Set on five and a half acres of lush greenery, the Tomes-Higgins house is an ideal location for receptions and parties. It is thought to be the only remaining house in Connecticut designed by the famed architect Calvert Vaux.
The style of the French Second Empire (Napoleon III—1852-1870) dominates the design of the house, which features include mansard roof (at the time so popular that it was considered “mansard madness”). The house features classical pediments, many with sculpture groups, balustrades and windows flanked by columns or pilasters and an asymmetrical arrangement of design elements. The overarching style is often called “picturesque eclecticism” because it combines architectural details of many different styles.
Francis Tomes: The Tomes-Higgins house was commissioned by Francis Tomes (rhymes with “homes”), an Englishman who came to America and imported hardware from an office near Wall Street. Tomes’s family attended Christ Church Greenwich, and in 1861 Tomes hired Calvert Vaux, an English architect, to build the family house.
Calvert Vaux: Calvert Vaux was a noted architect at the time whose commissions included Central Park (with Frederick Law Olmsted), Prospect Park, Brooklyn American Museum of Natural History, the original Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the campus of the University of California, Berkeley.
Andrew Foster Higgins: Higgins bought the house in 1877, following the unfortunate economic decline of Mr. Tomes. Andrew Foster Higgins was the principal in Johnson-Higgins Marine Insurance, which grew to be a multinational insurance company. Higgins also resuscitated the Knickerbocker Trust Company, after it caused the Panic of 1907. Higgins was a Vestryman and Warden at Christ Church Greenwich, and donated a beautiful Tiffany window in the church as memorial to his daughter and grandson. Christ Church Greenwich purchased the house from Higgins’ descendants in 1963 for use as a Rectory, and since then it has housed three Rectors. It was fully renovated in 1999, following a long campaign to save the house for future generations.