New Haven, Conn.

Spencer "Thomas" Thomas, Henry, Samuel, Joseph, Isaac, John, John

In 1896, inventor and businessman Henry [1844-1902] bought this 1884 mansion at 28 Hillhouse Ave., New Haven, built by lawyer Charles Henry Farnam and designed by J. Cleaveland Cady.

He, his wife, second-cousin Mary Frances Parmelee [1851-1918; Andrew Yelverton, Alfred R., Samuel, Joseph, Isaac, John, John], and their three children lived at the time of the 1900 Census with a seamstress, maid, cook, waitress and laundress, three of whom were born in Sweden.

Yale University, which has owned the mansion since 1920, houses its Department of Economics here.

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After voters turned him out of the White House in favor of Woodrow Wilson in 1912, President William Howard Taft, decided to return to Yale to teach law and was looking for new quarters. This house caught his eye.


The article at left, from the Jan. 3, 1913, edition of the Plattsburgh (N.Y.) Daily Press spills the details. [Note: It incorrectly states that Henry's father built the house.] The clipping below is from the previous day's Decatur (Ill.) Herald.

Ultimately, the deal fell through, and the former president spent eight years living at Hotel Taft, a new 12-story, 450-room downtown hotel named in his honor. The hotel at College and Chapel streets closed in 1973, and reopened eight years later as The Taft, an apartment building.

Below is a New Haven Library photo of the house after the 1938 hurricane.


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Updated Dec. 1, 2020