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Get To Know: Matthew Curtiss House



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In The Newtown Bee’s “Get To Know” series, we will feature a look at local buildings. Is there a building you would like to “get to know?” E-mail eliza@thebee.com with suggestions.

Newtown Historical Society Trustee John Renjilian answered questions about the Matthew Curtiss House at 44 Main Street this week.

In what year was it purchased or built? The Matthew Curtiss House was built about 1750, based on architecture and construction. There is no documentary record with an exact date. Matthew Curtiss purchased it in 1781. In what we have assumed was a kind of Federal Era reverse mortgage, he apparently sold the house around 1805, retaining life rights of residence. He died in 1824. We presume that’s when the remaining family (Ruth, Jennet, and Hiram) had to move out. We think the life rights were based on his life, not the family. The house continued to be used as a residence until 1970 when the Historical Society bought it.

Who or what entity owns or oversees the building? Newtown Historical Society owns and oversees the building. This is the 50th anniversary of our ownership. We’re hoping to have a celebration this fall.

How large is the building? 2,361 square feet

How many rooms does the building contain? There are three full-size rooms on the first floor, the north and south parlors and the kitchen, and the small “borning room;” there is also a modern kitchen added on at some point. Upstairs there are two chambers and the garret created by the sloping roof of saltbox architecture.

What purpose/purposes does the building serve? The house was restored in 1970 when Newtown Historical Society bought it, and has been offered to the community as a house museum since then. Artifacts on display are not limited to early days, but reflect the range of years the house was a residence. We collect items that have a Newtown connection or that illustrate what life was like in the town in any era; we hope we can make a connection to our past in order to better understand our present.

What is one interesting fact about the building? The large original kitchen fireplace was closed off at some point prior to Newtown Historical Society acquiring the building in 1970, and during the building’s restoration, it was restored.

What is the most common question you get about the building? A frequent question is how long Matthew Curtiss lived in the house. He lived in the house from 1781 to 1824.

The Matthew Curtiss House is located at 44 Main Street. —Bee Photo, Hallabeck
The original kitchen at the Matthew Curtiss House. —Bee Photos, Hallabeck
The south chamber is set up with a bed and other items.
The Matthew Curtiss House’s north parlor is currently set up like a dining room, but it would have been used as a bedroom when its namesake lived there, like most of the spaces in the house.
Newtown Historical Society Trustee John Renjilian walks up stairs to the Matthew Curtiss House’s attic, next to the building’s fireplace, which rises four floors up from its cellar.
Stairs lead to the second floor at the Matthew Curtiss House.
A window at the Matthew Curtiss House.
The noth chamber at the Matthew Curtiss's House.
A view of the garret at the Matthew Curtiss House.
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