History of the Deming-Standish House (1787)

Demiing WM Deming-Standish House-thumb-300x185-377.jpgThe Deming-Standish House has a prominent place in the center of Wethersfield’s old village, on a piece of land at the corner of Main and Marsh Streets, near the Meetinghouse. The town land records show David Webb selling this one half acre corner to Joseph Webb for 96 pounds “lawful money” on April 8, 1757, “together with all the buildings thereon.”

By January 23, 1783, these buildings must have deteriorated badly or were gone completely, as no buildings are mentioned in the deed 26 years later showing Samuel B. Webb, the noted Revolutionary War officer, aide-de-camp to General Washington and son of Joseph Webb, selling the land. This “piece of land–lying near the Meeting House” was purchased for 180 pounds by Henry Deming “late of Colchester now of said Wethersfield.” Tax records reveal that in 1787 Henry Deming was being taxed for a dwelling, and it is in this year that we believe the house was built. A quit claim of the next year, October 4, 1788, of Samuel B. Webb to Henry Deming describes the land as before but now mentions “the homestead where the said Deming now dwells.”

Henry Deming was a prominent merchant and had his shop in a small building next to the house on the north side. When he died on June 23, 1798 at the age of 46, his estate went to his son, Henry Jr. A building contract dated December 1800 indicates that major structural improvements and updating were done at this time. This contract describes the work that James Francis, a Wethersfield Master builder (whose home still stands on Hartford Avenue, and has been restored as a house museum by the Wethersfield Historical Society), and his second cousin and partner Simeon Francis contracted to perform for the sum of “two hundred dollars in Cash on demand when the work is executed.”

This document is quite specific as to the amount and the type of work that James and Simeon Francis were to do: interior work included laying floors, putting up partitions “fit for plastering,” putting down mop boards (baseboards), making closets, making doors, casing and hanging them, casing windows, making the interior shutters, putting up two chimney pieces (paneled fireplace walls), piecing out the cornices, and other joiner work. The builders agreed to “make use of what old Stuff will conform in Sd (said) work.” More specifically, they agreed to “Clapboard the backside with old Clapboards half way, the other with new,” and to “fix up the Stairs that are now Standing.” From these references, one can infer that the work was in the nature of alterations and embellishments to an existing structure, rather than new construction. It may be that the one story, shed roofed addition across the rear of the building was made at this time. Although not specifically mentioned in the building contract, the moldings along the eaves and cornice, the moldings over the windows, and the distinctive side-light window on the front entrance are details that must have been added in 1800, when the Federal-style was popular.

The shop was continued by Henry, Jr., but interestingly he sold the parcel of land “together with the merchant shop standing theron,” to his mother Anna, for $700.00 on September 14, 1801. This land was within the corner of Main and Marsh Streets, and bounded on the south by the “adjoining house where the said Anna now Dwells.”  Fifteen days later Anna leased to her son Henry “a certain shop or store standing on the homestead where I (Anna) dwell,” for $42.00 annually.

Henry was living at 26 Marsh Street, in the “Capt.Gershom Nott House” immediately to the rear of the Deming-Standish House. On  May 11, 1849, “the house, barn and other buildings” were sold by a Demis or Dennis Deming, after their having “descended from the estate of Anna Deming, late of Wethersfield, deceased.” Anna Deming had died on September 13, 1839, at the age of 86, and Roswell Clapp purchased the house, barn and other buildings in 1849 for $2,400.00.  Tradition states that it is from this time that the building was used as the “Wethersfield  Village Hotel”. The four by six foot sign from the hotel survives and is on display at the historical society’s Wethersfield Museum at the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center.

Rosewell Clapp died November 5, 1852 at the age of 69, having been the principal storekeeper in town, and his son William continued the business until October 31, 1854.  At that time, the “Deming Place,” as it was known, was sold, “including dwelling house, store, and other buildings,” to Henry Harris for $3,000.00. Harris almost immediately sold the property to James, senior, and to John N. Standish for $3,000.00 on November 7, 1854. The property would remain in the Standish family for the next 74 years.

The Standish brothers, James, Jr., John and Ira would continue the general store in the building next to the dwelling house, which included a livery, coal and wood yard, as well as Wethersfield’s post office. The Standish brothers also purchased the stage coach and express line that had been started about 1840, and the “Red Bird Flier” would stop at the Deming-Standish House on its Hartford to Middletown run.

An interesting story comes down to us regarding the Deming-Standish House around this time. Wethersfield was the drill ground for the Hartford Military District, and during the Governor’s Horse Guard field day, the company was standing at parade-rest, with Captain John N. Standish in command. Upon the dare of a group of young women seated upon the house’s steps, a Private Allen charged his horse at top speed up the steps, through the large central hall and out down the back steps.

On  July 23, 1874, Cynthia Standish acquired the “land with store, dwelling house and other buildings” for a mortgage of $500.00. Upon her death, the Standish heirs “to preserve the rare setting and appearance of a most typical New England Village” offered the building and land to the Town of Wethersfield. On October 10, 1928, the Town purchased the property for $1.00. The Town rented the Deming-Standish House on January 26, 1929, to the Wethersfield Bank and Trust Company, for a yearly rent of $600.00. It was at this time that the triangular pediment with an eagle was added to the front door and a one story vault added to the rear. The building later became a branch of the Hartford-Connecticut Trust Company.

In the 1940s, the Deming-Standish House became known as the Town Hall Annex (the Town Hall being at the Old Academy at 150 Main Street), with town offices including the police station being housed there in the 1950s. After the construction of the new Town office building and library on the Silas Deane Highway in 1960, the Deming-Standish House became the headquarters of the Wethersfield Board of Education, which vacated it in November 1982.

Today the exterior of the Deming-Standish House remains very similar to its early 19th century appearance, except for the lack of the right chimney which was lost when the entire chimney stack was removed to install a stairwell. Fate has not been as kind to the interior. Although most of paneled fireplace walls remain, only the plaster walls of the two front first floor rooms have survived. Spaces have been rearranged with new partitions, and half of the second floor has been opened up to make one large space.

In the Deming DSCN0217-thumb-200x150-371.jpgearly 1980’s, Wethersfield Historical Society entered into an agreement with the Town of Wethersfield to lease the Deming-Standish House and the nearby Governor Thomas Welles school building.  The Deming-Standish House was to be restored and operated as a restaurant with the rent from the restaurant providing support for the operation of the Governor Welles building as a community center.  The Standish House Restaurant opened in the mid-1980’s, and in 1991, the newly renovated Keeney Memorial Cultural Center opened to the public. A number of different restaurants have operated in the building over the past twenty five years, presently Lucky Lou’s Bar and Grill. The historical society continues to lease these buildings from the Town and care for them as two jewels of our historic village.

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