Rising Sun Tavern
The Rising Sun Tavern was built in 1738 by William Walter. The intention in building this structure was to provide travelers food, drink, and a place to change horses along the road from New Haven to Middletown. The tavern has also been known as the Half-Mile House (probably in reference to the area it is located in – a half-mile strip of land once belonging to East Haven, but given to North Haven) but was renamed after the Revolutionary War in honor of the newly formed United States – a “rising sun”. William Walter and his wife Mary ran the tavern for a short time, until Mary died. The tavern was eventually sold to Gideon Todd, who ran the tavern successfully for many years. Gideon and his wife raised ten children here, all surviving to adulthood. One of the many artifacts found in the house during its 1996 restoration was a scrap from a letter signed “Lucinda Todd”, one of Gideon’s ten children.
It has been recorded that the Todd family maintained the road upon which the tavern was located. To pay for this, they erected a tollgate, at which passers-by would be charged 3 cents. It has been suggested that this tollgate was the precursor to our present gasoline tax! So that folks did not pass without paying, the woman of the house would sit in one of the front windows (pictured above) and watch for approaching travelers. While gardening in 2011, the homeowner found a large cent, dated “1822”, in the flower bed – one must wonder if Mrs. Todd dropped it after collecting a toll.
When North Haven was incorporated as a town in 1786, the newly elected town officials’ names were posted on the front door of the tavern. This would have been a common way of spreading information to those who passed by. Taverns often acted as meeting places for local folks, where news could be exchanged and socializing could take place. During the Revolutionary War, Captain Gideon Todd often gathered food supplies and weapons here, to be brought to our troops in nearby New Haven. There was even a story, held to be true for many years, about guns being hidden from the British in a secret room above the kitchen. Unfortunately, it has been determined that the kitchen was not added on to the 1738 structure until the 1820s, long after the war was over. Nevertheless, the Todds were instrumental in helping the soldiers fight the war by providing provisions, guns, and ammunition.
The tavern passed through several Todd generations, but was then sold in the early twentieth century. Several owners have loved it since, one opening a teahouse here for a short time, and another running a company selling lightning protection devices. The present owners reside in the house, now a private home. It has been opened occasionally for public tours as a benefit to the North Haven Historical Society, the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce, and the North Haven Education Foundation. The owners are often contacted by Todd descendants, and have learned much from them about the home’s previous owners.