If These Walls Could Talk
Stories live on at Lambert Corner
History buff, former first selectman, and author Bob Russel, leads the Wilton Historical Society annual history walk around Lambert Corner every fall.
Photo by Stan Godlewski
Just beyond the threshold of the old Lambert homestead hovers a ghost. It recalls times of prosperity and prominence, the love between a gentleman scholar and a gifted poet, the simplicity of life in rural Wilton—and murder. It is the spirit of David Samuel Rogers Lambert, whose tragic story echoes in the timbers of the 291-year-old family home known as Lilacstead. Believed to be the oldest Wilton residence still standing, the stately Lambert dwelling, c. 1726, rests on its original foundation. A few lilac bushes, once so prolific as to inspire the home’s name, still remain. For nearly 200 years, four generations of Lamberts presided over the house and more than 100 acres of pastoral land. Today, it stands as the crown jewel of Lambert Corner.
Home to nine remarkably diverse antique structures situated on three of the original acres and nestled at the intersection of Routes 7 and 33, Lambert Corner is more than a quaint nod to Wilton’s past. It’s a rare gift. “There is nothing like this anywhere in the state,” says Wilton Historical Society executive director Leslie Nolan. “Wandering through these old buildings breathes life into history, making it real—especially to kids—in a way that nothing else can.”
Unique in their function and appearance, each structure at Lambert Corner recalls the surprising, sometimes scandalous, and often touching stories of people who passed through them over time. No one weaves those tales together quite like Bob Russell, former first selectman and author of Wilton’s most comprehensive published history: Wilton Connecticut, Three Centuries of People, Places, and Progress. Each fall, Russell leads a walking tour through the complex, recounting the Patriots, Loyalists, and family rifts that ensued; fortunes gained and fortunes lost; illegal investments in the failed Connecticut Canal; and the fates of those who came before.
Thanks to the extraordinary foresight of a handful of Wilton residents who encouraged the establishment of a local historic district in 1963, the Lambert home and overseer’s cottage were preserved, and ultimately acquired by the Wilton Historical Society.
The following year Wilton native, Robert Carvutto, donated and moved the 118-year-old Hurlbutt Street General Store and Post Office from his property to Lambert Corner. Seven years later, the Lambert overseer’s cottage and Kent Distric School, followed. When a modern railroad station was constructed in 1941, Charles Dana murchased it and moved the original 1852 station alongside the Norwalk River to use as a summer cottage. By 1972, the building had fallen into an advanced state of disrepair and was slated for demolition. Recognizing the station’s architectural beauty and historical significance, a group of Wiltonians interceded and helped finance the cost of relocating and restoring the iconic structure.
Up the sloping path from the station house sits the Cannon General Store. Nearby is the 157-year-old Davenport barn, which was dismantled, then reassembled on its current site in 1990. Recalling Wilton’s agrarian past is the hand-hewn Cannon corn crib with its original hardware. A short distance away sits a circa 1830 Greek Revival-style privy. “It’s a three-holer,” notes Russell. “One of the seats is child-size with a stepstool.”
Life still unfolds in these buildings, and business carries on, albeit of a different nature. Professionally restored and renovated for modern functionality, seven of the nine structures stand as shining examples of adaptive use.
As for Lilacstead’s apparition, David Samuel Rogers Lambert arrived home one evening to find his wife lying on the floor, bound and chloroformed by two men looking for money and silver. After a struggle, the intruders shot him. He died five days later. Pinkerton detectives were brought in and a manhunt ensued. It was the most sensational crime in Wilton’s history. To learn whodunit, join Russell his captivating tour of Lambert Corner.