The General Tom
Thumb House at Warrentown
Middleborough's most historically significant architectural
treasures is the Charles Sherwood Stratton House on Plymouth
Street at Warrentown. Constructed in 1869-70 by Charles Sherwood
Stratton and Lavinia Warren (better known as General and Mrs.
Tom Thumb), the house was built on the historic Warren Farm
opposite Lavinia's birthplace and became a welcome retreat for
the couple between grueling months of touring.
the Warren Farm at Warrentown on which the house would be built
from Nahum M. Tribou of Middleborough on October 1, 1864. The
farm, situated between Plymouth Street and the Nemasket River,
comprised the northern third of Tribou's own farm. Tribou had
used the 80 acres of land which sloped westwards down to the
Nemasket River for cultivation, and following his sale of the
property to Stratton, he reserved the right to harvest the
remaining crops on the land for the 1864 season.
At the close of the
same month, the Strattons embarked upon a three-year European
tour during which time the property was probably under
cultivation by Lavinia's brothers. Upon their return, the
Strattons retired to Warrentown and were reported as enjoying
"summer at the old homestead" in August, 1867. It appears that
for a time at least, the Strattons continued to use the
Warrentown property as a farm, and Stratton was awarded a
premium at the annual Plymouth County Fair in early fall, 1868.
Middleboro Massachusetts House - General Tom Thumb - Charles
A year later, the
couple began the construction of a large French Second
Empire-style mansion on the farm property, and the construction
of this house at Warrentown prompted Lavinia's brother, Sylvanus,
to build his own home there, indicating the close ties which the
family had. "Sylvanus Bump is putting up a neat cottage house
near the residence of his father and brother-in-law 'Tom Thumb,'
at Warrentown village." Sylvanus along with his brother George
continued to farm the former Warren farm throughout the period,
working alongside their father in this effort.
In September, 1869,
the frame of the Stratton House at Warrentown was damaged by a
severe storm in early September. "The most serious disaster
occurred to the lately raised dwelling house of Charles Stratton
(Tom Thumb) which had just been shingled. It seemed to have been
taken up bodily and cast down, broken in fragments, into the
cellar." The storm did severe damage throughout town, blowing
over some fifty chimneys and damaging the steeples of the
Central Congregational and Central Baptist Churches at
Middleborough Four Corners. "The morning of Thursday was indeed
a ragged looking morning; trees, many valuable ones, small wood
sheds, old barns, blinds from houses, glass and sashes from the
windows, fences &c., lay around promiscuously."
Despite the damage,
the Strattons chose to rebuild. As a builder, the couple chose
Alvin Crowell, who constructed the house with the couple's needs
in mind. Windows were set 16 inches from the floor and stair
risers were 6 inches high. To accommodate Lavinia, who enjoyed
cooking, a small cast iron range was fitted in the kitchen.
Given the couple's
considerable financial means, the home's exterior was
surprisingly modest, though the interior was richly finished in
black walnut. The inside was furnished with furniture much of
which was scaled to the couple's small size and much of which
had been received as gifts. The parlor featured a suite of small
furniture which the couple used on the stage as well as a
miniature grand piano with a case inlaid with pearl, so small
that an average sized person was unable to play upon it. The
furniture, in fact, was described as "the smallest practical
furniture in use."
the couple used normal-sized service china in the home,
reportedly "because they had normal appetites," but more likely
because they did much entertaining. For meals, Lavinia preferred
meat and fruit. "I am fond of sweets, candies of all kinds, and
especially peppermint. But I don't care for ice cream," she told
a reporter later in life regarding her sweet tooth.
In one of the
bedrooms was located the bedroom suite which Stratton had used
when he first entered public life. The bed featured draperies
and a golden crown surmounting the top, and the suite included a
matching bureau, dressing table and chairs. Stratton maintained
a billiard room on the third floor where the billiard table
which the couple had received as a wedding gift was located.
inordinately found of domestic pursuits, including cooking, and
she particularly enjoyed sewing, possessing a number of
miniature machines. Her nephew Benjamin W. Bump later recalled:
"My aunt "¦ enjoyed nothing better than running her doll-like
sewing machine. This had been one of her wedding presents."
given Stratton's penchant for horses, a commodious stable was
built on the grounds of the Warrentown house in November, 1874,
to accommodate not only the ponies but "the blooded horses that
the General so enjoyed driving at a fast pace along the country
roads"¦." Stratton's Shetland ponies were well known, it being
reported in 1879 that "his Shetland ponies are twenty years old
and have been in this country sixteen years. Together they weigh
only five hundred pounds. They have trotted forty miles in eight
hours." Lavinia, too, favored horses, and in June, 1875, she
arrived home at Warrentown with a pony train.
The stable was also
where "were placed the many little canes presented to the
General, the riding whips and the saddle he used. Hanging over
chairs were little coats and costumes used by him in the skits
he presented on the stage."
retained the Warrentown house until 1888 when five years after
Tom's death, Lavinia sold the property to her brother, Sylvanus
Visit the Middleborough
Historical Museum (open each Wednesday) to learn more about the
Strattons and their Warrentown home life, and for more local
history go to
Article from -
Middleboro Gazette - August 05, 2010
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