589 Boston Post Road
Built around 1840 by farmer Thomas Scranton, this historic house, greatly remodeled since its redevelopment as a branch of the Guilford Savings Bank, is considered by some to be Madison’s first building fashioned in the Greek Revival style. The main façade of the original house remains largely intact, in fair resemblance to the original, but the entire interior, with a few thoughtful exceptions, and much of the exterior have been thoroughly replaced with new materials.
The Thomas Scranton House was built circa 1840 by master builder Samuel Hill Brown. Part of the structure (at the rear of the building) was constructed circa 1785, possibly by Brown’s grandfather, and was moved from another part of the property to adjoin the 1840 structure. Thomas Scranton was one of several Madison citizens who engaged Volney Pierce, a New Haven architect, to design the First Congregational Church. MHS researchers examining historic deeds believe Pierce may also have designed the Thomas Scranton House, as well as several other houses in Madison on which Thomas Scranton and Samuel Brown Hill collaborated.
The first occupants of the house were Thomas Scranton and his wife, Betsey Parmelee Scranton, along with the seven youngest of their eleven surviving children. (They had fourteen children in all.) Thomas and Betsey both died in 1871, with the cause of death for each noted as “old age.” He was 85 years old; she was 80. Julie Parmelee Marston inherited the house in 1916 from its next owner, Susan Whedon, who was also a family descendant. Julie’s father, Henry S. Parmelee, invented the first automatic fire sprinkler in 1874.
When the Guilford Savings Bank bought this property in 2010, the Madison Historical Society, the Madison Historic District Commission, and the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office worked with the bank and FDIC on an official historic preservation review. Former MHS president Lynn Friedman explained the MHS’s position, saying, “The built environment is an especially effective tool to teach all citizens not just about a community’s architecture but about its cultural history and its evolution. In the case of the Thomas Scranton House property, the proximal relationship between the main house and its carriage barn clearly portrays the way of life of town dwellers in the mid-nineteenth century. The carriage barn was the garage of the era, where wagons were sheltered and horses were housed and fed. Hay for the horses–their fuel–was often stored on the second floor. Once the carriage barn is gone, we will have lost one of our finest examples of Madison’s early culture.”
A complicating factor in the effort to stop the project or amend the plans was that the home and its carriage house are within the boundaries of the Madison Green National Register Historic District, established in 1982, but they are not within the boundaries of the more recently established Madison Green Local Historic District. Thus, the buildings were not afforded the same protection as buildings that lie within both districts. Although the consulting parties deemed the destruction of the carriage house as having an adverse effect on the Madison Green National Register Historic District, the carriage house was demolished on the basis that it was not, in fact, a distinguished building.
In the end, after much research and negotiation, some parts of the house remained, many parts were forever lost—and the resulting project is indeed handsome and practical. One especially thoughtful act of preservation protected this property’s notable copper beech tree, which remains one of the largest specimens in Connecticut; the bank’s drive-through service window and its driveways were carefully designed to save the life of this magnificent tree. The Guilford Savings Bank donated $3,000 to help create this tour as a public education project.