By Carol Laun, Archivist, Salmon Brook Historical Society
This rather ordinary looking white house was once the imposing Federal-style mansion house of a wealthy Granby resident. In the more than 225 years since it was built, it has undergone huge renovations, additions and subtractions. When built, it was located very close to the southwest corner of Rte. 10-202 and Rte. 20. The house has been moved from its original site and has had even more architectural changes. It has now been divided into apartments and is a rental property.
The house was probably built in the late 1700s. It is difficult, if not impossible, to trace some of the early Granby homes because of the 1877 fire that burned three books of Granby land records.
The entire southwest corner of Salmon Brook Street and North Granby Road, comprising about 25 acres, was owned by Pliny Hillyer. On this site he had a tavern, a store, barns, other outbuildings and at least two dwelling houses, including his home, now 265 Salmon Brook Street. Pliny had tavern licenses between 1778 and 1791, so his house may even date from the late 1770s.
Pliny Hillyer was born in 1749, son of Capt. James Hillyer and Mary Humphrey. He married Jane Pelletreau, daughter of a Long Island silversmith, in 1775. They raised seven children in Granby.
Hillyer was an active and enterprising man. He was Ozias Pettibone’s partner in a general store in the 1770s. He also produced large quantities of cider and cider brandy. Pliny Hillyer was a lawyer and later a judge, he was a leader in both town and state affairs. After Granby was incorporated in 1786, Hillyer was chosen to be a Selectman at the first Town Meeting.
In the 1790s, he was in partnership with his son-in-law, Jeptha Curtis, in the store. They sold an amazing variety of goods and the volume of their business was huge. Besides the business of selling alcoholic spirits, they sold glass, silverware, cloth, hats, gloves, buttons, china tea sets, chamber pots, wine glasses, tools, hardware, coffee, tea, spices, tobacco and much more.
Because of the shortage of hard cash, Hillyer also served as a clearing house for IOUs between the farmers. Most business was done by recording debts and credits in account books. His papers indicate that he sometimes acted as a pawn shop, lending money and holding goods for collateral, such as Thomson Kimberly’s saddle, valued at $9.86. (info from Tempest in a Small Town by Mark Williams)
He was part owner of the Hillyer Grist Mill that was located on Salmon Brook near East Granby Road. In 1799, he was involved in organizing the Granby Turnpike Co., a toll road planned to go from Hartford to Albany, N.Y. (present Rt. 189) but it ended at the Mass. border.
The first federal direct tax in 1798 illustrates the wealth of Pliny Hillyer. His dwelling house, with two outbuildings, was valued at $990 by Granby assessors. He also owned over 358 acres of land valued at $3318.12.
In 1803, Pliny Hillyer sold his house with one acre to brothers Seth and Elijah Lewis of Farmington for $850. Hillyer then moved south to the other house on his property (now gone). Seth and Elijah Lewis never left Farmington, but were buying the property for Elijah’s sons. Three years later Seth sold the property to Elijah and in 1810, it was sold to William and James Lewis, sons of Elijah, for $900. The Lewis brothers had already been living in the house and operating a store together. In 1809, they dissolved their partnership and James Lewis continued the store alone, “selling goods both cheap and fashionable.” In 1811, William sold his half of the property to James for $500.
James Lewis advertised that he had a new supply of imported dry goods to be “sold at reduced prices for cash – hardware and groceries as usual.” His store continued until 1823 when he tried to rent out his house and store. His ad said there was “a good well of water” and “a number of choice fruit trees.” Further, it was “a good stand for an enterprising country merchant.”
It is unknown if anyone ever rented the house, because census records show James Lewis still living there raising his family. Lewis was married twice, first to Minerva Hillyer in 1809 and they had four sons. Minerva died in 1829 and he married Lura Barber the following year. A daughter Lura Minerva was born in 1839 and died age 6.
James Lewis was active in town politics. He had been named a surveyor, a tythingman and was later elected to the very important job of Town Clerk, from 1832 to 1840. He appears as owner of the property on the 1855 and 1869 maps and in the 1870 census. However, in 1871, he sold the property to Samuel Benjamin for $4100. Sam Benjamin was a local wheeler-dealer and probably never lived there. He sold to lawyer Theodore Mills Maltbie in 1876.
Maltbie was married to Louise Jewett, whose family also lived on Salmon Brook Street. They had two children, Anne Louise and William Mills Maltbie (who also became a lawyer and was Chief Justice of the Conn. Supreme Court). Theodore Maltbie is probably the one who turned this Federal structure into a grand Victorian mansion with chimneys, towers, porches, bay windows and turrets as shown in the illustration.
Theodore Maltbie entered into partnership with his neighbor, lawyer William C. Case. They were perfectly matched, as Maltbie preferred to do research and Case preferred to argue in court. Maltbie named his son William after his law partner and Case named his son Theodore.
In the early 1900s, the Maltbie family moved to Louise’s family home at 235 Salmon Brook Street and the house on the corner may have been rented. Frank Green lived there until 1912 when carpenter N. J. Trench moved in, followed by E. T. Fenner and probably others.
After the death of Maltbie’s widow, the house was sold to Emma Whitcomb in 1925. There were restrictions in the deed. It was only to be used for a private dwelling house or for a respectable inn, hotel or boarding house. Any signs had to be 50 feet from the road and had size limitations. Emma Whitcomb sold to George Ford of Windsor in 1928 and he sold the house to Dr. Ernest R. Pendleton in 1931.
Dr. Pendleton had been invited to move to Granby because the town had no doctor. In 1921, with the help of the Men’s Community League, he established a full-fledged hospital at 225 Salmon Brook Street, with an operating room, beds and even an x-ray machine. In 1923 he added a wing for more beds and built nurses quarters. The Pendleton Sanitarium closed in 1928.
However, in 1926, the busy doctor had also opened a 27-hole golf course called the Salmon Brook Country Club (now Salmon Brook Park) and a few years later he built “Indian Village” the log cabins on Pendleton Road. He continued to live in the first floor of the former hospital and rented the rest to three tenants.
Dr. Pendleton invested heavily in Granby real estate and owned property all over Granby. He evidently bought the house at #265 for a rental property. He decided to tear down all the barns and move the house to the back of the property where the main barn had been located. The chimneys and towers were removed prior to moving. A newspaper article said there was now a clear sight line for drivers. “How much of an obstruction the house caused was not realized until it was moved.”
In 1935, two serious fires badly damaged the former hospital and burned the Salmon Brook Golf Course club house to the ground. Pendleton moved his family to his house at #265 until his home was repaired.
In 1943, Erwin Maurer owned the 14-room house and partially divided it into two room apartments for the officers from Bradley Field. It was called “The Granby Green.” Maurer moved to Florida in 1952. It was sold to Manitook Apartments, Inc. in 1966 and subsequent owners have kept it as rental apartments.