1763 Greenleaf House in Norwich has first public showing

Crew from Frank Zaino and Associates remove siding from the David Greenleaf House during renovations, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
link to article: https://www.theday.com/local-news/20230925/1763-greenleaf-house-in-norwich-ready-for-first-public-showing/

Norwich ― The circa 1763 David Greenleaf House has stood in its original spot at 2 Town St. at one of Norwich’s busiest intersections, yet is easily missed, as passersby mind the traffic and shoot a glance at the standout 1675 Leffingwell House Museum next door.

The Greenleaf House no longer is being overlooked. Soon, it will be linked to the Leffingwell House Museum to form a campus at the junction of Washington and Town streets in the original English settlement area of Norwich.

The house was built sometime around 1763 by local goldsmith David Greenleaf. He lived there only a few years, and the house changed hands many times over the centuries, said Regan Miner, executive director of the Norwich Historical Society. The Society of the Founders of Norwich purchased the house in 1999.

The Society of the Founders of Norwich and the Norwich Historical Society have been working quietly since 2018 on renovation plans. They have obtained $800,000 in federal, state, and municipal grants to restore historical qualities of the house while creating a modern exhibit and gathering space.

On Monday, the public was invited to tour the Greenleaf House and learn more about the rehabilitation plans. An overview of the work in progress was followed by tours of the lower basement level, which features the original fieldstone foundation and two brick chimneys, one with a small hearth that may have been used by Greenleaf in his goldsmith trade.

Miner led the program Monday. Speakers included Elizabeth Shapiro, director of Arts, Preservation and Museums at the state Department of Economic and Community Development; state Sen. Cathy Osten; Eric Beit, president Norwich Historical Society Board of Directors and Dayne Rugh, president of the Society of the Founders of Norwich.

The Greenleaf basement is at ground level to the rear, while the first floor is ground level on Town Street, allowing for handicapped access to both levels once the project is completed, Miner said.

A sloped, uneven ground and 3-foot retaining wall now separate the Greenleaf and Leffingwell houses, but the societies plan to create a walkway or bridge connecting the two historic sites.

The plan is to keep the Greenleaf basement as an open floor, with handicapped accessible bathrooms in one corner and a small kitchenette at the front wall. The fieldstone foundation and brickwork chimneys will remain as architectural features, Miner said.

Early plans for the first floor include a gift shop and rotating exhibit space, Miner said.

Renovations are expected to be completed in 2025, in time to use the space to help celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Leffingwell House construction. But Miner said she hopes some of the work can done earlier, in time for the 2024 celebration of the 200th anniversary of American Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette’s reunion tour of the United States. Lafayette visited Norwich Aug. 22, 1824.

The renovated Greenleaf House also is expected to become a central location for the city’s years-long celebration of the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution, from the first shots fired at Lexington and Concord, Mass., in April 1775 through the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.