163 Main Street: The Benham Cottage


ntil 1954 this was a residential lot, the home during much of the 19th century of members of the Benham family. It was not originally however part of the land Miles Benham acquired from Jonathan Bordwell. It's being treated here for convenience with the Miles Benham plot, but in reality it lay between that and Joel Dorman's homestead.

George D. Stewart acquired it in 1815 from Charles Phillips (the first recorded owner; there's no extant deed from the Wageners), who had a 1-acre lot here that went back to Jacob's Brook, where a tannery stood right by the bank of the creek. Phillips was the father of Dr. Joshua Lee's wife Sophia, and of Samuel F. Curtiss' first wife Abigail, and of Perley Phillips, who became a partner with William H. Fox's sons i163 Main Streetn the papermaking business and then in several other of the Outlet mills. It was probably Charles Phillips who built the original house on this lot, up near Main Street.

Cleveland thought George Benham built the "old style story and a half cottage" that stood on this lot in his day, though it's just as likely Phillips built it. Phillips lost his property in a judgment to George D. Stewart, whose heirs sold it to Benham in 1836. It was then specifically described as the one-acre property where Phillips had had his tannery.

The house was nearly always called the Benham Cottage, and it was occupied either by George or James Benham at least up through the 1870s. The only known image is that on the pictorial map of 1874. By the 1890s Dr. Allen Sampson was the resident.

Sampson's widow Gertrude sold the property to Frank G. Hallett and his wife Carrie in 1906, and it had certainly before then been transformed into the late-Victorian confection generally known as the Hallett house. The last private owner was Ruth Guile; Hattie Guile bought it in 1920 and Ruth sold it in 1953, so they were undoubtedly the family who owned it the longest. The house for many years held the office of local State Trooper Fred Guile, who was Hattie Guile's husband.

The Guile house was torn down to make room for the W.T. Grant store in 1954. Thus this is the northernmost of the four "disappeared" buildings on this block.


Far right: The Hallett or Guile house, the building of which sometime in the 1880s either encompassed or replaced the original structure, which was a one and a half story cottage used as a dwelling by George Benham. Cleveland described the cottage as "old style" so presumably it was just a simple rectangular four-room block with sleeping room upstairs under the eaves.
           The house shown in the picture is anything but simple. It is a classic eclectic Victorian dwelling, with irregular massing and the tower with its little triangular dormer and decorative trim; Gothic bargeboards and Eastlake porch. The footprint seems to have been quite compact, and the design draws the eye so sharply upward that's reminiscent of a fairy-tale castle.

People related to this lot and structure:

     Abraham Wagener
     The Benhams
     The Stewarts

Related structures:

     165 Main Street

Related history:

     Looking Forward


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