During the height of the pandemic many were settling into the homes they had been waking up in for years but that was not the case for a unique group of old house homebuyers. Homebuyers in the old house cohort did not waiver due to COVID when searching for “the one”. Though scarce, homes were still being listed on the market with COVID protocols in place. During this time, in Mystic, Connecticut, a 1745 Colonial Gambrel Roof home, went up for sale and was awaiting its next caretaker to call it home.
In August 2019, a realtor in the Mystic area reached out to their friend, John, regarding the property that was part of an estate sale. John set out to see the home and was drawn to the style and untouched details that so many homes are stripped of over the years of various caretakers. John expanded upon his desire to own an old home explaining “They are part of our past and dictate who we are today. They give people the unique opportunity to live history daily.” Having stood the test of time for 286 years and the rich history it encapsulates, John had the ability to see past the grime and neglect and the potential of what it could one day be and made an offer.
John closed on the house March 17, 2020, and it was not long before the house gave him a new perspective on life. “Just as everything was shutting down for COVID. The news contained a lot of dire reports during that time. As I sat in the house, I would think of what the house had seen, yet here it still stood strong. It reminded me that no matter how dark things seemed, that we would get through it, and it was just another chapter in the history of this home.” John shared.
“Every time I sit in front of the fireplace in the old tavern part of the house, I think how Benjamin Franklin warmed his feet at the very same fireplace.”
While a new chapter of the home’s history was being written during its second pandemic, John settled in and became more acquainted with his new home and its past. Before purchasing the home, John had learned the house had served as a tavern and while it was being inspected prior to purchasing, the inspector had pointed out the original floor supports of the tavern floor made of stacked field stones. As intriguing as the craftsmanship of historic homes are, it is hard to top the fact that John’s home hosted Benjamin Franklin during Franklin’s work on the Boston Post Road in 1751. “Every time I sit in front of the fireplace in the old tavern part of the house, I think how Benjamin Franklin warmed his feet at the very same fireplace. That connection to history cannot be found elsewhere.” Shared John.
There is a possibility George Washington was a guest during the tavern years, but for the time being it remains a local rumor. Outside of the home’s intriguing tavern days, John has also learned of who the early owner of the home was and his impact on the area. “He was one of the founders of Mystic but has been mostly forgotten due to his male heirs dying off and only his daughters surviving. He was a doctor; an early Patriot and the tavern was a Sons of Liberty meeting spot. He sent both his daughters to Yale (very unusual at that time). He financed a Privateer during the revolution and apparently he and Benjamin Franklin maintained a friendship, as it was Franklin that helped him acquire the ship.” Explained John. If the incredible history of this home was not enough, tangible artifacts that provide a timeline of the caretakers of John’s home was given to him when purchasing the house-Every deed from 1745 until 1960!
Even with knowing much of the history of his home, John still catches himself wondering, “If these walls could talk” and in one instance, the house did in fact have something to share he had yet to notice since moving in. While a friend was over visiting John, they were discussing the New England Vampire Scare which was a result of a tuberculosis outbreak in the 19th century. During the outbreak, families would apply hexfoils, a flower shaped design, to the doorways in effort to stop vampires from entering their home. John’s friend then pointed out, “Like those carved into the beam over there?”
No matter how much information has been shared about an old home, there can always be more to discover. A home’s history can be revealed through observation, like John’s friend, or while in the middle of restoring the home to its original form. Some old house homeowners would likely tell you that the fun of owning an old house often lies in the wonder and the anticipation of discovering what has been left behind.
Every old house homebuyer has a unique way of finding their way home, however, John’s experience of purchasing and living his first year in his home during a pandemic is one in which few will have. With a unique bond between the two, John continues his work as a dedicated caretaker by restoring, caring, and keeping alive the history of an irreplaceable piece of American history.
To keep in touch with the progress of John’s home and its history, follow him on Instagram @johngoodrich950.