Greenwich Landmarks Series
Solomon Merritt House
Solomon Merritt purchased 10 acres of property in western Greenwich in 1770 from Benjamin Clapp and John Clapp, Jr. for 35 pounds in New York money. Two years later he built what is now the oldest remaining 18th-century stone house to be found in town. Small in scale, the original structure was intended to house a tenant farmer in a single room, with a loft. A decade later, Merritt had sold his own home across the street and by 1790 was living in the, by then expanded, tenant house of one and a half stories that demonstrates its architectural heritage of the Dutch vernacular.
The original fieldstone portion was supplemented by a cut-stone addition to the left, allowing the creation of a center hall, illuminated by the sidelights and four-light transom of the front door. The all-purpose room became a kitchen, with a fieldstone wall that incorporates a large fireplace and a brick beehive oven with a filigree wrought-iron door. Above, old beams run across the ceiling and the deep reveals of the two southern windows. To the left is the living room with a period paneled fireplace wall with mantel and cupboard. Visible in the wall are hand-wrought “T” nails, with a flat finish, typical of the era.
Quite a number of early elements are still intact, among them a first-floor board and beam door, with one horizontal panel above four in vertical mode. Original “H” and “L” hinges remain, as does a wrought-iron bean latch, named for the two bean-shaped plates that fasten the handle to the door. The dining room also retains an original exterior fieldstone wall.
The original outside stone wall still runs along the northern boundary of the property¸ now reduced to two-plus acres. Running across the landscape are numerous granite outcroppings, Norway maples, white oaks and white pines.
Halfway across the land is a remodeled two-story carriage house constructed about 1916. The first level is of fieldstone, the second story sided in clapboard. The two-bay west elevation has an original door and a six-over-six window. The second story has six hipped wall dormers, all lit by two-over-two windows and a fieldstone chimney.
Thomas Merritt, Solomon Merritt’s grandfather, moved to Rye from Wethersfield, England, following a common immigration pattern, as early as 1662, and one of his sons, Benoni, or Benjamin, was Solomon’s father. A weaver by trade, Solomon served in Captain Green’s infantry company as a private during the American Revolution. One of Solomon’s sons, once suspected of harboring a Tory, was exonerated after fighting in the War of 1812.
The Merritt family is believed to have owned a mill on the Byram River in the Glenville area of Greenwich.
Various members of the Merritt family kept the property, with a few intervening owners, for more than a century. Among the other owners were Sarah Lyon, who sold the house and land to her son, Shubel, while obtaining a life lease for the house from her son for a payment of $50. For three years, from 1922 to 1925 the house was owned by Joseph Wilshire, at one time the president of Standard Brands.
—Written by Susan Nova, for the Greenwich Historical Society