Monday - Thursday 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Friday, & Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
The Elizur Goodrich House stands on a cleared half-acre lot on the south side of Durham’s Main Street, opposite the Green.
One of Durham’s finest examples of mid-eighteenth-century colonial architecture, the Elizur Goodrich House is a traditional Connecticut Colonial, with a central chimney, a double overhang, and rectangular proportions of the two-room-deep house plan. The exterior of the house is replete with small ornamental touches which are both atypical for Durham and indicative of the builder’s efforts to strive for stylishness: the windows, which are replacement six-over-six’s, are framed with crown-moulded cornices; the corners of the house are decorated with beaded cornerboards. The elegant doorway, which is ornamented with fluted pilasters, broken entablature with dentiled course, botanical motif carvings on the pilaster caps, the front door with two panels and two glass toplights in each of its two leaves, and the pediment are modern additions. The house stands on a cut sandstone block foundation, which is laid in regular courses.
The Goodrich House has experienced minor alterations in the 220 years since it was built. Its original central chimney, which was probably built of stone, has been replaced with painted concrete blocks above the roof line (although the house retains its original six fireplaces). A modern single-story gable-roofed addition has been made to the rear of the house, to which is connected a modern two-car garage.
This house was built for the Rev. Elizur Goodrich, minister of Durham’s First Congregational Church between 1756 and 1797. Born in Rocky Hill in 1734, Goodrich prepared for Yale under the Rev. James Lockwood of Wethersfield. He graduated from the college in 1752 and served as a tutor there until he was called to the pastorate in Durham. In 1759 he married Catherine Chauncey, granddaughter of his predecessor in the pulpit. Shortly thereafter he built this house, which stood opposite the original site of Durham’s meeting house. Goodrich was one of Connecticut’s leading clergymen in the second half of the eighteenth century and was, in recognition of this fact, elected to the Corporation of Yale College in 1776. He was adwarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity by the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) in 1783. He was, not surprisingly, a local cultural leader, serving for many years as clerk of the Durham Book Company, one of the nation’s earliest libraries. He was also a founding member of another private library, the Esothian Society. His association with the Esothian Society, which later gained notoriety as an ‘infidel” literary society, may seem surprising in view of his position as leader of Durham’s ecclesiastical establishment. But it should be remembered that Goodrich was a member of that generation of American intellectuals who, profoundly affected by the idea of the European Enlightenment, were much bolder in their willingness to deal with new ideas than those who either preceded or succeeded them. Goodrich was a contemporary of Ezra Stiles, who had graduated at Yale in 1746, taught Goodrich as a student, and later shared responsibilities as tutor in the College. Goodrich’s admission to the Yale Corporation in 1776, one year before Stiles was invited to become president, was undoubtedly a victory for the ecclesiastical moderates in Connecticut and paved the way for Stiles’ election. During Stiles’ presidency Yale was noted as a center of scientific experimentation and intellectual ferment verging on infidelity (Morgan: 1962). Given this, it is not surprising to find the Rev. Goodrich in the company of those so actively questioning established doctrines.
Like many Connecticut ministers of his time, Goodrich supplemented his modest salary by preparing students for entrance to Yale. His students included Eli Whitney, the inventor of the cotton gin and “Father of the American System of Manufactures,” and William Botsford, Chief Justice of New Brunswick. He also prepared his sons for Yale.
The most distinguished of them, his namesake Elizur, became Mayor of New Haven, a member of Congress, and Yale’s first teacher of law.
Goodrich died in 1797, but his widow lived on until 1830. Five years after her death the house was sold by the Goodrich heirs to Zebulon Hale and Enos Rogers, who ran a store nearby. In the 1840s Rogers sold out his interest in the property and the store was operated under the name of Hale & Davis. The house remained in the hands of the Davis family until 1942. It passed to its present owners in 1964.
The Elizur Goodrich House is historically significant as the home of Durham’s second minister, who was one of the state’s intellectual leaders during the Revolutionary
and Early National periods.