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Greenwich Landmarks Series: Greenwich’s First Post Office​

The first post office in Greenwich was built as a home on West Putnam Avenue around 1725 by the Bullis family. It later became the house of John Addington, our first postmaster, who was appointed, along with ten other Connecticut men, by the first Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin, in 1776 when the country’s first postal system was inaugurated. The land, originally encompassing more than 10 acres, has a long history, starting even before 1722 when it was gifted to John Bullis by his father, Thomas, the first blacksmith recorded in the Greenwich town records. Thomas is believed to have owned the land as early as 1700.

Thomas was born in Boston in 1671, the son of Philip Bullis, a mariner from England, who married Judith Hart. Philip fought in King Philip’s War in Major Savage’s company from 1675 to 1676. King Philip’s War between the colonists and Native Americans of New England lasted four years, killing many on both sides, destroying towns and all but ruining the economy. The war was named for the Native American leader, Metacomet, also known as King Philip.

The Bullis’ had five children, and son Thomas migrated to Greenwich in 1692 at the age of 21. Both his sons, John and Thomas, were born here.

Members of many families whose names are familiar in Greenwich owned the house and land through the centuries: Knapp, Mead, Sherwood and Marshall, among them. In 1729, John Bullis sold “my now dwelling house and my shop and fruit trees and fences, etc.” to John Marshall. In 1747 the property went to John Addington, who married Hannah Hobby in 1740. In 1776, the property was deeded to the couple’s third son, Henry. Various Addingtons owned the property until 1835, but there was one short, but noticeable, gap.

Henry Addington “has gone over to and joined the Enemies” said a deed about 1781, and the property, appraised at 12 pounds in silver money, was confiscated. Two years later the treasurer of the state of Connecticut deeded the property to Hannah Addington, but in 1804, Hannah Addington faced a judgment for $300, plus $6.27 in costs, and prison loomed. “Take the body of said Hannah and her commit unto the keeper of the gaol in Fairfield,” said a deed transferring the property to Henry, Jr.

Probate records show that at the death of John Addington, Jr. in 1831 the house, barn, garden and a weaving shop were valued at $40. When Hannah L. Knapp sold the property in 1919 to Terrissa Bukey, it went for $9,000. By 1984, its value had risen to $750,000.

The house, backed by a wooded ridge, is a one-and-a-half story, four-bay, wood-shingled dwelling with a sharply pitched roof and six-over-six windows. The basement level retains the massive stone walls, incorporating a rock ledge, that are the original foundations of the house. To one side, the rebuilt stone chimney back is still visible on the first story of an exterior wall.

Some of the interior broad axe-and-adze-cut timbers of the post-and-beam frame date to the early 18th century while others, later versions, were hewn in the traditional way. The floorboards, while not original to the house, are centuries old, salvaged from a Hartford house of the same vintage.
In the front yard of the eight-room house, with the low ceilings typical of its Colonial period, is the original well, whose waters may extend as far down as the level of Horseneck Brook. The front door is fashioned of simple vertical wood planks, and the interior, simple and basically unadorned, has wainscoting only in the living room, along with a fireplace whose mantel has a decorative stringcourse below the shelf.

Many of the pegged, rough-hewn rafters on the attic level, some retaining traces of bark, are original to the house. The eastern bay, built after the house was completed, is connected by a hand-wrought iron pin. It is possible that this six-foot extension was built with a post office in mind, since as late as the turn of the 20th century the bay had its own entrance.

While the house had a number of additions at one time or another, in the 1980s the house was restored, as far as possible, to its earliest appearance.

By Susan Nova for the Greenwich Landmarks Series