Historic Structures

Stephen Tyng Mather House, Darien Connecticut

Date added: February 9, 2011 Categories: Connecticut House

Deacon Joseph Mather, for whom the house was built in 1773, was the son of the Reverend Doctor Moses Mather, for sixty years Pastor of the Congregational Church in Darien, and Hannah Bell Mather, a descendent of Francis Bell, one of the early settlers of Stamford, Connecticut. A homesite at the extreme edge of Darien remote from the King's Highway and Long Island Sound was chosen in the hope of avoiding Tory raids during the Revolution.

"This house, being on the outskirts of the settlement, was considered a safe repository by the neighbors for their silver and valuables. These were hidden down the well and also suspended by straps under the top of the highboy, still standing in the Homestead. But the house was discovered and one evening a band of Tories came, plundered the house and compelled Mrs. Mather, at the point of a bayonet, to prepare them a supper at the huge fireplace. They then ordered the Deacon to accompany them to Long Island Sound to prevent his giving the alarm to the Community until they were a safe distance away.

"The Deacon fought as a soldier in the Revolution on a number of occasions, following the custom of the period in returning to his farm between campaigns. He first entered service in 1775, was engaged in the siege and capture of St. John's in Canada and went on to Montreal. In 1776 he was a member of the militia guarding the coast along Stamford. He enlisted as a sergeant in the Coast Guard again in 1779 and in 1780 was appointed an Ensign in the Conn. Militia." (McPherson, Story, op. cit.),

In 1906 Stephen Tyng Mather, founder and first Director of the National Park Service, became sole owner. He used the house as his summer residence from 1907 until his death in January, 1930. His grandchildren are the sixth generation of the family to have lived in the house, which was declared a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1964.

Alterations and additions: Prior to 1906 long unfinished room at rear of chimney on second floor was divided into two corner chambers with a short passage and bathroom between them. In 1906 exterior clapboards were replaced by green-stained shingles and an open one-story porch was built across front (south) wall of house.

In 1915 various alterations were made. Front porch was removed, and heavy pedimented portico was substituted at front entrance. One-story screened porch was built at northwest corner, extending west. Bedroom west of kitchen was opened into new porch, and paired windows were set in west wall of kitchen. Access to new porch was from southwest room. Another window was added to north wall of kitchen, recessed north porch was widened a few feet toward west, and small northwest pantry was converted to lavatory. West window of former pantry was moved to north wall, No alterations were made in 1915 on second floor.

In 1927 major changes were made from designs by Thomas Harlan Ellett, architect. Original rear (north) one story lean-to containing pantry, recessed porch, and lavatory was removed. Buttery east of kitchen was eliminated, and kitchen was converted to living room with ceiling beams exposed. Present front entrance portico of correct design for period of house replaced heavier 1915 portico. New west porch aligned with northwest corner of main block was built. Area originally occupied by bedroom west of kitchen was opened into new living room, and glazed double doors to west porch were installed. New rear entrance into former northwest bedroom was made in north wall at west corner. Two-story ell extending north approximately 39'-6" and approximately 17'-S" wide where it abuts northeast corner of main block was built to contain new kitchen, lavatory, two pantries, two back staircases, back porch, and maids' sitting room on first floor, full basement below, and three additional chambers and two bathrooms on second floor. North ell increased total area of house by approximately seventy-five percent. Exterior surface of main block was altered by replacement of 1906 shingles by white-painted cedar shingles to accord with new ell, and new nine-over-six-light sash was substituted for nineteenth-century two-over-two-light sash. Fieldstone well-head with wrought-iron pulley frame replaced roofed and latticed wooden well house built in 1906 over original well of 1778. Well originally had typical eighteenth-century well-sweep.

In 1936 an additional chamber and bathroom were built over west porch. A brick patio was laid in 1961 in angle formed by main block, west porch, and north ell.

Overall dimensions: Approximately 50' (including west porch) X 70'-5" (including ell). Original portion measures approximately 34' across front x 30'-11" on side. Two stories, five-bay front.

First floor: Shallow central entry gives access to stairs, dining room (formerly parlor) in southeast comer, and parlor in southwest comer (termed hall in eighteenth century and later used as dining room). Living room (formerly kitchen with buttery on east and small bedroom on west) spans north side of original block, except for north entrance (in area formerly occupied by west bedroom), which gives access to living room, parlor, and west porch Ell contains kitchen, two pantries, maids' sitting room, back porch, and two back stair cases.

Second floor: Main block has front hall and stairs, chambers in four comers, and passage and bathroom at rear of central chimney. Northwest chamber leads to modem chamber and bathroom over west porch. Ell has three chambers and two bathrooms.

Cellar and attic; Full cellar under main block and ell. Open unfinished attic above main block.