Mansfield House Acquisition

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.

Reverend Richard Mansfield House, Ansonia, Connecticut

The Reverend Richard Mansfield House, c. 1700, Ansonia, Connecticut, on our first snowy day of 2012

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.

Mansfield House Profile, Showing It's Saltbox Lines

The Mansfield House is a classic saltbox, and an example of Second Period New Haven Colony architecture

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.

National Register Of Historic Places Certificate

The Mansfield House is on the National Register of Historic Places

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.

Milled Entablature Above the Parlor Windows

Elaborately milled entablature above 12/12 windows in the Mansfield House’s South Parlor

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“.

Mansfield House Kitchen Fireplace

Fireplace, hearth, beehive oven, crane, and tin candle mold, in the Mansfield House kitchen

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”.

Mansfield House Sign

About John Poole

My interests include historic homes, architectural preservation and restoration, improving the energy performance of old houses, and traditional timber frames.
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12 Responses to Mansfield House Acquisition

  1. John, What a treasure! A house like this has stories to tell. I hope you find some. I am glad to keep up with your progress on this one.

    • John Poole says:

      Hi, John!

      Yes it does indeed have stories to tell. In fact, it sort of told me an interesting story just the other day, and that will be the topic of my next post. Thanks for stopping by and hope all is going well out your way!

      - John

  2. Jan Petroff says:

    I’m so excited for you. It’s a fantastic house, look forward to seeing
    more!

  3. What a wonderful project this will be and I can’t wait to see the progress as it is done as well as your posts.

  4. Ally Girl says:

    Hey Jonney Boy – Congratulations on the new lifelong project of passion! Are all those rocks held together by cement the kitchen? The exterior structure is beautiful! Looking forward to the “after” photos, but I won’t hold my breath. AG

    • John Poole says:

      Hey Ally Grrrrl!

      Thanks for visiting, and thanks for the good words! Yes, the stones comprising the fireplace are “wet-laid”, probably with lime mortar. And “after” photos? There’s no “after” on any of my projects. You should know….they never end!

      But there’s much to be done here of varying degrees of urgency. So, when you’re done working on your boat (soon, I hope), save all your dingy clothes, ’cause …er…. you might be needing ‘em again! :-)

      ~ Johnny Boy

  5. Charlet (Emery) Roskovics says:

    I am a descendant of Rev. Richard and Anna (Hull) Mansfield! They were my 4th great grandparents on my mother’s side of the family. Their eleventh child, Lucretia (my 3rd great grandmother) married Abel Marsh Allis M.D. and had Caroline Allis (my 2nd great grandmother). Carolline (Allis) married Oliver Hopson and together produced eight children, the sixth being my great grandmother, Elizabeth Crafts (Hopson) Baker.

    I read with great interest how you are restoring the Mansfield House and even have the family bible. Do you have family pictures there as well? I’d love to know what Sarah (Alling) & Jonathan Mansfield, Sarah (Bennett) & Capt. Joseph Hull, plus Lucretia (Mansfield) & Abel Allis looked like! I have two pictures I’ve had copied and restored that might be of interest to you: one of Rev. Richard Mansfield plus a portrait of the Oliver Hopson family.

    Restoring an antique house is a huge undertaking and someday I hope to see it!

    Sincerely,
    Charlet

    • John Poole says:

      Hi Charlet,

      Thanks for visiting and commenting! And especially for describing your lineage from Rev. and Anna Mansfield.

      I don’t have the Mansfield Bible; the Derby Historical Society has it, and they have it on permanent display at the Gen. David Humphreys House (the DHS museum house) in Ansonia, Connecticut. Several prayer books and Rev. Mansfield’s rocking chair can also be seen there. Here is another posting I wrote a while back about the Bible. I’m not aware of portraits of any of the other individuals you mentioned, but DHS might have some in their archives. I’ll inquire about these names.

      Are you local to the Derby-Ansonia area? You’re welcome to come see the house. Only I won’t really be ready for visitors until probably in the late spring of this year (much repair work going on here).

      There is also a Rev. Mansfield in the Hartford area whom I am in touch with, and he is likewise a direct descendant of Rev. Mansfield. Do you know of any other living descendants still in Connecticut?

      Feel free to email me any time if you have more questions or want to discuss further about seeing the home (see my contact info in the “About Us” tab up above).

      Thanks again!
      ~ John

  6. Charlet (Emery) Roskovics says:

    Dear John,

    I live in North Falmouth, Massachusetts and my husband and I hope to visit the Mansfield House in the spring or summer. I know of no “Mansfield” descendants but would LOVE to be in contact with your friend! Could you give him my e-mail address? I’ve been researching and researching so subsequently have a bit of data now.

    There is a Hopson Bed and Breakfast in East Poultney, VT which we hope to visit during the same trip. Oliver and Caroline Hopson resided and raised their children in the East Poultney home from mid 1840′s to nearly 1870 and it is now a B&B.

    Looking forward to hearing from you again!

    Cheers,
    Charlet

  7. John Poole says:

    Hi Alexandra!

    As a medievalist, I would expect you (of all people!) to know this term, which originated in medieval times, and refers to the parcel of land often associated with a parsonage.

    But “make-out”? I’m not sure what that means. Isn’t that an archaic woodworking or wood cutting term? Like to “make-out” a bowl from a round of wood?

    - John :-)

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