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Catching up on houses in Norwalk

By Henry Timman • Jan 10, 2020 at 6:00 PM

By this time I ought to know better than to pretend that my knowledge and larder of historical information is complete and is immune from attack. But, I don't know that and probably never will learn it.

On Feb. 1, 2019, my column here dwelt with houses in Norwalk which are still standing and which were built in the period of 1820 to 1830. I felt that I listed every one identifiable, but now another ancient dwelling in our town has come to my attention.

The house now standing at 7 and 7 1/2 Chatham St. is the main part of a house which according to the tax records was built in 1827 by Theodore Baker on a large tract of land which now contains the houses numbered 119, 121, 123, and 125 E. Main St. There were no house numbers in 1827, but after that system was instituted the Baker House was known as 121 E. Main St.

In 1919 the Baker House and lot were sold. Two wings were torn off the Baker House and the main part of it was moved to Chatham Street and remodeled into a duplex. At the same time the present houses on East Main Street and the house at 5 Chatham St. were constructed, and today the ancient Baker House stands unobtrusively on Chatham Street.

Theodore Baker was a tanner by trade, with his tannery on the west side of Corwin Street south of East Main Street. I've been told that some of the tanning vats still exist in some back yard there, covered over with planks ... but I'm not sure that is still a fact and I'm not sure how safe that situation would be in this year of 2020, 200 years after the tannery was built.

The Baker family was a large and blended one, as the first Mrs. Baker died and Theodore married a second time. His brother Timothy lived across the street at 124 E. Main St. in a large brick house, the front half of which has been razed and the rear rooms still stand facing Corwin Street.

The children of the two families were quite musical and would hold concerts on a winter's evening at one home or another for pure family entertainment. In 1863 Theodore moved to Cleveland and continued in the tanning business until moving to Chicago to live with his son Daniel. He died there in 1878 and was buried in Norwalk's Woodlawn Cemetery with his two wives — Almira Morse and Margaret Williams.

In researching these older homes one can find all kinds of corroborating evidence. Even though Theodore built the house in 1827 he didn't take title to the real estate until 1829. The deed of transfer describes the land and then says "....and is the land on which said Baker's dwelling house now stands.”

So, there's not much doubt that Theodore Baker had a house on the parcel of ground.

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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.

Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.

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