July 26, 2011

The Magical Mystery Plate

One of the coolest, but least likely thrills of living in an old house is stumbling upon something that may have come from, or is related to, your house.  In nearly ten years, it had happened to us only one time, until this month.  As of this week, however, we have added a piece that may or may not be associated with the Enos Kellogg House, but that needed to become part of our collection in any case.

Redware Plate, Norwalk, Connecticut.  Circa 1840.  Inscribed "Enos".

The picture above is of a circa 1840 redware plate manufactured here in Norwalk, Connecticut, fewer than five miles from our home.  With an inscription of "Enos", it is almost too good of a story to be true. 

Norwalk was a major manufacturing center for stoneware and redware in the 19th century, and we have put together a fairly nice collection of local pieces over the past ten years.  Norwalk redware plates are famous for their distinctive slip decoration, and somewhat generic aphorisms, biblical phrases and other words were commonly inscribed on pieces.  There are also more customized pieces, created specifically to commemorate particular events or individuals.  Operating on the assumption that such a unique customization is most likely to have originated close to the place of manufacture, and with census research showing only a handful of individuals named Enos in Norwalk and surrounding towns in the 1830s and 1840s, it is entirely possible that this plate references or memorializes the Enos Kellogg who built our house and died in 1833, or his nephew and namesake, whose father was raised by the elder Enos Kellogg in our house.  Of course, there is also more than a reasonable chance that it references some entirely unrelated Enos, but cut me a little slack here.  I prefer to think that this piece came from our house, somehow ended up at an auction in Maryland, and magically returned to its city and house of origin some 170 years after it emerge from the kiln.  Ten years of paint scraping, construction dust, sweat equity investment and restoration wounds should buy me a little karmic treat, right?

So, the Norwalk redware Enos plate has been claimed by the Enos Kellogg Homestead, and thanks to some spirited on-site bidding by my parents in Maryland, here it will reside. 

July 25, 2011

A Little Motivation Goes a Long Way

Not unlike my fits-and-starts approach to blogging, our house has been languishing in a mini-purgatory of half completed projects.  I start on something with every expectation of bringing it to swift completion, only to find myself putting it aside "temporarily" as life intervenes.  Most glaringly, there are a number of partially completed painting projects around the house that I was counting on our now AWOL painter to finish up. 

Luckily, I have found some motivation in the form of our inclusion on a historic house tour in September.  The Enos Kellogg House will be one of four featured properties on the Norwalk Preservation Trust's "Norwalk's Living History Tour: Historic Homes from 1675 to 1830".  It should be lots of fun, but for the time being, it is the kick in the butt that I needed to finally wrap up some of the loose ends.  Living room, entry hall and dressing room all need lots of prep and paint.  I'm feeling pretty good about progress in the living room, but we'll see how long that is sustained.

For anyone who wants to see if I can achieve some sort of paint closure, please check out the house tour information on the NPT's website:  http://norwalkpreservation.org/pages/events/tours.html.

July 21, 2011


Deed research indicates that the original farmhouse was constructed circa 1784 on 16 acres of land in Norwalk that was purchased by Enos Kellogg on March 29, 1784 from Mary Fitch. By the time of its construction, Enos had been married to Lydia Fitch Kellogg for ten years, and had three surviving children: Aaron, born February 10, 1775, Esther 2d, born October 30, 1779, and Hannah, born May 29, 1784. Another daughter, also named Esther, born January 12, 1778, had died in infancy. One more child, Rebeckah, was born March 16, 1787. In addition, it appears that Enos Kellogg’s orphaned nephew, Matthew Kellogg, was raised by Enos and Lydia, and lived with the family. Enos Kellogg died in May 1832, and his wife Lydia quickly followed, dying on December 14, 1832. Both are interred at the Kellogg Comstock cemetery located on the southernmost edge of the original property and now owned by the city of Norwalk. Inheriting the property, which included the “Dwelling House, Barn, Hogg House, Wood House, 1 Barn West Side of Road, 1 Carriage House West Side of Road” was Enos and Lydia’s daughter, Esther Comstock. Esther’s husband, who died in 1827, is also buried at the family cemetery.

Concurrent with her inheritance of the property, Esther purchased, for $1,000, an additional abutting 20 acres of land, with buildings, from her cousin, Matthew Kellogg, who presumably inherited that property from his uncle upon his death. The two parcels of land would remain Esther’s property until her death 34 years later. In 1864 in accordance with the provisions of Esther’s February 15, 1852 will, the property passed to Esther’s grandchildren, the five heirs of her eldest son, George E. Comstock, Sr. George E. Comstock, Sr. had also purchased an adjoining 33 acres of land in 1835, and this land passed initially to George E. Comstock’s oldest son, Walter. In 1868, Walter sold this land, along with his interest in his grandmother’s 25 acres, to his brothers George E. Comstock, Jr. (known as Edwin) and William McCuctheon Comstock. Between 1868 and 1878, George E. and William M. Comstock’s sisters, Agnes and Rebecca Comstock, also sold their interests in the inherited property to their two brothers. The 1870 census shows George E. Comstock Sr.’s widow, Mary, “keeping house” and four of her adult children, including Edwin and William, living in the home. By the 1880 census, Edwin is listed as “Head of Family”, and both he and his brother William are listed as living in the house and employed as farmers. Their older sister Rebecca also remained a resident, and is now identified as “keeping house”.

On what was ultimately 66 acres of land, George E. and William McCuctheon Comstock established Comstock Brothers Nursery. On February 11, 1886, William M. Comstock sold his half interest in the property to Edwin Comstock’s father-in-law, Harvey Lyon, and the Norwalk Directory subsequently lists the business as Comstock and Lyon, Nurserymen of Ponus Avenue and Nursery Street. The 1910 census lists George E. Comstock as a “Nurseryman”, living with his wife, Emma, their adopted daughter Nettie Comstock, his father-in-law and business partner Harvey Lyon, and several boarders.

On April 27, 1917, the Enos Kellogg House and 32 acres passed out of the hands of Enos Kellogg’s descendents, as George Lyon and Emma R. Comstock, Edwin’s widow, sold the property, and presumably the nursery business, to a group of four individuals. Subsequent owners sold off various pieces of the land for development, and in the late 1930s, construction of the Merritt Parkway resulted in the State of Connecticut’s ownership of land to the north of the original dwelling house and barn. As of 2011, 1.67 acres of land, containing the original dwelling house and barn remain intact. Two additional outbuildings from the farm, located across Ponus Avenue from the house, also remain, although they have since been converted to residences.