House Story with Ken Staffey

If its owner had their way, the Grupe Nichols Browne House in New Canaan, Connecticut would already have been demolished by now. Fortunately the New Canaan Land Trust has been working to save the home, which dates to around 1805. The home is owned by the First Taxing District of the City of Norwalk, whose attorney has described the home as a “linoleum jungle” that has lost its historical value. Preservationists on the other hand see the home as a link to the town’s past and a time just after its incorporation in 1801.

It was about that time that the Hickok family lived in the house: Seth and Keziah Hoyt Hickok and their children: Amanda, Barzillai, Penninah, Preston, and Keziah. Seth farmed the land here and also worked as a tanner. He served the community as a school committeeman, church deacon, militiaman, and legal advisor. After Keziah died in 1809, Seth married Elizabeth Benedict. It is thought that Seth gave the home to Barzillai as a wedding gift. Barzillai later settled in Dubuque, Iowa and fathered seven children.

The home is named for later occupants: Charles Grupe, a farmer and shoemaker who immigrated from Prussia; Mary and John Nichols who farmed the land. John was a Russian Polish immigrant; and Louis L’Ecuse Browne who is thought to have farmed nuts here.