New Canaan Now & Then: The Ogden House


Ogden House. Photo courtesy of the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society

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

The Ogden House was built in 1875 according to the Town’s land records, however, the Historic New England preservation service dates the house to 1868. 

The Historic New England designation protects the house and the site through the Preservation Easement Program, which currently includes one 124 privately owned houses in New England. The frame tool shed and the carriage barn were built in 1900. According to the Historic New England criteria for protecting this home, the Ogden House represents an “example of the rural vernacular architecture which has largely vanished.” 

At Ogden House. Photo courtesy of the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society

The historic home is situated on 1.69 acres and was once part of a small working class community on the rural outskirts of New Canaan.

The house was built by the shoemaker Orson Ogden who passed the property to his nephews, Arthur and Stanley Ogden. Arthur eventually made the move to Oenoke Ridge but Stanley and his family remained.

In 1893, the Ogden brothers built and operated the Bowery Mill, which replaced an existing mill that was owned by Thomas Anthony Comstock. Comstock had built the mill in 1848 and for a period of time the lake was known as “Lake Anthony.” He sold the old mill and the pond to Jefferson Barlow Ogden in 1867, the father of Arthur and Stanley and brother of Orson, who eventually gave the mill to his sons. The location for the Bowery Mill was Lake Siscowit or as it was affectionately known “Mud Pond.” 

In 1896 Stanley bought out his brother’s interest in the mill business and Arthur turned his attention to making rag rugs on the hand loom he installed on the second floor of the mill. Stanley Ogden was an enterprising man and in addition to running the mill, he built row boats that he rented out to fisherman and boaters. Mr. Ogden even had a small building that he operated like a modern day concession stand, with teas and sodas.

In August 1891 the Stamford Water Company purchased Mud Pond for nearly $5,000. The purchase of the pond ended the enterprise for Mr. Ogden but during the winter months the pond served as an excellent ice skating spot for residents, as the Water Company did not harvest the ice. While the Ogdens no longer were involved with the mill or the small store, they continued to reside at the family home. 

As early as 1911, it was recorded in the Advertiser that Stanley Ogden was making improvements to the home and a contractor named Frank Adams was employed to do the work. In August 1919 the interior home was damaged when the house was struck by lightning. In 1929, H.G. Bennett wrote a letter to the Advertiser describing the new road that was constructed “[i]n front of their cozy home at the east side was opened, and as you drove north to the pond through the leafy tunnel of big trees, a scene of romantic beauty suddenly appeared in the vista and unfolds a sheen of mirror like reflection…” referring to the Ogden House. 

Stanley Ogden married Harriet Brown Ogden. Their son, Howard M. Ogden married Esther Ahearn Ogden. After the closing of the mill, Mr. Stanley Ogden operated a furniture repair business on Luke’s Wood Road. In 1914 it was reported that Mr. Ogden and Vincent St. John had purchased land from W.A. Rogers on Forest Street across from the Catholic Church where they would operate the Blue Arrow Garage, reportedly the first service station to sell gasoline in New Canaan. The cost at the time was 15 cents a gallon.

In 1917 Mr. Ogden worked in the Locomobile Factory in Bridgeport. He gained an expertise in electrical repair work and returned to the Blue Arrow in 1918 to offer this service to their customers. In 1925 the Blue Arrow Garage became part of the Fairty Warren Company with C.E.T. Fairty and Henry Warren as Mr. Ogden’s partners. Mr. Ogden died in October 1958 after suffering a heart attack. He had sold the garage in 1944 to Anthony Cerretani due to poor health and had been employed at the time of his death by the Stamford Water Company as a caretaker for the pond near his home. 

Ruth Esther Ogden was born on April 12, 1925 at the family home on Ogden Road. She was the daughter of Howard Ogden and the granddaughter of Stanley Ogden. In 1967, while working as the assistant to the dean of the Silvermine Arts Center, Ms. Ogden met John Otis Carroll from Greenwich Connecticut. Mr. Carroll graduated from the Taft School and studied industrial design and accounting at the University of Bridgeport. He owned and operated the Hobby House in Greenwich for many years. He died in 2010 at the age of 82. Ms. Carroll lived in New Canaan all of her life except for a few years when she lived in Greenwich. The Carrolls had two sons, Ogden and John Otis Jr. Ms. Carroll owned Ogden House from December 21, 1984 until July 29, 1988. She was a regular volunteer at the New Canaan Historical Society and was involved in the Selleck’s Corner Cemetery Association all of her life. As early as 1914, there are records of her grandmother, Mrs. Stanley Ogden decorating the church with flags and flowers.

In December 1988, the Ogden family received a variance for a non-conforming structure on the property. The structure was deemed a “historic hardship” according to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The outbuilding was a 125-year-old “privy” that was only 3.5 feet (rather than the 50 required) from the newly created property line. The family farm and its privy represent an era of New Canaan’s history that has all but vanished. The privy measured 5-by-8-feet and is known as a “two and a half seater” with a gray interior and a real window as opposed to the more common half moon window. Charles P. Morton, the first selectman at the time noted that “often a historic hardship is more valid than an economic hardship” and this was certainly a case and point. The variance was granted unanimously.

In 1989, the Ogdens were part of an eight person neighborhood group that consisted of residents from St. George’s Lane, West Road and Dan’s Highway that were granted permission to dredge the 6.6 acre man-made Lockwood Pond and repair the dam and remove the 20,000 cubic yards of silt from the pond at a cost of between $150,000 and $200,000. A portion of the silt from the pond was used to regrade the ballfields at Waveny with a budget of $40,000 for the project, a significant savings to the town because they did not have to purchase the fill. 

Ms. Ruth Ogden Carroll died in October 2021. Her obituary said “her love for the natural world was a constant, remaining curious to the end.” No doubt having grown up on the fabled Ogden Farm solidified this sentiment.

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