Governor Fitch Law Office

A Colonial Governor’s Legacy

The building now known as the Fitch Law Office was originally the kitchen wing of Governor Thomas Fitch’s house which once stood at 173 East Avenue. While the house itself could not be saved ahead of the construction of I-95, local efforts saw the preservation of the kitchen wing. This portion of the building was moved to Hendricks Court, before being moved to its present location at Mill Hill in 1971.

By the time it was moved to Mill Hill, the building was “in rough shape.” The stairs were partly missing, the attic partly exposed through one of the gables and, to facilitate its move, the chimney was taken down to the roofline. In order to accommodate this new building, Mill Hill was altered; architect John Gaydosh organized 870 cubic yards of fill moved from the new Norwalk High School construction site to extend the flat surface southward with an additional 120 cubic yards of material to allow the cellar to be constructed under the Office.

c. 1740 Governor Fitch Law Office - Photo: Tod Bryant
Once in its new location, reconstruction efforts on the Fitch Law Office began. Because of the terrible condition, it was possible to identify the outline of the original long box staircase and the initial placement of the door. Period-specific materials were taken, where possible, from contemporary structures facing demolition. For instance, the sheathing from 51 East Avenue (Kish Real Estate) was reused on the Law Office. Unfortunately, this was not possible for the fireplace. Aside from the Yankee crane, the fireplace was completely reconstructed.
The ownership of the Fitch could be traced back to the 1700s, but little information exists about many of the previous proprietors.
Thomas Fitch, the 14th governor of the Colony of Connecticut and the great-grandson of one of the founders of Norwalk, was born in Norwalk around 1700. He attended Yale College where he earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in law in the early-to-mid-1720s. While there Thomas became involved with the Episcopalian religious movement and, after the dismissal of Rev. Buckingham in 1726, he used to deliver sermons in Norwalk on occasion. Around the same time, he was elected to the General Assembly and was appointed Justice of the Peace. Between 1733 and 1766, Thomas Fitch was continually in public office, serving either as assistant, deputy-governor or governor (1754-1766).
Title Unknown, c. 1912 | Oil on Canvas | Joline Butler Smith (1849-1946) | The Museum of Connecticut History
Upon Governor Fitch’s death, his estate was bequeathed to his wife, Hannah. His house, homelot, barn and one-third of all his real estate was to be hers for the rest of her natural life. The remaining two-thirds was divided among his living sons and his grand-children by his son Ebenezer who had passed. Of his children, only two remained in Norwalk: Colonel Thomas Fitch and Timothy.
Col. Thomas Fitch left Norwalk to pursue a military career. Upon his return, he married and within two months, his father gifted him five acres of land he had purchased from Benjamin Keeler six years prior (see the warranty deeds 12:257 and 11:330 in the Norwalk Land Records). This property was across the street and would later be referred to by Charles Selleck as the “Hendrick’s property along East Avenue.” Governor Fitch’s house, consequently, was probably transferred to Timothy as he was the last remaining son in town. 
Timothy married Esther Platt and had several children, two of whom would have descendants that owned the Governor Fitch property. Their son, Edward, married Col. Thomas Fitch’s daughter, Mary Esther, and their daughter, Esther, married her third cousin, Samuel Marvin Fitch. 
Upon Timothy’s death, his property was divided among his children. Edward and Joseph sold their interests in 1804 to their brother-in-law, Samuel Marvin. Before he died and bequeathed his entire household to his daughter Betsy Roberts, Samuel sold the property to George B. Fitch. Unfortunately, it has been impossible to positively identify George’s relationship to Samuel. However, it is not beyond reason to believe he is Samuel’s grandson (the child of Samuel’s son, Edward). 
George held onto the property for 21 years before selling it to his cousin, Edwin, who was the son of Samuel Marvin’s brother, Daniel. Edwin died and the property transferred to his wife, Almira, and his daughter, Mary. Almira and Mary decide to divest their interests. They sell the house and its lot to Edwin’s brother, Daniel Warren (also known as D. Warren). The following year, Daniel Warren died and his estate was purchased by Sarah E. 
The identity of Sarah E. is uncertain as there were several people named Sarah Fitch or Sarah Elizabeth Fitch. However, the last person to own the Governor Fitch house was Sarah Fitch who, according to Selleck, was living in the house by 1896. While her middle name was not substantiated and no other land records could be found (she died testate) save for an ascertain of heirs, it is possible Sarah E. is the same Sarah who was the last Fitch to live in the house. If it is, she was the daughter of Samuel Marvin’s son, Edward, and his second wife, Julia Silliman. She died in 1945 and the property was purchased by the state soon thereafter. The Norwalk Common Council leased the house to the Norwalk Historical Society in 1962.
Researched by Daryn Reyman-Lock, PhD

Dr. Daryn Reyman-Lock is a native of Connecticut. After graduating from Lehigh University with a B.S. in Geologic Sciences and a B.A. in Archaeology, she matriculated to the University of Nottingham in England to complete a Masters and Ph.D. in Archaeology. Her research is concerned with the social constructs of space and phenomenology.

Upon returning to the United States in 2012, she began working as a historic preservation specialist. Dr. Reyman-Lock often works closely with non-profits to curate exhibits, catalogue and move museum collections, and research historic landscapes and buildings. She also consults for municipalities on a variety of projects.

Read about the 1971 restoration and 2018 reinterpretation of the Governor Fitch Law Office