This residence was an animal farm, a prep school attended by a future vice president and a Christmas shop in the designated “Christmas town.” Known to locals as the Bloss house, Walter Bloss purchased it in the late 19th century and his family ran a farm there for generations.
Built in 1740 by Thomas Leavenworth, it is as old as the town.Records indicate another Thomas Leavenworth arrived in the Connecticut colony sometime between 1664 and 1675 and acquired a substantial amount of land in Woodbury. At that time, Woodbury covered a wide tract that eventually broke into numerous contiguous towns, like Bethlehem in 1738.
The Leavenworth who built this 11-room structure did so after the parcel was conveyed from Zacharia Booth in 1739. The house was spacious and, save for a couple of bathroom installations, has largely maintained its original scope.
“The house was sturdily constructed by heavy timbers, and the wooden pegs securing them are visible in the attic, where the old wide floor boards also remain,” stated a report from the Bethlehem Historical Society during the Bloss tenure. “The cellar, which extends the length of the house, is at least nine-feet deep, and the foundation is constructed of massive stones each about 12 feet long.
“There are six fireplaces in the house, the one in the kitchen having a bake oven and a hearthstone 12-feet-long and three-feet-wide, secured so that one may walk under it in the cellar.”
Dawn Remsen purchased the home 20 years ago.
“I feel like a curator, because when I moved in it needed to be demolished in another year to two years, it was that bad,” Remsen said. “All my doors are the original doors hung in 1740. “I have the hardware, I have the hinges. When I moved in there were two-over-two panes over the windows, but I restored them back to the 12-over-12 Colonial because it looks so much better, and I have 42 windows in the house, so it took time to switch.”
Leavenworth didn’t stay long. He sold the house to Asa Winter in 1744. Neighbor Rev. Azel Backus used it from 1795 to 1812, as a boarding school for students readying for Yale Law School. John C. Calhoun, who was vice president with President John Quincy Adams, attended the school.
Calhoun began at Yale in 1802, the university reports, and was a member of the class of 1804. In 1933, Yale named one of eight new residential colleges in his honor.
In 2017, following years of student protest over Calhoun’s vigorous advocacy of slavery and the work of a university-led renaming commission, Yale officially re- named Calhoun College. It is now Grace Hopper College in honor of Grace Murray Hopper, a pioneering female computer engineer and U.S. Navy admiral.
Starting in 1875, the house served as Frederick S. Curtis’ prep school for pre-teens. In 1883, the Curtis School moved to Brookfield.
The Bloss family bought the house at auction in the late 1890s and owned into the mid-1900s. They raised cattle, turkeys, mink and silver fox.
The house then had a couple temporary owners. Sheldon and Joan Smith bought it in 1970 and the property became the Christmas Shop.
Send your real estate tips for JACK’S REAL DEAL to JackCoraggio@gmail.comFollow Jack Coraggio on Twitter@JCoraggio and Instagram @ jackspratt5225. Coraggio is a freelance writer, reporter, critic and quizmaster. He also was a reporter for the Litchfield County Times.