Henry Augustus Taylor
- Written by Joseph B. Barnes, Esq.
Gave Milford a school, library and a church
Henry Augustus Taylor was born in New York (or Jersey City) in April 1839, the son of a Scottish-Irish Military family heralding from County Tyrone, Ireland and Laura Peters Thomas (1815-1894) Descendant of Connecticut's Fairbanks Family, some of whom arrived as early as 1633 and fought in King Phillips War, the Lexington Alarm and the Revolution, he could also trace lineage to early Dutch settlers at New Amsterdam (NYC).
His father, Henry Johns Taylor, had been prominent in politics, serving as mayor of Jersey City, and a state legislator in New Jersey. Henry declined to be involved in politics. Contemporaneous accounts from the 1890s indicated he was not involved in various social organizations either, though his estate paid a $40 claim for "dues" to the Ansantawae group (presumably the Milford Masonic Lodge).
He worked in Insurance and became developer and part owner of several small railroad lines in the northeast and midwest. Railroading was the technology of the time and a huge money maker for the aggressive and shrewd investor. It was his interest in The Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railway and Milford real estate that made up nearly all of his wealth at the end of his life. He maintained a home in New York at 47 w75th Street but moved his official, residence to Milford.
Around 1889 after first leasing the property, he purchased (fellow 2012 Milford Hall of Fame inductee) Governor Charles Hobby Pond's estate at 200 High Street in Milford, a High Victorian Gothic mansion built circa 1864. He renamed the estate "Laurelton Hall" for his mother Laura Peters Thomas Taylor and his little daughter Laura Peters Taylor who died in May of 1888 ca. age 5. It continues to this day as the Academy of our Lady of Mercy - Laurelton Hall, a Catholic girls college preparatory school founded in 1905. Laurelton Hall is on the National Register of Historic places.
New York in the gilded age of the 1890's was rife with millionaires. One pundit of the time said that anyone with "just five Millions was merely comfortably poor." Taylor, with approximately one tenth that sum was a small fish in the City. The Irony of buying the Pond estate was that he became a very Big Fish in the small pond that was turn of the century Milford. In addition to Laurelton Hall and its 23 acres he owned seven cottages on the streets surrounding the estate, a 23 acre farm, another farm of 15 acres and nine or more acres of other Milford land then valued at $60.00 per acre.
His estate showed two cottages on Burns Point (Fort Trumbull). One of these "Cottages" was itself a spectacular mansion and the largest and most elaborate Shingle Style Home in Milford. Taylor was not merely looking for a summer home to get away from the heat of downtown, just a mile to the north. He had a plan to build a series of mansions along the shore to rival the summer resort community of Newport, Rhode Island. He failed. His business associates had no interest in developing the shoreline property. Taylor's own "summer home," was the sole product of his ill-fated scheme. The grand mansion still stands, with additional construction in the 1980's, as a multiple unit condominium at his 6 Seaside Avenue address.
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