New Canaan Now & Then: The Matthew Fitch House


The Matthew Fitch House at 296 Carter St. Credit:

‘New Canaan Now & Then’ is sponsored by Brown Harris Stevens Realtors Joanne Santulli, Karen Ceraso, Bettina Hegel and Schuyler Morris.

The Matthew Fitch House was built in 1737. Mr. Mathew Fitch was the son of John II and Lydia Fitch, who were among the 24 founders of the Church in Canaan Parish. 

Matthew was born in May 1708 and married Jemima St. John, the daughter of Eber St. John. The Fitches had one child, born on Dec. 25, 1735, who was baptized the following year by Rev. John Eels of New Canaan. When Jemima died, Mr. Fitch married the daughter of Nathan Olmstead, Lydia. Lydia and Matthew Fitch had at least eight children: Nathan, Mercy, Hannah, Matthew II, Lydia, Rebecca, Susanna and Abijah. 

The Matthew Fitch House at 296 Carter St. Credit:

The day after his marriage to Lydia Olmstead, he received fifty one acres with a dwelling as a gift from his father. The home has been noted as being in the Drummond Visitation Journals where it is recorded that he was a farmer and possibly a cooper as suggested by the barrel staves inventoried as part of his estate in 1779. Upon his death, Abijah,who was his youngest son became the next owner of the property. It has been reported that his mother, Lydia, lived to be “beyond one hundred years.”

Matthew and Lydia Fitch’s daughter, named Lydia for her mother, her daughter, was born in 1746 and married Enos Kellogg on March 10, 1774. Mr. Enos Kellogg held a mortgage on the Carter Street farm beginning in 1819. In 1784, their daughter Hannah Kellogg was born. She was one of five children. On April 10, 1821 she married Minot Ayres [Ayers]. The property passed to Hannah Ayres in 1833 after the passing of her father Enos. Ms. Ayres died on April 2, 1842 at the age of 57. Mr. Ayers continued to farm the property until his death, and his widow, Lucretia, his third wife, was still living there at the time of the 1870 Census. Mr. Elizur Cable acquired the farm through an administrator’s deed in 1878. 

Mr. Cable ran a dairy farm. Across from the Cable Farm was Gardiner Heath. The two men, along with D.A. St. John, Samuel Comstock, George M. Olmstead, John W. Selleck and Joseph Crawford formed the New Canaan Creamery Company that ultimately failed in the 1890s and Elizur Cable left New Canaan. Mr. Cable was listed as a non-resident taxpayer until 1902 when he sold the farm to Eberhard Schmidt. In 1907 it was reported that Mr. Schmidt sold off a portion of his farm on Carter Street but was retaining fifteen acres and was building a new residence. Mr. Schmidt was known for the fruits and vegetables he sold at his farm on Carter Street. He died on August 16, 1954 at the age of 89. 

Mr. Eberhard was born in Germany and had lived in New York before he moved to Connecticut some fifty years before his death. He was predeceased by his wife, Hermine, who died two years before his passing. The Schmidts left no heirs and his sizable estate ($421,098) was mainly bequeathed to civic institutions such as Norwalk Hospital and the New Canaan Library.

In 1902 Margaret Greene acquired the property from Mr. Schmidt. It remained in the Greene family until 1947. The Greenes and their real estate ventures were detailed in the September 28, 2023 Now & Then article. On January 28, 1947 the property was purchased for $27,000 (a mortgage of $14,000 was held) by Halford Parks. Mr. Parks was an attorney and served as the assistant town commissioner in Greenwich. In 1949, the property was sold to H. Addison Taylor. Mr. Taylor’s wife was a descendant of Jonathan Randell, the former owner of Randall’s Island. The spelling of the Randell’s name was reportedly changed after the island was acquired by the City of New York. In 1956, Mr. Taylor is listed as the owner of Sumatra, a 39’10” Concordia yawl built by Abeking and Rasmussen. The Taylors moved to Chichester Road by 1964. They were involved in town life, with Mrs. Taylor playing an active role in the Garden Club. In 1960 the property was sold for $52,000 to Phillip B. Van Dusen.

In the 1970s the property was sold to Henry R. Tifft. Mr. Tifft was the first vice president of the Connecticut Bank and Trust Company in Stamford. Mr. Tifft’s father was Henry Neville Tifft, president of the New York City Board of Education. Mr. Tifft’s wife, Suzanne McCarter Tifft, was the daughter of Thomas McCarter, a founder of the New Jersey Public Service Electric and Gas Company and the Fidelity Union Trust Company, both in Newark. Ms. Tifft was involved in the New Canaan Historical Society and in 1971 she was chairman of the Porcelain and Pottery Exhibit. 

The property was sold to W. Lee Henderson on April 6, 1984 for $285,000. Ms. Gayle Henderson was a real estate broker with Brotherhood & Higley. In June 1991 the property changed hands again and was sold to Roger L. Burns for $657,500. Mr. Burns was in charge of the New York region of Marsh & McLennan in 1994. In May 1999, Mr. Burns applied for a variance to allow an addition to be 25.9 feet and 19.0 feet from a side property line. The addition was designed by Ankrom Moisan Architects, a firm well regarded for their careful preservation of a home’s original character. Mr. Burns sold the property on September 22, 2015 to Gregory and Patricia Ladley. The Ladleys are the current owners.

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