Samuel Benjamin IV was a local entrepreneur who bought and sold many Granby properties through the years. The Benjamin family has a long history in Granby, Hartland and Granville, Mass. Samuel II served in the Revolutionary War. His son Daniel was a well-known doctor who lived in North Granby. Samuel IV was born in 1841 and married Mary Williams, born 1847. They had five children.
Sam probably had a business in the Park Place store. He was involved in a variety of enterprises. In 1865, he rented a tavern on Salmon Brook Street for a year. The 1870 census calls him a wholesale merchant. The Loomis brothers called him a smart salesman or “drummer.”
In 1893 he planned to build a Seventh Day Adventist Church at 234 Salmon Brook Street and pestered the brothers into promising to furnish the carpet and the bell. James Lee Loomis said his mother was “much perturbed by this extravagant support, but regained her composure when Father assured her Sam would never get that far with the Church.” He was right, when the building was about two-thirds finished, the funds ran out and the builder foreclosed a mechanics lien.
The building was just a shell, with strangely angled doors, possibly for entrances for men and women. In the early 1900s it was converted into a store building with a Phillips Grocery Store in the south half and a barber shop in the north half. In 1943, it was remodeled into a two-family residence with three room apartments, and a furnace was added. When the house became part of Granby’s first condominiums in 1982, the renovation revealed the shape of the original arched church windows and much larger doors.
Sam Benjamin had another plan to raise money in 1895. He arranged for the manufacture of souvenir pottery mugs, stamped “Granby 1895.” They were sold in the Loomis Bros. Store. The old newspaper article describing this does not say what the mugs sold for, it was probably a minimal amount. However, today they are a valuable collectible.
When Sam bought the Park Place property, there was still a mortgage on the site owed to A. C. Green, guardian to Charles Allen. Sam kept the property for 18 months before selling it to Caroline M. Eggleston in 1889 for $1,500.
The deed included a few restrictions. The buyer would assume the mortgage owed to A. C. Green. The seller, Sam Benjamin, agreed to dispose of all manure now on the premises and “reserved the right to occupy one certain shop or building or a store house until April 1, 1890.” Sam obviously was engaged in business in the shop. This deed clearly says that the building at 6 Park Place was primarily a shop or store with living quarters on the second floor.
The new owner, Caroline Eggleston, born 1845, was married to much older Horatio W. Eggleston. Horatio, a farmer, was the son of Nathaniel and Emily (Hillyer) Eggleston. His sister, another Emily, was the second wife of Edmund Holcomb, who lived a few houses south of the Park Place store, at 254 Salmon Brook Street. The Eggleston’s lived with the Holcomb family for a few years. This was a time of change coming to Granby Center.
In the summer of 1890, the old Salmon Brook Hotel was to be torn down and replaced by a new Loomis Bros. Store. A newspaper article from August 1890 commented on this and also mentioned the building on Park Place.
“Now that the ‘old hotel’ is being torn down, one is reminded of the recent rapid disappearance of old houses about town. This building was at least 100 years old and was first used as a hotel about 1798. Another old house soon to be removed is that temporarily occupied by H. W. Eggleston. It was built in 1812, and was originally a goldsmith’s shop.”
However, it was not torn down. Instead, it became the rear ell to a newly built large house with a wrap-around front porch. Caroline Eggleston decided to become a boarding house keeper. With a husband 20 years older than she was, it was realistic to know she would probably be widowed. A boarding house would provide a comfortable and respectable means of support.
Boarders included people from Hartford who wanted to enjoy a quiet summer in the country. Traveling salesmen or “drummers” often stayed at the Eggleston Boarding House. A former neighbor, Louise, the widow of lawyer William Mills Maltbie, also boarded there with her unmarried daughter, Annie.
Horatio Eggleston died in 1903 and Caroline continued to keep her boarding house until her death in 1928. They had no children. Local tobacco grower Fred M. Colton was named executor of Caroline’s estate and sold it to William M. Bertini in 1929.
Bertini, an orphan, was raised by Mrs. Callie Sanderson of Granby. He attended local schools and then worked for a New Haven firm of hardware dealers. Later, he was employed in New York in the wholesale fruit business and also sold marine engines. He married Bessie Clark in 1914, a nurse from Chicago, and returned to Granby. They had a son and daughter. Bill Bertini engaged in farming for a few years and then worked for the Loomis Bros. Store.
In 1922, Bertini established the Granby Supply Company with Leon Holcomb. It was located near the Railroad Station on Hartford Avenue. They sold building materials, farm implements and farm supplies.
There was a lawsuit involving the Park Place house in 1937. Heirs of the Sweet and Crocker families tried to collect on the $1,000 mortgage from 1879, to Jane Crocker, that had never been paid. The court decided that the mortgage was invalid.
Almost 20 years to the day the Granby Supply Company was opened, William Bertini died in 1942, as the result of an automobile accident in Bloomfield. Granby mourned this man who had been so active in the town. He was a member of South Congregational Church, St. Mark’s Masonic Lodge, Old Newgate Coon Club, Lost Acres Fire Department and many business organizations. His son, William M. Bertini Jr. inherited the substantial house on Park Place.
William Jr. was married to Madelyn and they had two sons and one daughter. He served in WWII and then owned several gas stations in Granby and Southwick. He was an avid golfer and taught golf in Windsor.
In 1950, Bill Bertini Jr. sold his Park Place land to the Southern New England Telephone Company. He bought some land on East Granby Road, opposite today’s Geissler’s, and decided to move the Park Place house about half a mile to the new location.
The Telephone Company was planning to switch to dial phones and was constructing buildings in Simsbury and Granby. The Granby cornerstone was laid in 1951 and the new building opened the following year.
Meanwhile, Bill Bertini Jr. started to move the old house. His project made the newspapers because he also decided to have the house painted while it was being moved across lots. Each time the movers stopped moving, the painter started painting. It was expected that in two weeks the house would be placed on a new foundation and have a new white coat of paint.
From 1955 to 1989, the house was owned by several different families. In 1989, Granby Interfaith Refugee Sponsorship Inc. purchased the house from Charles and Connie Watrous. The name of the organization explained the purpose of the transaction—the two-family white Victorian house was going to provide a home for refugees.
For the next 13 years, the house sheltered people from Vietnam, Russia, Cambodia, Ukraine, Bosnia and Cuba. The refugees learned English and were helped to find jobs. They were allowed to live there rent free for two months and could not stay beyond two years. By that time, they were expected to find a new home and make room for another refugee family. The refugee use continued until 2002, when the house was sold and returned to private ownership.
When the house was moved, it was kept in the same relative position as it was on Park Place, so now the south side of the building faces East Granby Road and the front, as seen on the postcard illustration, faces west. It is easy to see that two buildings with different rooflines have been combined into one large house. The original shop or store is to the east and the boarding house is to the west.
The newspaper clipping that predicted 6 Park Place was “another old house soon to be removed” proved to be premature, and 128 years later, that house can be found at 30 East Granby Road.