Monday - Thursday 10:00 am to 9:00 pm
Friday and Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
The David Smith House is located on Maple Avenue immediately north of the Green and town hall. The front part of the lot is landscaped with many gardens and large maple
trees; to the north and east are open fields.
The south gable facade is marked by a pedimented gable-roofed portico supported by two round columns having plain bases and capitals; it shelters a south six-panel (reproduction) door having plain moulding. Surmounting the doorway is a delicate leaded-glass fanlight. All windows are twelve-over-twelve sash with crown-moulded cornices flanked by louvered shutters except for the eight-over-twelve sash central gable window. A peculiar Connecticut feature that has persisted even in this later structure is a “coffin door” on the south end of the east side. A 2 story, 3/4 length, gable-roofed north addition, including a south open porch, was added in the late 1800s. A small single-story gable-roofed building, which probably once was the wood shed, was added to the west side of the north addition.
The Rev. David Smith House was built in 1803. It is a 3 bay, 2 1/2 story, Federal-period, side-hall-plan house. The post-and-beam frame building, resting on a mortared sandstone block foundation, is sheathed with clapboarding and is covered by an asphalt-shingled gable roof with an off-center chimney.
Upon appointment as Durham’s minister, Rev. Smith was given a 999 year lease on a five-acre lot of land by the town. In 1803 he built his home. In 1843 Smith leased the land to his daughters Catherine and Elizabeth. From this point on, the land was handed down through the family by warrant deed. The house is presently in the hands of a descendant of David Smith, Constance Hart Goodwin. David Smith was born in Bozrah, Connecticut, on December 13, 1767. He married Betsy Marsh when he was 16 or 17 and had one son, David Marsh. Betsy’s early death prompted him to prepare for college. He studied without an instructor for a short period, then studied under Rev. Jacob Catlin of New Marlborough, Massachusetts, and finally, in 1792, was accepted at Yale College as a sophomore and graduated three years later. David taught school in Sheffield, Massachusetts, and shortly after, in 1796, began study in theology with Rev. Ephraim Judson. That October Smith was licensed to preach by the Association of Berkshire County. February 10, 1799, he preached in Durham and soon after was asked by the town to settle there. He was the second minister of Durham. In [1800?]
he received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Hamilton College. During his ministry in Durham “he showed more than common ability, enterprise and energy” (Fowler, p. 76). However the 33 years of Smith’s preaching were difficult ones. As government had changed, so had the attitudes towards the old religious ways which encompassed
and held Durham’s citizens together throughout its history. When Rev. David Smith’s ministry commenced in Durham, it was called the “New Divinity.” However, as time
went on, Smith adhered to his old Hopkinsian beliefs and his ministry began to be referred to as the “Old Divinity” (Fowler, p. 74). As Fowler explains: ” … differences of opinion grew up among the people themselves so that the position of the clergy became delicate in relation to different political parties in their parishes.” (p. 76)
In 1804 the ecclesiastical society separated from the town of Durham and during his term there were “six revivals of religion.” (p. 73)
” . An ecclesiastical council convened at the house of the Rev. David Smith, D.D., in Durham, Jan. 11, 1832, by letters missive, from the pastor and the committee of the church and society in said place, for the purpose of dissolving the pastoral relation, between him and them … ” (Fowler, p. 72). The Rev. Mr. Smith retired from the ministry in 1833 and pursued farming. During his later years he substantially increased his land holdings in Durham. He preached every now and then in towns around Durham and died March 5, 1862, at his daughter’s house in Fair Haven. He was 94.
The Rev. David Smith House is not only noteworthy for its particularly fine Federal-Period architecture and detail, but for its owners. Smith was a prominent
early minister in Durham and the house has been owned by the same family for 180 years.