150 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT, USA

  • Architectural Style: Georgian
  • Bathroom: N/A
  • Year Built: 1726
  • National Register of Historic Places: N/A
  • Square Feet: 3,462 sqft
  • National Register of Historic Places Date: N/A
  • Neighborhood: N/A
  • National Register of Historic Places Area of Significance: N/A
  • Bedrooms: N/A
  • Architectural Style: Georgian
  • Year Built: 1726
  • Square Feet: 3,462 sqft
  • Bedrooms: N/A
  • Bathroom: N/A
  • Neighborhood: N/A
  • National Register of Historic Places: N/A
  • National Register of Historic Places Date: N/A
  • National Register of Historic Places Area of Significance: N/A
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Mar 21, 2023

  • Charmaine Bantugan

David Lambert House

Built in 1726, for David Lambert (1700-1782) and his wife Laurana Bill (1709-1775). Standing at what is today Lambert Corner at the intersection of Routes 7 and 33, the Lamberts named their home "Lilacstead" for the lilac bushes around the house, some of which can still be seen today. It remained 'home' to the Lambert family for over two hundred years, but, tragically, within that time the course of its history was changed irrevocably after not just one murder of one David Lambert, but two murders of two David Lamberts. The financial fallout after the first murder in 1825 saw them bailed out by their Canadian relatives who took ownership but ensured the Lamberts stayed. In 1964, it became the first house purchased by the Wilton Historical Society when it was recognized as the oldest house still standing in Wilton, and is depicted on the town seal. In 1680, David Lambert's father came out to Milford, Connecticut, from Wilton in Wiltshire, England. When the land that David had been buying up outside Norwalk was officially recognized as a parish in 1726, it was David who suggested that it be named "Wilton". He held various local positions including that of "Brander and Toller of Horses," and from 1748 until the early 1760s he opened Lilacstead as a tavern. Lilacstead sat on a farm of 100-acres and was worked by his slaves. By the time he died in 1782 he had amassed a not insignificant fortune of $61,800, yet the only outward signs of his prosperity was the large library he kept with several volumes on history, philosophy etc., and a coat and vest with silver buttons, but otherwise he lived without ostentation. His son, also named David, graduated from Yale in 1761 and returned home to manage the family farm. In 1769, he made a fortuitous marriage to Susannah Rogers whose mother was a niece of Thomas Fitch, Governor of Connecticut. Susannah herself was the sister and sister-in-law of three of New York's 15-most prominent merchants in that era: Moses Rogers, Nehemiah Rogers, and Archibald Gracie, "the merchant with the soul of a prince" whose country home, Gracie Mansion, is now the residence of the Mayors of New York. In the 1780s, the Lamberts were described as living in great comfort and an hundred years later it was recalled: "some people to-day tell of the arrival, in early times, in Norwalk, the call at the doors of the Rogerses, of the Lambert establishment, if not a modern Tally-Ho, yet approximating to it, which was quite an event in the place". Two fine portraits of Mrs Lambert and her mother (Mrs Rogers) then hung on the wall at the Lambert house. Revolution David and Susannah allowed themselves greater luxuries at Lilacstead than David's father and their 9-room house now boasted marble fireplaces and expensive wallpaper. David too held various local appointments but as a Loyalist during the Revolution he was placed on the list of "inimical persons" and was lucky not to have had his property confiscated or worse. For a few years, David and Susannah relocated to Saint John in New Brunswick with Susannah's brothers until feelings simmered down and they were able to return home. Ironically, the only damage Lilacstead suffered during the Revolution was from shots fired by British muskets after their attack on Benedict Arnold at Danbury in 1777. Murder No.1 - David Lambert in New York David and Susannah's eldest son, David Rogers Lambert, went to New York where he was first made a partner with his uncle, Nehemiah Rogers, in Rogers, Lambert & Co. They imported goods from Europe and the south - cotton, turpentine, tar and provisions - and did, "a very heavy business". But in 1825, his good fortune came to a rapid end: David R. Lambert was returning home after a party in New York when he ran into "a gang of rowdies" and one of them struck him a blow that killed him instantly. By that time, he had set up in business with his brother, Samuel Fitch Lambert, but without David at the helm Samuel returned to Wilton and moved into Lilacstead with his widowed mother. "Money Concerns... A Great Source of Uneasiness" By 1829, Samuel's mounting debts in New York risked the family losing everything, including the roof over their heads. Even three years before (1826), Samuel's eminent Canadian brother-in-law, The Hon. George Crookshank (elected President of the Bank of Upper Canada that same year and a Member of the Privy Council), had been suspicious of Samuel's business, writing to him: "I must say that my money concerns from the first with your House (Lambert & Co.) has been a great source of uneasiness and loss to me". Doing What Family Does In a vain attempt to cover his losses, Samuel took out mortgage after mortgage on his various properties in New York and Harlem, and after "misappropriations" by his other brother, Henry, Crookshank was called in to sort out the mess. Litigation lasted until 1830, by which time Crookshank - who had more than enough on his plate to be getting on with in Canada - had become the unwilling owner of not only Lilacstead, but several other houses and considerable acreage in Wilton; property at Rochester, New York; a marble quarry at Kingsbridge, New York; and, most profitably, two valuable stores on Pearl Street in the commercial heart of New York City. He assumed responsibility for the Lambert family as a whole and continued to come to their assistance when needed. By way of return for everything Crookshank had done for the Lamberts, when Mrs Crookshank died in 1840 leaving two young children, her unmarried sister, Julia Maria Lambert, moved to Toronto and took responsibility for bringing up his children - who grew to love her like a mother. Julia's letters from that period were later published as, "An American Lady in Old Toronto: The Letters of Julia Lambert 1821-1854". Life Returns to Normal George Crookshank was all too happy to allow his in-laws to continue on at Lilacstead as before while keeping an eye on what were now his local investments. Nonetheless, perhaps not trusting Samuel entirely, he frequently travelled down from Toronto, often in his own carriage, to New York and Wilton. He must have hoped that the Lamberts would one day buy back Lilacstead etc., but that never happened and when he died in 1859 his only surviving child, Mrs Catherine Heward, continued the amicable arrangement between their two families. Interestingly, after naming her first born son for her father, Catherine named her second born son (who was born and died in 1862) Charles Wilton Heward, suggesting that she not only knew Wilton well, but it held a special place in her heart. The Underground Railroad Samuel Fitch Lambert lived here with his wife until 1865 and his widow died here in 1891. During that time, Wilton became an important cog in the Underground Railroad that hid, fed, watered and clothed fugitive slaves escaping from the south. The Lambert family were said to have released their slaves as early as an hundred years before the Civil War, and Samuel and his wife, Esther, opened their house to runaway slaves. Handcuffs and other similar articles were found in the cellar tunnel, discarded there by the slaves they hid. Murder No.2 - David Lambert in Wilton Samuel had one son, David Samuel Rogers Lambert, "a quiet, unassuming gentleman" who studied at Trinity College, Hartford, and Yale. He married the talented poet, Eva Ogden, and after his mother died in 1891, he and Eva transformed Lilacstead into the exclusive Wilton Academy, a prep school for the "sons of well-to-do New Yorkers," offering a classical and scientific curriculum taught by David and Eva themselves. On a snowy evening, December 16, 1897, Eva answered a knock at the front door at Lilacstead when she was pounced upon by two masked men who tied her to a chair in the living room, chloroformed her, and gagged her before ransacking the house for money and silver. While the men were tearing through the house, David walked in unsuspectingly through the front door and both men opened fire, emptying two revolvers at him. Falling to the ground, he died of his wounds the following day. The men calmly replaced the empty shells with fresh bullets before stealing their horses and making their escape. The crime was the worst in the history of Wilton and the circumstances were made even more shocking when Mrs Lambert was able to identify one of the murderers: Benjamin R. Willis, the illegitimate son of a wealthy New York broker who'd been a pupil at Wilton Academy. He'd become troublesome after he started receiving visits at school from a strange, veiled woman who later turned out to be his mother, and he harbored a grudge against the Lamberts after being thrashed severely for mistreating one of their horses. To execute his revenge on the Lamberts, Willis solicited the help of a professional burglar, Frederick M. Brockhaus. The Police caught Brockhaus three months after the crime in Chicago when he confessed to everything and led them to Willis just days later. The two men were brought back to Connecticut and both were found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death. In a final twist to the gruesome tale, Willis' mother had attempted to smuggle poison to him as he awaited the hangman's noose, but the prison guards discovered the ruse and he met his fate as the court's intended the following day. The day after that, his mother was found dead, having taken the poison she bought for her son. Canadians & Kelloggs Despite what had happened, Mrs Lambert stayed on here until her death in 1919. She and David had two children, but both had died in infancy and she lived here alone - the last of the Lamberts at Lilacstead. She outlived her late husband's first cousin, Catherine Heward, by two years but it remained in the possession of Catherine's five children, all based in Toronto, who used the house as a summer vacation home up until 1938. In 1941, the Heward children - great-grandchildren of David and Susannah (Rogers) Lambert - sold Lilacstead out of the family for the first time in its 216-year history. The new owners were brother and sister: Royal S. and Ruth M. Kellogg. Royal Kellogg (1875-1965) was a native of Cato, New York, and was a longtime secretary of the lumber and paper manufacturing industry while also known as an ardent supporter of the arts. They carried out an extensive renovation of Lilacstead while being careful to maintain all its original features that included the floors, hardware, doors, and many of the window panes. During the course of the works, the sole remaining possession of the very first David Lambert - a monogrammed wine bottle - was found and was afterwards placed prominently on display by Ruth who took up residence here alone. Wilton Historical Society In 1964, the Wilton Historical Society purchased the Lambert House that continues to serve both as a museum and as its headquarters. As part of the deal, Ruth Kellogg remained, occupying a second floor apartment. Today, it is the central building among nine other historic houses known as "Lambert Corner," all of which are maintained by the society, and Lambert House was chosen to feature on Wilton's Town Seal.

David Lambert House

Built in 1726, for David Lambert (1700-1782) and his wife Laurana Bill (1709-1775). Standing at what is today Lambert Corner at the intersection of Routes 7 and 33, the Lamberts named their home "Lilacstead" for the lilac bushes around the house, some of which can still be seen today. It remained 'home' to the Lambert family for over two hundred years, but, tragically, within that time the course of its history was changed irrevocably after not just one murder of one David Lambert, but two murders of two David Lamberts. The financial fallout after the first murder in 1825 saw them bailed out by their Canadian relatives who took ownership but ensured the Lamberts stayed. In 1964, it became the first house purchased by the Wilton Historical Society when it was recognized as the oldest house still standing in Wilton, and is depicted on the town seal. In 1680, David Lambert's father came out to Milford, Connecticut, from Wilton in Wiltshire, England. When the land that David had been buying up outside Norwalk was officially recognized as a parish in 1726, it was David who suggested that it be named "Wilton". He held various local positions including that of "Brander and Toller of Horses," and from 1748 until the early 1760s he opened Lilacstead as a tavern. Lilacstead sat on a farm of 100-acres and was worked by his slaves. By the time he died in 1782 he had amassed a not insignificant fortune of $61,800, yet the only outward signs of his prosperity was the large library he kept with several volumes on history, philosophy etc., and a coat and vest with silver buttons, but otherwise he lived without ostentation. His son, also named David, graduated from Yale in 1761 and returned home to manage the family farm. In 1769, he made a fortuitous marriage to Susannah Rogers whose mother was a niece of Thomas Fitch, Governor of Connecticut. Susannah herself was the sister and sister-in-law of three of New York's 15-most prominent merchants in that era: Moses Rogers, Nehemiah Rogers, and Archibald Gracie, "the merchant with the soul of a prince" whose country home, Gracie Mansion, is now the residence of the Mayors of New York. In the 1780s, the Lamberts were described as living in great comfort and an hundred years later it was recalled: "some people to-day tell of the arrival, in early times, in Norwalk, the call at the doors of the Rogerses, of the Lambert establishment, if not a modern Tally-Ho, yet approximating to it, which was quite an event in the place". Two fine portraits of Mrs Lambert and her mother (Mrs Rogers) then hung on the wall at the Lambert house. Revolution David and Susannah allowed themselves greater luxuries at Lilacstead than David's father and their 9-room house now boasted marble fireplaces and expensive wallpaper. David too held various local appointments but as a Loyalist during the Revolution he was placed on the list of "inimical persons" and was lucky not to have had his property confiscated or worse. For a few years, David and Susannah relocated to Saint John in New Brunswick with Susannah's brothers until feelings simmered down and they were able to return home. Ironically, the only damage Lilacstead suffered during the Revolution was from shots fired by British muskets after their attack on Benedict Arnold at Danbury in 1777. Murder No.1 - David Lambert in New York David and Susannah's eldest son, David Rogers Lambert, went to New York where he was first made a partner with his uncle, Nehemiah Rogers, in Rogers, Lambert & Co. They imported goods from Europe and the south - cotton, turpentine, tar and provisions - and did, "a very heavy business". But in 1825, his good fortune came to a rapid end: David R. Lambert was returning home after a party in New York when he ran into "a gang of rowdies" and one of them struck him a blow that killed him instantly. By that time, he had set up in business with his brother, Samuel Fitch Lambert, but without David at the helm Samuel returned to Wilton and moved into Lilacstead with his widowed mother. "Money Concerns... A Great Source of Uneasiness" By 1829, Samuel's mounting debts in New York risked the family losing everything, including the roof over their heads. Even three years before (1826), Samuel's eminent Canadian brother-in-law, The Hon. George Crookshank (elected President of the Bank of Upper Canada that same year and a Member of the Privy Council), had been suspicious of Samuel's business, writing to him: "I must say that my money concerns from the first with your House (Lambert & Co.) has been a great source of uneasiness and loss to me". Doing What Family Does In a vain attempt to cover his losses, Samuel took out mortgage after mortgage on his various properties in New York and Harlem, and after "misappropriations" by his other brother, Henry, Crookshank was called in to sort out the mess. Litigation lasted until 1830, by which time Crookshank - who had more than enough on his plate to be getting on with in Canada - had become the unwilling owner of not only Lilacstead, but several other houses and considerable acreage in Wilton; property at Rochester, New York; a marble quarry at Kingsbridge, New York; and, most profitably, two valuable stores on Pearl Street in the commercial heart of New York City. He assumed responsibility for the Lambert family as a whole and continued to come to their assistance when needed. By way of return for everything Crookshank had done for the Lamberts, when Mrs Crookshank died in 1840 leaving two young children, her unmarried sister, Julia Maria Lambert, moved to Toronto and took responsibility for bringing up his children - who grew to love her like a mother. Julia's letters from that period were later published as, "An American Lady in Old Toronto: The Letters of Julia Lambert 1821-1854". Life Returns to Normal George Crookshank was all too happy to allow his in-laws to continue on at Lilacstead as before while keeping an eye on what were now his local investments. Nonetheless, perhaps not trusting Samuel entirely, he frequently travelled down from Toronto, often in his own carriage, to New York and Wilton. He must have hoped that the Lamberts would one day buy back Lilacstead etc., but that never happened and when he died in 1859 his only surviving child, Mrs Catherine Heward, continued the amicable arrangement between their two families. Interestingly, after naming her first born son for her father, Catherine named her second born son (who was born and died in 1862) Charles Wilton Heward, suggesting that she not only knew Wilton well, but it held a special place in her heart. The Underground Railroad Samuel Fitch Lambert lived here with his wife until 1865 and his widow died here in 1891. During that time, Wilton became an important cog in the Underground Railroad that hid, fed, watered and clothed fugitive slaves escaping from the south. The Lambert family were said to have released their slaves as early as an hundred years before the Civil War, and Samuel and his wife, Esther, opened their house to runaway slaves. Handcuffs and other similar articles were found in the cellar tunnel, discarded there by the slaves they hid. Murder No.2 - David Lambert in Wilton Samuel had one son, David Samuel Rogers Lambert, "a quiet, unassuming gentleman" who studied at Trinity College, Hartford, and Yale. He married the talented poet, Eva Ogden, and after his mother died in 1891, he and Eva transformed Lilacstead into the exclusive Wilton Academy, a prep school for the "sons of well-to-do New Yorkers," offering a classical and scientific curriculum taught by David and Eva themselves. On a snowy evening, December 16, 1897, Eva answered a knock at the front door at Lilacstead when she was pounced upon by two masked men who tied her to a chair in the living room, chloroformed her, and gagged her before ransacking the house for money and silver. While the men were tearing through the house, David walked in unsuspectingly through the front door and both men opened fire, emptying two revolvers at him. Falling to the ground, he died of his wounds the following day. The men calmly replaced the empty shells with fresh bullets before stealing their horses and making their escape. The crime was the worst in the history of Wilton and the circumstances were made even more shocking when Mrs Lambert was able to identify one of the murderers: Benjamin R. Willis, the illegitimate son of a wealthy New York broker who'd been a pupil at Wilton Academy. He'd become troublesome after he started receiving visits at school from a strange, veiled woman who later turned out to be his mother, and he harbored a grudge against the Lamberts after being thrashed severely for mistreating one of their horses. To execute his revenge on the Lamberts, Willis solicited the help of a professional burglar, Frederick M. Brockhaus. The Police caught Brockhaus three months after the crime in Chicago when he confessed to everything and led them to Willis just days later. The two men were brought back to Connecticut and both were found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death. In a final twist to the gruesome tale, Willis' mother had attempted to smuggle poison to him as he awaited the hangman's noose, but the prison guards discovered the ruse and he met his fate as the court's intended the following day. The day after that, his mother was found dead, having taken the poison she bought for her son. Canadians & Kelloggs Despite what had happened, Mrs Lambert stayed on here until her death in 1919. She and David had two children, but both had died in infancy and she lived here alone - the last of the Lamberts at Lilacstead. She outlived her late husband's first cousin, Catherine Heward, by two years but it remained in the possession of Catherine's five children, all based in Toronto, who used the house as a summer vacation home up until 1938. In 1941, the Heward children - great-grandchildren of David and Susannah (Rogers) Lambert - sold Lilacstead out of the family for the first time in its 216-year history. The new owners were brother and sister: Royal S. and Ruth M. Kellogg. Royal Kellogg (1875-1965) was a native of Cato, New York, and was a longtime secretary of the lumber and paper manufacturing industry while also known as an ardent supporter of the arts. They carried out an extensive renovation of Lilacstead while being careful to maintain all its original features that included the floors, hardware, doors, and many of the window panes. During the course of the works, the sole remaining possession of the very first David Lambert - a monogrammed wine bottle - was found and was afterwards placed prominently on display by Ruth who took up residence here alone. Wilton Historical Society In 1964, the Wilton Historical Society purchased the Lambert House that continues to serve both as a museum and as its headquarters. As part of the deal, Ruth Kellogg remained, occupying a second floor apartment. Today, it is the central building among nine other historic houses known as "Lambert Corner," all of which are maintained by the society, and Lambert House was chosen to feature on Wilton's Town Seal.

1726

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