The Isaac C. Lewis Cottage in Branford, Connecticut is a wonderfully preserved example of a Victorian seaside home built in 1882 combining rich embellishments of architectural woodworking drawn from Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Eastlake and Stick architectural styles. The joyous and eclectic blend of design elements in this 2 1/2-story wood-frame house with its crowning tower, ballooning rooflines and airy porches offering fine views of the Long Island Sound was the seaside cottage of one of Connecticut’s wealthiest industrialists.
Isaac Chauncey Lewis was a native of Meriden, Connecticut where he learned as a 15 year old apprentice the creation of tableware made from Britannia – a pewter-like alloy that was hand fashioned into plates, bowls and other household products in the 19th century.
He set up his own Britannia factory in 1841. By 1852 Lewis merged with other tableware makers forming the Meriden Britannia Company of which he was president. Lewis was a leader in the mechanization of the manufacture of tableware from a small-shop production to a large-scale industrial environment using steam powered presses to stamp out the products. The industry grew throughout the latter half of the 19th century and gave Meriden its nickname as "The Silver City."
Lewis was also active as a philanthropist and a politician. He served as a state representative from Meriden for eighteen years, and beginning in 1870 served three terms as mayor. Lewis was also president of a local bank and when he died in 1893, his estate was valued as exceeding two million dollars.
The architect of the Isaac C Lewis Cottage was Henry Martin Jones who had designed Victorian houses in the tradition of the carpenter-architect for many of Meriden’s wealthy elite. Victorian architectural tastes were also driven in part by the mechanization of the building trade with steam power in the later part of the 19th century that enabled carpenters to create dense ornamental woodwork.
The Isaac C Lewis Cottage is a classic example of Victorian design that filled every surface, edge and boundary with some type of decorative surface. The shop of A. Merriam and Company in Meriden was employed which advertised "Scroll and Fancy Sawing, Planing, Turning, &c., Executed with Neatness and Dispatch" to create the elaborate architectural woodwork that gives the cottage such a strikingly distinctive and ornate character.
Sawn, turned and shaped woodwork had just become more commonly available with steam-powered building in the last 19th century and the cottage with its brackets, bargeboard and scalloped shingles displays a rich array of the finest woodworking skills of the day. Fish-scale shingles decorate the front gables, with a pair of fan or sunburst ornaments gracing the first and second stories of the front wing.
Almost all exterior surfaces are the original woodwork making it one of New England’s finest preserved examples of a Victorian Seaside cottage. The Isaac C Lewis Cottage is located at 255 Thimble Islands Road in the Stony Brook section of Branford. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 making it one of Branford, Connecticut’s most important historic homes.