The "Jason Skinner House'
Roger P. Plaskett

Over at the Harwinton Housing Authority complex on Bentley Drive (Wintergreen) stands a beautiful house that has only been there since 1987. Yet this house was the first house in Harwinton to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places; was the home of the State's most powerful Republican political leader ever, and very likely, standing within its walls were two United State's Presidents. So the questions are many regarding this structure and its history and rejuvenation into the magnificent stoic icon that is now known as "THE JASON SKINNER HOUSE".

This house stood on a large piece of land located well into the woods off of South Road about 1 mile south of the center green. It has been verified that the house was built in the early 1800's. I feel that it's very likely the year was 1801. It was built by Aaron Skinner who lived there until 1830 when he sold it to his son Jason. Jason Skinner owned it for 36 years and finally sold it to Ezekiel Scoville in 1866. Only three years later Scoville sold it to his daughter Amorette and her husband Elijah Lloyd. This family operated the farm until Amorette died in 1905. The farm passed onto her daughter Bulah Lloyd and her husband John William Shanley and they owned it up to 1931.

It was here that the path of the future for the old house would change gradually but dramatically. The Shanley's sold the property to John Henry Roraback. Mr. Roraback was one of the most successful business men and one of the most powerful political leaders in the State at that time. His credentials included being the founder and president of the Connecticut Light and Power Company, a company that he worked for and lead for 25 years. He passed the State's BAR exam without ever going to law school and was a practicing lawyer. He was President of the Connecticut Electric Service Company. He was Chairman of the State Republican Central Committee. In 1920 he was admitted to the Republican National Committee. He was also on the Calvin Coolidge re-election National Committee. His successes were numerous.

Over the years he amassed a good deal of Harwinton land to the point where he actually owned about 10% of the total acreage in our town. He owned the three Valley View Farms, two located on South Road and the other on Plymouth Road. There was a "Hunting Lodge" on South Road where many political parties were held. He owned a house off of Swimming Hole Road and, of course, the house known as the "Skinner House". There are newspaper articles that say he hosted both Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover at his home. Its a good sumation that the home was the Skinner House.

In 1936 Mr. Roraback was now 66 years old and still full of vigor and very active when he contracted a streptococcus infection and nearly died. In fact, he never really did recover fully and finally, when he could not stand the limitations the infection had left him with regarding his ability to perform at his self imposed high standards, he ended his life just outside the house, in his car, with one shot from his pistol in 1937.

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