Historic Norwich house to be auctioned Saturday

The 1743 Michael Darrow house on Ox Hill Road in Norwich is seen Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. It is scheduled to be sold at foreclosure auction on Saturday. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
The 1743 Michael Darrow house on Ox Hill Road in Norwich is seen Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. It is scheduled to be sold at foreclosure auction on Saturday. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Norwich — A mid-18th century house in the Norwichtown Historic District with a connection to one of the most famous trial lawyers of the 20th century will be sold at a mortgage foreclosure auction at noon Saturday.

The 1743 gray, cape-style house with a separate carriage house apartment at 6 Ox Hill Road is located on a 0.42-acre terraced yard in the triangle formed at the junction with Canterbury Turnpike.

Eastern Savings Bank foreclosed on the house, owned by Eunice Robbins, for the outstanding $47,378 owed on the mortgage. The house was appraised at a fair market value of $187,500. The auction will take place at noon Saturday by court-appointed attorney David Williams.

Norwich farmer Michael Darrow built his original house at the property in 1743, according to “Norwich Historic Homes and Families” by Catherine Smith Doroshevich and Marian K. O'Keefe, which was published by the Society of the Founders of Norwich in 1967.

Darrow apparently split his time between Norwich and New London. When he settled more permanently in Norwich in 1773, he either added to his original house or built a new home there.

“Clarence Darrow, the famous lawyer, is a direct descendant of this Michael Darrow,” the two authors wrote, with no additional details on the connection.

Clarence Darrow became one of the best known trial lawyers in the United States in the early 20th century for his flamboyant and eloquent oratories in high-profile criminal trials. Born in Ohio in 1857, Darrow rose to fame in Chicago, where he defended railroad labor union President Eugene Debs, arrested in a bitter and violent railroad strike, according to an online biography published by Encyclopedia Britannica.

Notoriety from that trial gained him fame as a defender of labor leaders. He defended coal miners in a Pennsylvania strike and exposed child labor abuses and poor working conditions.

But his biggest cases came in 1924 and 1925. In 1924, Darrow defended Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb in the sensational Chicago murder trial, successfully saving them from the death penalty for the murder of a 14-year-old boy.

A year later in Dayton, Tenn., Darrow unsuccessfully defended high school science teacher John T. Scopes, who was arrested for teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The so-called “monkey trial” was a national spectacle and was fictionalized in a play, “Inherit the Wind,” and later a movie starring Spencer Tracy.

Scott Learned, chairman of the Norwich Historic District Commission, said he is concerned that potential buyers at Saturday's auction might not be aware that the house is in the local historic district and subject to rules governing exterior renovations. Real estate agents generally inform people about the historic district rules in house sales, but that might not be the case at an auction, he said.

“In a case like this, it could be a short sale to any buyer,” Learned said. “Anyone who buys that property will have to conform to historic district commission rules.”

The commission must approve any proposed plans for construction, reconstruction or restoration of structures within the historic district to ensure that any changes visible from the street retain the character of the district. The commission issues a “certificate of appropriateness” following a public hearing on proposed changes.



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