History of the Federal House

Thomas O. Hurlbut was born in Wethersfield CT in 1794, a descendent of Thomas Hurlbut who came to America in 1635. In 1822 he came to Lee with Charles Owen and started the Owen & Hurlbut Paper Company. They bought the mill of Samuel Church, built in 1806, and later bought the grist mill of Billings Brown and converted it to paper. The inn was built in 1824 as a private home for Thomas O. Hurlbut and his family.

The Owen & Hurlbut Paper Company quickly grew to become the most influential factor in the development of South Lee. By 1855 it employed 150 people. Currently owned and operated by Onyx Specialty Papers, the mill is still in operation today and continues to bear the Hurlbut name on the side of the building. It manufactures a wide variety of papers used in decorative laminates for counter tops and furniture, as well as for industrial applications. The mill can be seen from the inn across the street and to the right.

Thomas Hurlbut died at his home in 1861 age 66. His wife, the former Lucy Loomer, stayed on at the house until her death in 1880. Meanwhile Hurlbut’s sons Thomas and Henry inherited the business and in 1872 built the massive mill that remains today. It was constructed from bricks produced in the South Lee brickyard of J.T. Merrill. It was renowned as the best equipped paper Mill in America.

Henry Hurlbut occupied the house following his mother’s death in 1880. He died around 1900 and his wife Helen lived there until about 1905. It was then for many years the summer home of Henry and Lucy Morris from New York City. Morris was Henry Hurlbut’s nephew. Lucy Morris owned the house until around 1948. It stood vacant for more than a decade, falling into disrepair and used as a storage building.  Finally, in 1967, was restored by South Lee resident and college teacher Howard Washburn who gave the inn its name.

Today it is the Federal House Inn.