Curtis Wilcox House
circa 1815 ♦ 554 Boston Post Road
Among the oldest remaining houses in Madison, the Curtis Wilcox House was built sometime between 1770 and 1820. The house’s architecture embodies the Federal style popular during that period. Federal style utilizes arched elements and attenuated exterior trim and interior woodwork. The Curtis Wilcox House’s exterior symmetry and chimney location indicate that the building’s architecture follows Federal style. The front door, with an overhanging fanlight, and tripartite window, is typical of Federal style houses. The property’s garage is a converted barn that once served as a post office. The house’s interior layout also demonstrates its Federal architecture. The house’s interior follows a double pile plan—meaning that the interior is two rooms deep—and a center hall plan where the main hall and staircase stand in the middle of the house. Inside the house, the doors possess flat panels surrounded with narrow beads and the windows and doors have surrounds. Pilasters surround the fireplace and support a lintel.
Although the precise date of construction for the Curtis Wilcox House is not known, some records indicate that a house was constructed at 554 Boston Post Road before the Revolutionary War. In 1794, the estate of Daniel Olds sold a house, small shop, and barn located at 554 Boston Post Road to John Jones for 62 pounds. Josiah and John Coan purchased the property from Jones two years later. The Coans were from Guilford and the brothers of builder Abraham Coan. During the Coan’s ownership of the property, their brother, Simeon Coan, inhabited the property. Simeon Coan later moved to Branford after the Coans, having to repay a loan, sold the property to Rubin Elliott, Johnson Field, and John Moss for $200 in April 1803. A few months later, Curtis Wilcox purchased two acres with a home and barn from Elliott, Field, and Moss for $510.
Curtis Wilcox was born on March 7, 1775, to Jonathan and Elizabeth (Todd) Wilcox. Wilcox was probably a merchant and tanner who produced harnesses and other leather goods. Before 1815, Wilcox and his brother, Amos, lived together and worked together as partners of Curtis Wilcox and Co. In 1814, Wilcox became the first postmaster of Madison, a position he would hold until his death in 1829. Following his appointment, Wilcox converted his shop into the first post office in Madison. In 1820, Wilcox sold part of his property to his brother, Jonathan Samuel Wilcox, with whom he probably lived at 554 Boston Post Road before 1820. During the 1820s, Wilcox became business partners with his first son, John Romeo, in the firm Curtis Wilcox and Son. During his ownership of 554 Boston Post Road, Wilcox married three times. His first wife, Wealthy Hill was born on July 17, 1782, and died on August 23, 1818, at the age of 36. During their marriage, Curtis and Wealthy Wilcox had five children: John Romeo (b. 1803), Augustus Curtis, Louisa Maria, Electa Matilda (b. 1807), and Wealthy Hill (b. 1816). After the death of his first wife, Wilcox married Ruth Judd who was born on October 27, 1793. Curtis and Ruth Wilcox had one son, Jonathan Judd, before Ruth died on February 26, 1827. Two years later, Wilcox married Hannah Meig who was born on March 18, 1782. Wilcox’s third marriage was very brief as he died on August 15, 1829, after only 18 days of marriage.
After Curtis Wilcox’s death, his son, John Wilcox, gained control of the property. Wilcox, like his father, was also a merchant. Wilcox’s first wife, Orpah Dowd, died on December 22, 1827. A few years later, Wilcox remarried. His second wife, Elizabeth Crampton, bore him three children: Curtis (b. 1833), Jefferson (b. 1835), and Caroline Elizabeth (1837). Unfortunately for John and Elizabeth Wilcox, who died in 1875 and 1877 respectively, two of their children died during their lifetime. Jefferson died on May 14, 1862, while serving as a lieutenant for the Union during the Civil War. Caroline Elizabeth died on July 11, 1844, at the age of seven from illness. In 1846, the Shaler siblings purchased 554 Boston Post Road for $2700.
The Shaler siblings, Henry S., Reuben, and Mary Ann all lived at 554 Boston Post Road until their deaths. Born in 1803, Henry Shaler was a mechanic who married Samson Shaler. Samson Shaler was born in 1817 and died in 1870 five years before her husband’s death. Reuben Shaler, who was born in 1816, became a famous mechanic and inventor. Shaler created a new design for rollerblades and was the first American to file a patent for rollerblades. Furthermore, Shaler also invented a .58 caliber bullet, also known as the Shaler bullet, that split into three projectiles. The Army of the Potomac used Shaler’s bullet in engagements in Northern Virginia such as Fredericksburg. Mary Ann Shaler was born in 1807 and outlived her brothers. After Reuben’s death, Mary Ann Shaler lived at 554 Boston Post Road with her “hired man,” Alanzo Scranton, until she died in 1894.
Following Mary Ann Shaler’s death, George Augustus Wilcox purchased 554 Boston Post Road in 1896 for $2450. Wilcox was the son of Curtis Wilcox’s brother, Jonathan Samuel Wilcox, and his wife, Chloe Hand Wilcox. Wilcox was born on September 20, 1830, and attended Lee Academy. He graduated from Yale in 1852 and worked as a lawyer in Detroit and Georgia. On October 22, 1929, Wilcox died of pneumonia at the age of 99. At the time of his death, his niece, Elizabeth Nash also inhabited the Curtis Wilcox House. Wilcox left 554 Boston Post Road to his daughter, Constance Wilcox Pignatelli.
In 1958, Pignatelli sold the property to Frederick and Doris McGowen of White Plains, New York. The McGowens sold the property to the First Congregational Church of Madison in 1964. From 1964 to 1977, Franklin Bower, the senior pastor at the First Congregation Church, inhabited 554 Boston Post Road. In 2007, the First Congregation Church sold the property to its current owners.