Judson House brings history to life

The Stratford Historical Society hosted a holiday open house at the Captain David Judson House this past weekend. The open house featured decked halls, a house tour and many smiling faces.

“We had a very good turnout over the weekend,” said Stratford Historical Society Assistant Director Sandra Rutkowski. “We even helped a Cub Scout troop from Chapel Street School earn their history badges.”

At the adjacent Catharine Bunnell Mitchell Museum gift shop, there was a museum exhibit, holiday music by Hearthside Waits and a Revolutionary War re-enactor. Cookies and cider were served.

The open house not only provided entertainment, it also served to educate attendees as to the history of the house and Colonial life in Stratford.

Revolutionary War re-enactor Al Cawthra demonstrated how to build a campfire without the use of matches. “Al is very passionate about teaching early American history. He participates in most every one of our events,” said Rutkowski.

According to the Historical Society website, the Captain David Judson House was built by David Judson on the site of his great-grandfather’s 1639 stone house. The new house was built on the stone foundation and incorporates the chimney of the original house built on the site in 1639.

The first floor of the original house, now the cellar, is above ground level and contains a massive central stone chimney that was built with lug poles. It is believed that the cellar was used as slave quarters during the early 18th Century. The new house, built circa 1723, is designed in the style of early Georgian architecture, or Colonial Georgian, found throughout the American colonies during this time.

According to Rutkowski, the furnishings are entirely period pieces of Stratford origin, dating from the 18th Century, and include a piano that belonged to William Samuel Johnson, framer of the United States Constitution, and also the second president of Columbia University.

According to an online encyclopedia, the Captain David Judson House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 20, 1973. It is also included in the Stratford Center Historic District.

Rutkowski noted that the Historical Society has totally revamped its website and would like those interested to visit the site. Jim DeVivo built the new website, while Rutkowski’s daughter, Terry, provided the many color photographs that populate the site.

“It was a work in progress and we went live with the new site in the middle of October,” said Rutkowski. The new site may be found at stratfordhistoricalsociety.org. “It’s at dot.org now, not dot.com. We want people to enjoy the new site.”

One of the features of the Catharine Bunnell Mitchell Museum is the extensive genealogy library available to the public; it is located in the office area of the museum.

“Gloria Duggan administers the library,” said Rutkowski. “She knows everything and is very helpful. Just give her a name and she’ll tell you the whole family history.”

The library is available to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. year-round. Genealogical requests may be made by telephone, email, mail, and in person.

“We have people coming from all over the country to research the library,” Rutkowski said. “They can even call ahead before coming and Gloria will have the information ready for them when they arrive.”

The David Judson House is open to the public and is operated as a historic house museum and research library by the Stratford Historical Society. It is located at 967 Academy Hill in Stratford.

“We’re always looking for new members and people to help out,” said Rutkowski. “We’re entirely self-funded.”

For more information about Stratford’s history and Stratford Historical Society events, visit stratfordhistoricalsociety.org or call 203-378-0630.

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