The Jelliff Mill Historic District was accepted for listing on the CT Register of Historic Places by the CT Historic Preservation Council at its meeting on April 4, 2012. This 1.69 acre district consists of the old boulder and rock Dam, the 1949 concrete block Mill building, and the documented 1801 House, as enlarged by Deodate Waterbury. The addresses are #41 Jelliff Mill Road for the Stevens-Waterbury-Merritt house and #47 for the Talmadge-Waterbury-Jelliff Mill and Dam.
The State Register is Connecticut’s official list of historic properties worthy of preservation. Listing in the State Register provides recognition and assists in preserving Connecticut’s heritage. Listed properties are eligible for CT Historic Structures Rehabilitation Tax Credits for appropriate renovation and for preservation grants. Listing does not prevent alteration or demolition with private funding.
Rose Rothbart, preservation arch and Mimi Findlay, architectural historian, as members of the board of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance volunteered to prepare the nomination, to research and record the history and to photographically document the current site. Nils Kerschus, historian, researched the Stamford Land Records for the 17th and 18th century deeds.
This nomination confirmed Native American habitation along the Noroton River at that location as early as 2500 BC, as evidenced by arrowheads and tools picked up by Mrs, Jelliff in the 1920s, later catalogue by Barbara Wood, New Canaan resident. The collection is now at the Stamford Museum.
At the Hartford hearing Jack McCarthy, a fifth grader at who lives next door to the house, gave testimony on how he had been surprised to learn that Native American arrowheads had been discovered in back yards near his house. His mother, Kelly McCarthy, recounted the tale that Deodate Waterbury, mill owner from 1801 to 1831, died as he was looking out his window as his son was building her house next door.
The retired Lutheran Bishop, Rev. Dr. James C. Zwernemann, testified about the religious support given by three of the mill owners who were founders of the Congregational Church in 1731 (Tomas Talmdage), the Episcopal Society in 1791 (James Talmadge Jr), the Talmadge Hill Community Chapel in 1870 (Aaron Jelliff,Jr), and strong Methodist church supporters through several generations (George Jelliff and his descendants). Rebecca Stedman, another NCPA board member, testified as to the mill’s significance, continuing and evolving as markets for wood products changed from 1744 until 2004, with only a six-month hiatus after the wood-frame mill building burned to the ground in 1949. She noted several historic mill sites were listed on the National Register even though the mills themselves had long since disappeared.
The Jelliff Mill Historic District has attracted artists and photographers and provided a locale for sporting activities for most of the 20th century. It meets all the criteria of the State Register. The boulder dam itself appears be a survivor from the early 1700s. In addition to its contribution to the landscape of this area, the site represents 300 years of New Canaan’s past: from Native American occupation to local industrial history, as the town’s enterprises developed from scattered saw, grist and weaving mills to manufactured and exported products. It follows the lives of the mill owners, the building of their homesteads and their significant religious affiliations. Finally, a study of the publications related to this mill reflects the fervid interest in Colonial-era history that thrived in New Canaan during the first half of the twentieth century, when the downtown Colonial Revival commercial village was created.
Anyone wishing a DVD copy of the 75-page nomination is asked to call Mimi Findlay at 203-966-4617.