This Old House Magazine
HOUSE PROUD Image Credit: This Old House Magazine
HOUSE PROUD Image Credit: This Old House Magazine

House Proud

The circa-1860 Italianate had seen better days—until a master carpenter lavished his skills on the place, turning it into a forever home for him and his wife

Debra Judge Silber

You might say that Jeff and Michele Williams’s house is living its third—and perhaps its best—life.

From the sidewalk, the stately white-clapboard home with the hipped roof and wraparound porch doesn’t look much different from the other antique houses that survive in the Nichols Farms Historic District in Trumbull, Connecticut. Its tall windows, poston-pedestal columns, and rectangular cupola all confirm its identity as a mid-19th-century Italianate, the kind of fashionable home favored by merchants who profited from the town’s pre–Civil War carriage and saddle trade. The Trumbull Historical Society traces the circa-1860 home’s origins to Sidney Nichols, a descendant of the very first farmer who arrived in the area in the 1690s.

But there’s more to the story, as Jeff, a builder and cabinetmaker, found after buying the house in November 2001. As he stripped away old, rotted parts of the house, he discovered something: The home he had just bought wasn’t originally a hipped-roof Victorian-era building. In the attic, marks in the framing indicated the house had once had a gabled roof and a center chimney. “There were notches on two sides, and you could see where the rafters were pegged,” he says. Working with a local restoration architect, the late Robert Hatch, Jeff concluded his home was actually built around 1805 as a centerchimney Federal-style Colonial. His vintage home, it turned out, was more vintage than he’

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