When Benjamin Beach drew lot #7 in the first expansion of Stratford in 1680, he couldn’t have imagined that the thatch-roofed home he would build would stand witness to over 300 years of change. In that time, our nation would grow from a colony to world superpower while the view beyond its rolled-glass windows would transform from pastoral farmland to suburban home lots.
For the first 200 years the changes would come slowly. As the home of a shipbuilder, the house reflected a community focused on the Housatonic River and sea. Shipping, shipbuilding and fishing would continue to be central to Stratford’s prosperity well into the 20th century. Isaiah Brown remodeled the house into a ‘Saltbox’ in 1740, adding a blacksmith shop. As a member of Stratford’s “Committee of Observation”, Brown was charged with identifying Tory spies and sympathizers during the Revolution. During this period, the home would witness General Washington passing by on Kings-Highway no less than 7 times once with the Marquis de Lafayette. In 1853, William Perry purchased the home for his wife and 10 children. A well-known and respected politician and probate judge, his name continues to be associated with the house to this day.
Following Perry’s ownership, the pace of change surrounding the house accelerated. The West parlor served as a school from 1889-98, and the house saw a succession of owners as Stratford passed through sleepy decline to post-war boom.
As the highway was being constructed in the mid 1950’s, Jessie Murphy made substantial changes to accommodate three rental apartments. She willed the house to the town in 1981, and it was listed with the Department of the Interior 2 years later.
By 1997, Perry House was in need of renovation, and there was pressure to raze it to provide additional parking for the Baldwin Community Center. The house was saved through the work of concerned residents who recognized its potential as Stratford’s oldest structure at the gateway to Main Street and the historic town center. It was clear that the house could serve as an important symbol of Stratford’s colonial heritage while demonstrating the town’s ability to adapt to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. To this end, the Perry House Foundation was established in 2004 to oversee the restoration of the home and to ensure its continuing role in welcoming visitors, teaching history, and participating in the life of the community well into the future.