Samuel Robinson House
536 Boston Post Road
Federal (transitional) / Greek Revival
This elegant home is a good representation of a transitional structure that marks a change from a colonial plan with center chimneys to a central hall with separate chimneys. The property includes a Greek Revival entranceway with Doric columns and a prominent cornice with an unadorned frieze at the roofline. The unusual cantilevered roof above its so-called “coffin door” at the eastern side of the structure is a vestige of the earlier Federal design.
The original owner of this house was Professor Samuel Robinson (1795-1866), the first headmaster at Lee’s Academy. In this large home, he offered room and board to some of his students, who came from ten states plus the West Indies. Robinson also briefly shared this home with his wife, Lydia Chittenden.
The house was vacant for some time after the passing of the Robinson family. It was next inhabited by Captain Herman Tyler, who owned a vessel that sailed between New York, France, and Spain. Fannie Fiske, a granddaughter of Captain Tyler, reported in a letter to Miss Nellie Scranton that her Grandmother Tyler had threatened to divorce Captain Tyler if he didn’t sell his ship and settle down. Apparently he responded well to the ultimatum, and together they looked for a home by the sea. When they came across the Robinson house for sale in Madison, Captain Tyler shouted, “Here we are, Harriet. Guess I can turn around in this big house.” At that time, they also could reportedly see the Sound and Tuxis Island from the upper windows.
For several years in the early 1900s, this home was rented to Edward Sandford Martin (1856-1939), founder of the Harvard Lampoon (1876) and founder and first editor of Life Magazine (1883). One of E. S. Martin’s houseguests during that period was Theodore Roosevelt, who visited the house on several occasions. Although we have no documented physical evidence of the truth of this next tale, the story goes that the exuberant Theodore enjoyed sliding down the banister of the front stairs. It must be added that the Roosevelt in question might not have been President Roosevelt himself but was more likely his son Ted, who would have been about 18 in 1905. We do know for certain that E. S. Martin and President Roosevelt frequently exchanged personal correspondence during this period and that their letters often included details about their two sons—President Roosevelt’s Ted and Martin’s son George. In one letter sent from Madison on September 14, 1905, Martin confided, “We had a good time with Teddy, who is a good lad, full of tunes, enterprises, information, and devilment, and a very valuable factor in a house-party. I thank his parents for the loan of him.” Martin also referred to President Roosevelt in his book The Luxury of Children & Some Other Luxuries (Harper & Brothers, 1904), parts of which may well have been written in this house, although we are not certain of that possibility, either.
In 1975 the home offered shelter and sustenance to ABC (A Better Chance) students, who traveled from such places as New York City to attend Madison public schools. At that time, Mr. and Mrs. Ted Hyneck occupied the house. Their experiences were featured in a local newspaper article called Always Room for One More.