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     The old-house enthusiast would have a hard time finding a more enjoyable place to spend a Sunday afternoon than in Enfield’s Historical District. Route 5, the old road to Springfield, is called Enfield Street for a few miles, where it is flanked by grand old houses that date back from the mid-18th century to the late Victorian. Classic examples of Georgian and of 19th Century Revival architecture round out the mix.  It was in this neighborhood, in July of 1741, at the Enfield Congregational Church, where Jonathan Edwards delivered the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” which helped set off that major religious and social cataclysm, The Great Awakening. The building Edwards preached in no longer exists, but the Enfield Congregational Church, authorized in 1680, is still going strong.

Martha A. Parsons House in Enfield CT
Martha A. Parsons House, above,
Martha A. Parsons, right
    The best known of these old homes is the Martha A. Parsons House. Built in 1782, the house was inhabited from 1800 to 1962 by members of the same family. The last generation that lived there were the three spinster Parsons sisters, of which Martha was the youngest.
Martha A Parsons
    Martha, born in 1867, was a remarkable woman for her time.  After attending Enfield High, she moved to New Britain and went to work as a stenographer.  Over a period of years, she advanced to the highest level of management, a rare accomplishment for a female of her time.  She used to sign her correspondence “M.A. Parsons,” so other companies wouldn’t know they were dealing with a woman.

     After her mother’s death, Martha retired from business at age 50 and returned to live at the house in Enfield with her older sisters. With no heirs to consider, she left the house and all its contents to the people of Enfield as a museum. What you have in this excellent Revolutionary-era house are the furnishings accumulated by a single family over a course of 160 years.

   In the parlor are two cherry Hepplewhite half-moon and Pembroke tables brought from the West Indies in the early 1800s by Martha’s ancestor Captain Ingraham for his daughter’s wedding gift.

In the reading room stands a secretary made by a local carpenter named King for Martha’s mother in 1845, the year of her wedding.

Parsons House

   A few chairs Martha bought at the Shaker village at Enfield are in the upstairs rooms, along with some recent donations of Shaker things she would have liked.

Parsons chair
Chair made at the
Enfield Shaker community.
Parsons House
Local legend has it that George Washington, riding from Hartford to Springfield while he was President, stopped and tied his horse to this ring which was stuck into a tree in front of the Pease house across from the Martha A. Parsons House.

Parsons House
The drum is from the Civil War. The big bellows is from the Civil War era Hazard Gunpowder Works near Enfield.
Parsons House
This 18th century candlestand with drawer, which sits in the south bedroom, was selected for display in the 1985 "Great River" exhibit at Hartfield's Wadsworth Atheneum.
The house is the only home in the United States that still has a piece of the popular 1800 George Washington Memorial Wallpaper hanging on a wall. This was the first wallpaper manufactured in America (detail in right inset).

    The Martha A. Parsons House, 1387 Enfield Street (Route 5), is open on Sundays May through October, 2:00 to 4:30 PM or by appointment throughout the year, at 860-745-6064.

Washington memorial wallpaper

Thanks to Dick O’Brien of the Martha A. Parsons Memorial Trust for help with this article. All photos courtesy of the Martha A. Parsons Memorial Trust.

RG Bettcher
CT Old House
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