It is with tremendous honor, pride, happiness, and humility, that today I announce my recent acquisition of the Reverend Richard Mansfield House (c. 1700) of Ansonia, Connecticut, from the Derby Historical Society.
Ostensibly constructed in 1700, the Mansfield House was purchased in 1748 by eight Episcopal families and presented to the newly ordained Reverend Richard Mansfield, D.D., who subsequently served as rector of Derby’s Saint James Church, for the next 72 years. Mansfield’s tenure was only briefly interrupted during the Revolutionary War, when, as a British Loyalist, he was forced to flee to Long Island under threat of arrest.
Mansfield returned to Derby several years later, sadly to find that his wife Anna Hull and an infant daughter had both passed away during his absence. But nonetheless, he resumed his pastoral duties and continued living in his home until his death in 1820, at age 96.
Originally situated directly across the street from its present day location, the Mansfield House was moved in 1925 to provide a site for Saint Joseph Roman Catholic Church. For many years, the house was preserved by the Mansfield House Association, and then by the Antiquarian and Landmarks Society (now Connecticut Landmarks), which eventually sold the house to the Derby Historical Society, in 1960.
The Mansfield House is a classic Second Period (~1700+) Connecticut saltbox. There’s some minimal physical evidence to suggest that it might’ve been converted from an earlier home, including a post marked “1672″. But then, there’s also a distinct lack of evidence supporting this notion; for example, no exterior clapboards found inside the garrets, nor separate, or spliced, lean-to rafters, etc. Determining the precise material history of this home will be quite challenging, and something I’m really looking forward to doing.
Like many homes of its vintage, the Mansfield House has its share of problems, including a considerable amount of deferred maintenance, and some water damage brought on by roof and drainage plane issues. The most critical of these problems has been rectified, but there’s still a daunting amount of work to be done. Some of the more threatened components of the house, like the front and rear doors, and several lime plaster ceilings, need to be stabilized, repaired, and refinished. But overall, the Mansfield House has far more original and well preserved material than I’ve encountered in other historic homes I’ve visited.
What are my plans for the Mansfield House? Well, they’re actually quite simple. First, eliminate all remaining threats to the home, nearly all of which are related to drainage and moisture control. Then, stabilize and restore all damaged historic material and components.
Once that’s accomplished, I’ll embark upon a longer term program of preservation that will also include a very conservative approach to home performance. All of this future work will be carried out in a manner consistent with the guidelines of The Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office, The U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, and The National Trust for Historic Preservation‘s recommendations for Historic Preservation and Sustainability.
And I’ll be openly publishing all of my plans, articles, and reports related to these efforts right here, under the new category “Mansfield House“.
My greatest hope is to do right by the house, the memory of the Mansfield family, and the efforts of all those dedicated individuals and organizations who preceded me and played their part in preserving this remarkable home for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. As William Morris so aptly observed,
“These old buildings do not belong to us only…they have belonged to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendants, unless we play them false. They are not in any sense our property, to do as we like with. We are only trustees for those that come after us”.