When walking through the town of Milford, it is easy to get a feel for how life may have been for the early settlers of the town. Many of the houses and buildings that line the main streets of the town were built during the heyday of the shipbuilding era that made the town what it is today. When many of these buildings were built, homes doubled as businesses as merchants lived in one section of the home and ran stores and banks from another section.
One such home is the Abbott-Browning House, located at 115 NW Front Street. The home, which was built around 1839, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is still in pristine condition. The home underwent renovations some years ago and still shows the style of when it was originally designed and built.
The home became known as the Abbott-Browning house when it was owned by Sylvester John Abbott. Mr. Abbott was a merchant and banker in Milford for many years. He was born March 23, 1852, the son of William Wilson Abbott and Mary Catherine Purnell. He married Rosalie M. Hobart in 1887, and they had two daughters, Mary Pauline and Rosalie. On the 1900 census, Mr. Abbott was listed as a clothing merchant. He, along with his family, lived with Mary Townsend, a domestic servant and their neighbors were Isaac Truitt, a bank clerk, and Mary Welch, a shoemaker.
In 1910, Mr. Abbott was listed as the Deputy Auditor for the U.S. Treasury and Pauline and Rosalie were still living at home. However, in 1914, Mary Pauline Abbott married Professor Richard Mortimer Browning, Jr. who was from Baltimore. Mr. Browning, who listed his occupation on the marriage license as organist, was the son of Richard Mortimer Browning, Sr. and his wife, Catherine Bateman Browning of Baltimore. A local newspaper account of the marriage indicated that Ms. Abbott was the daughter of Senator and Mrs. Sylvester John Abbott, and that Senator Abbott had been appointed by Roosevelt to his position.
Professor and Mrs. Browning resided in Greensboro, North Carolina for a period while Professor Abbott was employed as an organ instructor at Greensboro College for Women. Both Mr. and Mrs. Browning were graduates of the Peabody Conservatory of Music. On May 24, 1915, they had a son, Richard Mortimer Browning, Jr. (who was actually the third) and, at some point, relocated to New York.
The home on NW Front Street in Milford remained the home of Sylvester and Rosalie Abbott. There is no record of a Rosalie Abbott ever marrying, and, in fact, after Sylvester’s death, the final accounting of his estate mentioned a bill to H. Hancher for $40 for “daughter’s care”. Sylvester Abbott died on August 24, 1923 of chronic hepatitis and his death certificate listed his occupation as retired merchant and banker. Rosalie Hobart Abbott, Sylvester’s wife, died a few years later. In her will, she left $25 to her grandson, Mortimer Browning, Jr. Considering that the house is known as the Abbott-Browning house, it appears that the Browning’s may have returned to Milford to take care of Mary Pauline’s sister, Rosalie. The home was deeded to both Mary Pauline and Rosalie on September 10, 1930.
The home currently has 4 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms, with 5 fireplaces and a study. It is a 2-story, 5-bay center hall home with a raised brick foundation, gable roof, interior end chimneys and a triangular dormer with neo-Palladian windows. One unique feature of the home is the walk out basement, which was probably used as a store at one point. This home is currently for sale.
The Abbott family was a prominent family during Milford’s founding years, and many descendants of the family still live in the area today. This home is a testament to the history and legacy of the families that founded Milford and the desire to retain the historical feel of the town.