owners know that the rear ell was a separate building that was joined to the main house (evidence was found when re-shingling the house).  So the original section is a two-over-two, which they found interesting because there is no large cooking fireplace in this section.  However, the woodwork in the west side of the house, while still being Georgian, is likely later, and features a “cove moulding” in the summer beam and perimeter beams rather than the “thumbnail-style” detail on the east side of the house.  Also, the hearth stone on the west side of the house is not centered on the fireplace and is larger then necessary for the size of the firebox.  So the owners speculate that this room had a larger fireplace at one time, and was changed perhaps when Dr. Waldo bought the property.  Perhaps he then added the ell and the cook fireplace with the back bake oven.  Whatever the dates of the various portions of the house, it has, over the years, evolved into a building with a remarkable interior.  Check out the pics!:

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There are 3 outbuildings all relatively new, the barn has an insulated heated room and one car garage with storage on the second floor as well as the saltboxed rear.  A garden shed and small one room building grace the rear yard.  There are 10 apple trees on the property as well.  Recent work in the last 2 years includes repair to the east summer beam, new siding, new heating and central air, a new kitchen with soapstone countertops and sink that opens to the Keeping Room and a built-in office/library.  The rear patio has had new stones installed.

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The house, located at 2275 Boston Turnpike, offers 2,274 sqft of living space, 3 BRs, 2 baths, and sits on 1.36 acres.  The house is offered at $299,000.  For more information, check out the Realtor.com page here.

 

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