George Tiffany House – Circa 1890
George Tiffany was a prominent Willimantic citizen in the last half of the 19th century. He owned numerous pieces of property, several on Main Street. Exactly what George Tiffany’s occupation was remains to be discovered, but the Tiffany family is prominent in the land records of the time.
On May 6, 1890, George Tiffany bought a piece of property in Willimantic, Connecticut from the present house lot on Prospect Street to the corner of Walnut Street and thence in a southerly direction along Walnut Street for 165 feet. At that time the property had only one house, the small yellow house immediately to the east. The property now contains five houses, three on Prospect Street including this one, and two houses on Walnut Street. Whether George Tiffany lived in the adjacent house on the property while this house was being constructed is not known.
You will note some subtle differences in the woodwork throughout the house. The kitchen and parts of the dining room are done in fir, the doors and woodwork in the parlor and living room are done in oak, while the dining room and library are still slightly different. The servants’ quarters appear to be faced in poplar. We surmise that there were four different finish carpenters employed.
After his death in 1902, the town records become vague. The remainder of the land in the original parcel was sold in 1908. At some point, the Tiffany house itself was transferred to Marion Tiffany Taft and remained with her until her death in the mid 1980s. Marion Taft is still remembered as a gracious lady who lived here alone after the death of her mother. The house was in the Tiffany/Taft family for more than 90 years.
The front porch is an example of a carousel porch designed to remind one of a merry-go-round, which was a favorite entertainment, especially among the young Victorians. The front stairway is made of white oak with turnings and embellishments in the style of the late Victorian era. At the head of the stairs there is a small porch which is pleasantly cool in the mornings and evenings and affords a view of the street below without being too obvious to passersby.
Since it might have been deemed improper for upper class Victorian spouses to consistently share a bed, (or perhaps one of them snored), rooms number 1 and 2 were probably the original master bedroom suite with an inner adjoining door for privacy. The present number 2 is used as a pool room but was probably the original master bedroom with a private door to the adjoining front bedroom and also ready access to the servants’ staircase. Room number 2 may also have had a fireplace, but all traces of it are gone. Room number 1 directly over the parlor with its gazebo has a more feminine feel to it, and was probably the wife’s bedroom.
Room number 3 was a guest, or child’s room. More probably it was a guest room since children in the Victorian era were kept much less intrusive than is currently the fashion. Room number 4, presently a work room, was originally much larger but space has been sacrificed for closets number 4 and 3.
On the west side of the kitchen is a wonderfully large pantry with shelves to the ceiling on both sides. Both the pantry and the kitchen lead into the dining room. Off the dining room there is a small library currently used as an office. The dining room is separated from the living room by pocket doors which, when opened, lead to the living room areas and afford large open space for entertaining.
The Tiffany house affords very gracious living. The first floor has a living room attached to a large parlor. The parlor has a six-sided gazebo, appropriate for high tea for two or cozy conversations. In the living room there is a fireplace and a mantel done in the style of the late Victorian era. This was probably a gas fireplace which was bricked up in the 1980s when the coal-steam furnace was replaced with an oil burner. The whole house is plumbed for gas which served the original lighting fixtures. Electricity was added somewhat later. Off the living room is a small alcove measuring 3 feet by 4 feet with windows on two sides facing the street. One can only speculate that this was a telephone room which allowed one to observe the goings on in the street without being too obvious and of course to relate these via the telephone to more distant neighbors. Currently it is a computer room and serves much the same function.
The house has a full basement including a coal bin and a furnace room with an indoor garage, a laundry, an ironing room and a cistern for rain water. These areas are currently used as a woodshop for cabinet and furniture construction.