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Monday, April 23 News

Fairfield 375: Burr Homestead hosts historic wedding -- again

EDITOR'S NOTE: Fairfield, established in 1639, is one of Connecticut's oldest communities. From its settlement 375 years ago by English colonists on "four squares" of land that Native Americans called Uncoway to the vibrant town of 60,000 residents that it is today, Fairfield's history is a chronicle of compelling events and colorful characters.

The Fairfield Citizen will highlight vignettes from that rich history throughout this 375th anniversary year on a regular basis.

The gracious Burr Homestead has been the setting for many a beautiful wedding since it was built more than 200 years ago.

Perhaps the most famous bride and groom to tie the knot in the mansion were John Hancock, the first signer of the Declaration of Independence -- he of the large, elaborate signature -- and Dorothy Quincy, who were married on Aug. 23, 1775, by the Rev. Andrew Elliott.

A re-enactment of that historic wedding, "Summer Romance at the Burr Homestead," followed by a reception in the Burr gardens is planned this month by the Fairfield Museum and History Center exactly 239 years later, also on Aug. 23.

The Burr Homestead was built in 1732 by Thaddeus Burr, a prosperous Fairfield farmer and the uncle of Aaron Burr, who was later famously charged with treason. Thaddeus Burr played a prominent role in the early governing of Fairfield County as well as in the town of Fairfield. He was a judge and also a high sheriff for the county. In 1775, he was a member of the Fairfield town committee of war.

The history of the Burr family's estate during the American Revolutionary War era is as interesting as the people who lived in it at the time. General George Washington spent a night at the Burr Homestead in 1775 when he passed through Fairfield on his way to Boston, where he was to assume command of the Colonial army.

The original mansion was destroyed four years later in 1779 when the British burned most of the buildings in the center of Fairfield. Eunice Burr, Thaddeus's wife, narrowly escaped harm when British soldiers broke in and destroyed the furniture in her bedroom and stole her silver before burning the building to the ground. The mansion, however, was rebuilt in 1790.

The famous Hancock-Quincy wedding also took place during the Revolutionary War years in the mansion. A few days after the Battle of Lexington in 1775, Dorothy Quincy, accompanied by an aunt, traveled to Fairfield where they were to remain for an indefinite period as the guests of Thaddeus Burr. John Hancock, who had been courting Dorothy Quincy, arrived soon after, and the nuptials were held. The newly wed couple left at once for Philadelphia, arriving there about a week later.

The management of the Burr Mansion and its grounds, after an illustrious and sometimes controversial history, was taken over by the Fairfield Historical Society in the 1990s when the society assumed the stewardship for several other historic buildings in Fairfield, including the Sun Tavern on Town Hall Green.

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The re-enactment of the Hancock/Quincy wedding, "Summer Romance at the Burr Homestead," will be held Saturday, Aug. 23, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the mansion, 739 Old Post Road, following a 2 p.m. Town Green Walking Tour. There will be a reception after the ceremony in the Burr gardens. There is no charge for the event. To register or for more information, call 203-259-1598.