Shirley Jackson’s 18 Indian Hill Road: The Sequel

CJ Hauser’s latest story on the Literary Hub website begins:

My niece is 8 months old. She was born into Shirley Jackson’s old house in Westport, Connecticut, which my sister and brother-in-law bought when they wanted to start a family. Do you know who Shirley Jackson is? I’m sure you do, but if not, what I need you to know is that Shirley Jackson was an author who most famously wrote about two things: 1) children 2) haunted houses.

Jackson was a prolific writer. Her short story “The Lottery” — first published in 1948, about brutal events in a seemingly normal village, and perhaps an inspiration for “The Hunger Games” — is an English course staple. It still spooks me.

Shortly after her story appeared in The New Yorker, Jackson and her husband Stanley Hyman — a famous literary critic — rented 18 Indian Hill, for $175 a month. Jackson described Westport as “a nice fancy rich arty community.” Eventually, Ralph Ellison joined them. Dylan Thomas was a frequent guest, and J.D. Salinger played catch with Jackson’s sons.

18 Indian Hill Road, back in the day.

In 2016 I wrote about that famous house, built in 1901 with a commanding view of Saugatuck. David Loffredo owned it then, and spent nearly 2 decades researching its history. He restored much of the interior as well.

Now he’s sent along the Literary Hub piece. It mentions some of what I wrote about 3 years ago — including the fact that in October 1950, 2 days before his 8th birthday — Jackson’s son Laurence rode his bike out of the driveway, and was hit by a car.

The accident, and the lawsuit that followed, soured Jackson even more on the town she had found “too suburban for her taste, too many picnics and Cub Scout outings, a few too many self-conscious artists around.” She moved to Vermont.

18 Indian Hill, today.

In 2017, Loffredo sold the house. The new owner’s sister is Hauser.

Her Literary Hub piece includes an anecdote about Jackson and Dylan Thomas having sex on the back porch. Today a fake historical placard commemorates the event.

The bulk of the story though is about life in a famous house — specifically, the author’s niece who is growing up there.

The house may or may not be “haunted.”

But it sure has a history with a woman who made her mark writing horror stories.

(Click here to read CJ Hauser’s entire piece.)

15 responses to “Shirley Jackson’s 18 Indian Hill Road: The Sequel

  1. Loretta Santella Hallock

    Before I 95 Indian Hill was connected to Indian Hill Road. Saugatuck’s Dr. Gillette lived on the top of Indian Hill. I wonder if anyone has any old pictures?

  2. A. David Wunsch

    I recall ,circa 1955, an ancient Dr Gillette driving around town in a Model T Ford. These cars were last made in 1927. As I sat in the study hall at Staples I could hear off in the distance the loud ticking as the machine made its way along Riverside Avenue .
    ADW Staples 1956

  3. I LOVE THESE OLD VICTORIAN HOUSES OF WHICH THERE ARE MANY IN TOWN THAT HAVE NOT BEEN TORN DOWN IN FAVOR OF ANOTHER McMANSION. REMEMBER WHEN THE GUNN HOUSE ON CHURCH LANE DAVID WALDMAN [BEDFORD SQUARE] MOVED ACROSS ELM STREET TO THE BALDWIN PARKING LOT AND IS NOW OCCUPIED BY
    SERENA AND LILLY. THANK YOU DAVID FOR NOT DEMOLISHING 35 CHURCH LANE. CARYL
    SERENA AND LILLY

  4. OOPS – THE THANK YOU WAS MINE. CARYL

  5. Ive always liked that house and wondered how much more property originally went with it out front – before the “turnpike” chopped it off. And I suppose Indian Hill Road must have continued on down toward the later Eno estate. Otherwie where’s the Hill?

    • ..or at least to Route 136, the Shore Road, before the train tracks.

      • Loretta Santella Hallock

        The Hill is gone. It was off of Saugatuck Avenue and was connected to Indian Hill Road. it was the west side of Saugatuck Avenue opposite Charle Street.

  6. Peter, I spent my boyhood in the 1950s/early 60s playing in and around that house when it was owned by the Folsom family, including the years when I95 was built. I believe the front property line is now what it was before the turnpike.

  7. Loretta Santella Hallock

    I walked up that hill with my Dad almost every night before we moved from Saugatuck. Our house was on Saugatuck Avenue. The state took the property when I 95 was built . The property is now a commuter parking lot. The house was moved to Gillette Circle and It still stands there but is nothing like the original house.

    • Hi Loretta, my husband and I rented an apt in one of the houses on Dr Gillette Circle in the early 70s, the house on the left as you drive into the circle. It had a beautiful wrap around front porch where we hung out with neighbors, had parties and just relaxed. Were those houses originally one family homes before they were broken up into apts? Were all three of the houses moved across Saugatuck Ave?

  8. For all history buffs, here is information from the information about the house.
    The house was built in circa 1895 by Gershom M. Bradley. It was sold, by his son, to George Fairchild in 1920 and he lived there until his death in 1948. The owners after that, the Polliens’ removed the tower roof, seen above in the post, in 1949.

    The report states that: “the house is one of the best local examples of the transition from the Queen Anne to the picturesque Colonial Revival style.”

  9. Last time Dan posted about Shirley Jackson, I pulled up this great article in NY Review of Books. I never was interested enough to read the boo reviewed in the article, but there’s a lot of detail in the piece about the 1950’s literary world, and Ms. Jackson’s unhappy, short life.
    https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/10/27/shirley-jackson-in-love-death/

  10. David J. Loffredo

    It’s a beautiful house – almost torn down by the developer next door in 2000. Luckily we beat him to the offer and spent 17 years there renovating every inch, and raising our three daughters through 12 years of Kings Highway Elementary. We think the Folsom’s have the record for 18IHR tenure, and really enjoyed getting to know Janice, and we hope the Caputo’s break our 17 year second place.

  11. I heard a radio dramatization of “The Lottery” when I was about 15, and was horrified. Then we studied the story in Freshman English, and I was horrified again. Did you know that Shirley Jackson went to Syracuse U?

    • Also — the author, Jack Schaefer, wrote his masterpiece, “Shane,” while living in 161 Sturges Highway in Westport. The book was made into the film starring Alan Ladd. My husband and I bought the house and lived in it for a few years but it was too big for us and we downsized 1/2 mile away, in Fairfield.

      Also — the humorist and author, Peter deVries, lived on Cross Highway, east of Bayberry. He wrote many hilarious books and screenplays.

      You don’t read or hear much about these men, but a great deal about another author who spent three drunken months in Westport one Summer.

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