The architecture of Safford House

Wednesday July 17, 2013

This is one of the oldest houses in Bennington. Joseph Safford built it about 1762.

Passing by today, we catch the front porch with its Victorian railings and glassed-in sun porch. But when the house was built, the front door was around on the left side. It faced the Walloomsac River, looking west, down the road towards Old Bennington on the hill. Why?

Well, first some background:

In 1762, the new settlement of Bennington required a mill to grind their corn and another to saw their logs into lumber. The proprietors offered five acres and $40 for someone to set up and run a grist mill, the same amount for a saw mill.

Samuel Robinson persuaded Joseph Safford to move his family from Hardwick, Mass., to Bennington, become the miller, and collect the bounty. (Robinson's daughter was married to Safford's son.) Robinson and Safford joined together. They dammed Barney Brook and South Stream just above where the creeks join to become the Walloomsac River. The mills were completed in record time: a grist mill on Barney Brook, a saw mill on the South Stream. Today this is where Beech Street and Morgan Street meet East Main St. But before the mills those roads didn't exist.

The distance from the village to the mills is about two miles.

Townspeople bringing their corn and logs by foot, horse, or wagon created the road down the hill from Bennington through the pastures and orchards on the ‘flats' to the mills. Across those open fields the front of the Safford House looked toward them. It would have been a welcome sight to travelers. The miller could also step out his front door and see his customers approaching.

Joseph Safford's granddaughter, Martha Safford, married Mason C. Morgan in the 1820s. The Morgan family lived here into the early 1900s. These are the Morgans for whom the Morgan Spring and Morgan Street are named.

By the 1870s, the town had spread down Main Street. The Safford House wasn't visible until one crossed the bridge at the river. So the front door was relocated to where it is now, facing the street. Mason Morgan died in 1881. In the next few years the porch was remodeled with decorative Victorian railings and the sun room with its curving wall.

Behind the Victorian remodeling the original Colonial house can still be seen. In the gable, the attic window's size and position are as they were in 1762. The shape of the simple two story house below, the center chimney above, and the small paned windows on the second floor are all original.

The house and farm can be seen on the 1877 bird's eye map which hangs in the Bennington Free Library.


* Deacon Joseph Safford: 1704-1775, Ipswich, Mass, second set of settlers

* Samuel Safford: 1741-1807, married Mercy (Marcy?) Robinson, General - Battle of Bennington?

* Saw mill by Sept. done by June 16, corn mill finished by August 1762. Paid 3 qts. per bushel - more than usual

* Mason Cogswell Morgan, 1802-1881. Married Martha Safford.

* Wm. Rollins Morgan, 1829-1913 California mines, m. Fannie Tomlinson?

* Elmira H. Morgan, 1824-1901

* Current owners: Peter and Lisa Harrington Redding

Jane Griswold Radocchia is a Banner columnist.


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