The Nathan Denison House
35 Dennison Street, Forty Fort, PA (one block off of Wyoming Ave., across from the airport)
Born in Windham, Connecticut, Nathan Denison was one of the first forty shareholders in the Susquehannah Company to settle five new towns in the Wyoming Valley in February 1769. Denison married Elizabeth Sills in the first recorded wedding in the area.
Denison became a popular leader of the pioneer settlers from Connecticut. In the years 1774, 1776, 1781 and 1782, he served as a Justice of the Peace under Connecticut jurisdiction in Westmoreland County (as the settlers first called Northeastern Pennsylvania). As colonel of the local militia, and second in command to Colonel Zebulon Butler, Denison distinguished himself in the ill-fated Battle of Wyoming and negotiated the resultant surrender of Forty Fort to the British. Forty Fort was named for the 40 settlers that originally came to this area from Connecticut.
Both the Pennsylvania and Connecticut governments claimed the Wyoming Valley area. As a court judge, Denison helped resolve the disputed settlement claims. In 1786 when these titles were negotiated for the first time and Luzerne County was formed, he was chosen as the area’s representative to the Pennsylvania’s Supreme Executive Council (similar to the present-day Senate).
In 1790, Nathan Denison built his house on the western bank of Abrams Creek in then Kingston Township (now Forty Fort). He lived here until his death in 1809. Although typical of the homes in Connecticut, it was built in a style unusual to Pennsylvania. As visitors can see, the rooms in this type of New England house are arranged around a great central chimney. The stone wall located in front of the Denison site also gives a Connecticut appearance to the house. In Nathan Denison’s time, it would have been located at the original property lines instead of near the home.
Various members of the Denison family owned the house after the Colonel’s death. In the 19th century, porches and several additions changed the character of the home. The original appearance of the house was revealed through research and archeological investigations. The Bureau of Historic Sites and Properties of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission began restoration in 1976. The house has been owned by the Luzerne County Historical Society since 2010.
Today the house appears as it did in the 1790s. Both the architecture and furnishings show the conservative taste of Nathan Denison.
Behind this historic house is the service building with an information center and public rest room.
The Denison Homestead of the New England branch of the family is open to the public in Mystic, Connecticut. This historic site was built in 1717, and was the home of this family for several generations when Nathan moved to the Wyoming Valley. His house in Pennsylvania was fashioned after this Connecticut homestead.
The Nathan Denison House is open to the public on Sunday afternoons during the summer with tours by the Denison Advocates; admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children. For more information call the Luzerne County Historical Society at 570-823-6244 x 3.