This past May, I’d published a brief history of the Holbrook-Blakeslee House, an old home of Ansonia, Connecticut, that’s closely associated with the Rev. Richard Mansfield House. Now, here’s the story of another well known Ansonia home, likewise with strong Mansfield family ties.
The Prindle-Goldstein House (c. 1795-6), located at 76 Jewett Street, is less than a quarter mile south from the Mansfield House. This home has had a number of family names associated with it, with “Prindle” and “Goldstein” being the oldest, and most recent, respectively, of the better known ones. So, for purposes of this article, I’ve chosen the moniker “Prindle-Goldstein” for this home.
Although I’m quite familiar with this place visually, I knew nothing of its history, until some months ago, when mixed media artist Jan Geoghegan contacted me and asked if I knew whether the “Goldstein House” on Jewett Street was still standing. Jan’s husband, Robert, is a grandson of Dr. Frederick C. Goldstein, a well-known physician from Ansonia, who was raised in the Goldstein House. Jan also kindly sent me copies of a history of the Goldstein House, authored by Ansonia historian Mabel P. Stivers, as well as some Goldstein family photos, news clippings, and obituaries.
I’d suspected that the white, early Federal-style home near the top of Jewett Street was the house she was referring to, but wasn’t completely sure. However, my long time partner in crime, Marian O’Keefe, Curator of the Seymour Historical Society, confirmed that that indeed was the house, only Marian knew it as the Captain Mordecai Prindle home.
When I finally read Mrs. Stivers’ Goldstein House history, I was surprised by what an interesting past this home had had, not to mention its connections to the Mansfield House and family. So, in what follows, I’ve made my best attempt to summarize what Mabel. P. Stivers had so eloquently reported.
The land on which the Prindle-Goldstein House stands was sold by Claudius and Susannah Bartheleme, to brothers Joseph and Mordecai Prindle, in 1795, and the house itself has been ascribed a probable date of construction of 1795-6 (albeit not by Mrs. Stivers).
Joseph and Mordecai were sea captains, and owned shares in a ship chandlery in Stratford, Connecticut, with a third brother, Josiah. This fact I found personally (and admittedly trivially) interesting, because I grew up in Stratford, on the same street as what then had been a modern-day chandlery, situated on the peninsula between the Housatonic River and Ferry Creek.
You’d probably never guess this today, but Derby, Connecticut (Ansonia was then a part of Derby) was once a major seafaring and shipbuilding town, despite its rather lengthy distance up the Housatonic River from the Long Island Sound. Derby is also well known as the birthplace of Commodore Isaac Hull, who commanded the U.S.S. Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) during the War of 1812.
Captain Mordecai Prindle and his wife lived in the house on Jewett Street, and were members of Rev. Mansfield’s Episcopal church. Legend has it that, in 1809, while Captain Prindle was away on what was supposed to have been his final voyage, an out-of-season killdeer perched near Mrs. Prindle’s window, singing wistfully — an event regarded as portending death. Tragically, Captain Prindle and his crew were never heard from again, and are presumed to have been lost at sea. [ In other versions, the bird was a nightingale, and to this day, some locals refer to the Prindle home as "The Nightingale House". ]
Historical accounts tell us that Prindle’s schooner was overly-laden with livestock they were transporting down to the West Indies, and that they’d likely encountered a severe spring gale, subsequently recorded as having taken place at that time, off the Carolinas.
Some time afterwards, the house was purchased by William Mansfield, a son of Rev. Dr. Richard Mansfield, and then later passed on to Rev. Dr. Stephen Jewett, a curate under Rev. Mansfield who eventually succeeded him as Rector of Derby’s Episcopal Church, when Rev. Mansfield died in 1820.
According to Mrs. Stivers, Rev. Jewett (after whom Jewett Street was later named) was quite wealthy and accepted no money for his pastoral services. Furthermore, he established a preparatory school for young men who were intending to study for the ministry, which he ran out of his home, employing the large north parlor of the Prindle house as his classroom.
As the years went by, the Prindle house changed hands several times, once even coming under the joint ownership of two widowed granddaughters of Rev. Mansfield. Finally, in 1864, the home was purchased by Frederick C. Goldstein, who had arrived from Germany with his wife, Sophia Elizabeth, six years earlier. Their son, also Frederick C., who was born in 1869, received his medical training from Yale College and went on to become a highly esteemed physician, eventually serving as health officer and school physician for the City of Ansonia.
Mrs. Goldstein lived in the Prindle house until her death in the early 1900s, her husband having predeceased her. At some point, Dr. Frederick C. Goldstein settled on North Main Street in Ansonia, while one of his sisters, Mrs. Minnie Schnuck, eventually took possession of the Prindle home. Dr. Goldstein himself died in 1928. One of his daughters, Elizabeth, became mother in law to my new friend Jan. Hence, the connection here.
Mrs. Stivers’ account relates a number of interesting stories of the Goldstein family. In one, Sukey Philips, a former slave of Rev. Mansfield, had given the family a Bible once used by Rev. Mansfield in worship. Many years later, Dr. Goldstein donated this Bible to the Mansfield House collection, and we know, based on another article of Mrs. Stivers’, that this Bible went on display in the Mansfield House in 1926, when it was finally opened to the public, following its extensive restoration. Today, that bible is maintained in the “Ansonia Room” of the Derby Historical Society’s David Humphreys House.
In yet another recollection, she described elaborate Christmas Eve celebrations hosted by the family at the Jewett Street home, to which many a neighbor and friend were invited, and which incorporated various Germanic traditions. Their family revelry included sending the young children to bed at their normal hour, and then waking them at midnight to participate with the adults in singing Christmas carols.
At the conclusion of her account, Mrs. Stivers reflected philosophically on the traditions of peace, learning, and good fellowship, long associated with the Prindle-Goldstein house, and the sense of community “closely interwoven in its walls, and may they long stand undisturbed”. She also recounted “…reminiscences of the long ago, when the Mansfield House was the center of good times for all the young people round about, and the Jewett House was a close neighbor”.
In her book Sustainable Preservation: Greening Existing Buildings, architect Jean Carroon cites “celebrating the stories of one building” as one means of establishing a sense of “heritage and stewardship” as an essential element of a “sustainable world”. While I fully agree with her sentiment, the “celebration of stories of one building”, for me, plays a far more tactical role in ensuring the appreciation of some particular historic building as a key artifact of the common cultural heritage shared by both the local community and the building’s current owners.
It’s one of many elements helping ensure the long term survival of a specific historic home. For that reason, I’ll always attempt to surface detailed stories of local homes here. Many house and family histories have been recorded, but many were also written long ago, and survive primarily on paper, in physical archives. Collecting and publishing them online, whenever possible, bolsters local awareness and appreciation of the historic treasures in a community’s midst, and betters the chances that many such walls will “long stand undisturbed”.
Much thanks to Jan Geoghegan for making me aware of the Prindle-Goldstein home in the first place, and for making available to me copies of historic writings in her possession. And much thanks to Marian O’Keefe (as always) for providing additional information, and especially for her endless enthusiasm and willingness to assist me in my efforts.