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Jillson House Museum

In 1825, William Jillson was putting the final few touches on his Stone House. Only a few years before, William, his brothers, Asa and Seth, and their father Luke had come to the village of Willimantic Falls to seek their fortunes. The Jillsons were experienced clothes-makers before they came. Luke Jillson had made his reputation as the inventor of the first water-driven satinet machine. William, a banker, was hired by the Windham Manufacturing Company to repair and reset the machinery in their first mill along the Willimantic River.

William Jillson built a home for his family out of a durable and readily available gneiss stone. More unusual though, is the type of masonry design that he chose for his stone house.  Architecture of the Jillson House, built in 1825 of stone quarried from the nearby riverbed, was the finest in the city. It’s distinctive appearance and extraordinary structural strength result from the use of uniform blocks of granite with carefully dressed edges lain in an ashlar pattern of alternate broad and narrow courses.  There is a magnificent carved stone arch around the fan-light over the front door.

Not long after the untimely death of William in 1831 at age 39, there began a period of benign neglect and steady decline of his Stone House. The building was divided into apartments for a time, and became used as storage space by a local mill operator. In 1920, it was bought to become a single family dwelling, but was again abandoned when the last family member died in 1965.

In the 1970’s, urban renewal was planned for Willimantic, with the Jillson Stone House among those buildings under threat of the wrecking ball. However, through the untiring efforts of the late Dr. Brae Rafferty, a former President of the Windham Historical Society, there was hope for preservation of this valuable historic and architectural landmark. Through his meticulous research and unwavering tenacity, the Jillson Stone House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

In the early 70’s, the House was fully restored under the urban renewal project by the Willimantic Redevelopment Agency. It was turned over in 1975 to the city of Willimantic, which in turn sold it for a token amount to the Windham Historical Society. Ever since, the Housed has served the Society well as a home for its activities and collections.

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