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Facing east onto South End Avenue, the John Seward House is situated in a rural, residential neighborhood which developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with
the industrial activity that occurred along Malt Brook.
The three-bay facade exhibits six-over-six sash set in simple flush window frames and a modest four-panelled entrance door capped by a thin projecting cornice. A
single~story ell with garage has been added to the north elevation.
Built about 1765, this 1 1/2 story, center-chimney, colonial-period, Cape-style dwelling rests on a mortared sandstone foundation. Topped with a ridge-to-street, wood-shingled gable roof, the post-and-beam frame is sided in clapboards.
The early history of this building is difficult to determine. It is most probable that John Seward (b. 1737) built this house about 1765, prior to his marriage to Sarah Burr in 1769. Shortly after the birth of their first child in 1770, the Sewards moved to Haddam and sold the dwelling house to John’s older brother Samuel (b. 1734). Both Samuel and John were the sons of Lieut. Joseph Seward and his wife Hannah Crane. Their grandfather was Dr. Joseph Seward, one of Durham’s earliest proprietors and the town’s
first physician. Little historical information is available concerning Samuel Seward.
In 1795 he sold his homelot to Daniel and Guernsey Bates, who immediately sold the house to Nathaniel and Enos Seward, distant cousins of Samuel. In the transaction between the Bateses and the Sewards, it is stated in the deed that “Samuel Seward shall occupy the house for the term of his natural life” (DLR 11:13). In 1801 Daniel Hickox acquired a portion of the “Samuel Seward” property from Nathaniel and Enos. Both Seward brothers had met early deaths by the end of 1801 and their heirs sold Hickox the rest of the property with dwelling house, barn, and blacksmith shop. Hickox (1767-1839) was the son of Joseph and Martha (Willcocks) Hickox, who came to Durham from Waterbury. Daniel married Jerusha Camp (1763-1837), the daughter of Job and Rachel Camp, and they raised four children: Daniel, Charlotte, Charles, and Henry. Daniel, Jr. (1798-1858) received his father’s homelot in 1840. Married to Mary Atwater, Hickox Jr. was employed as a shoemaker. Upon his death in 1858 the house was willed to his three children, Charles, Dwight, and Martha. In 1864 the property was sold to Almer J. Roberts who resided there until 1866. The Holder family owned the house from 1866 to 1962.
The John Seward House is architecturally significant as one of the few remaining examples of the colonial-period Cape-style farmhouse.