Category Archives: Historic Home Museums

The Oliver Ellsworth Homestead and Museum in Windsor is welcoming visitors through  October 12.

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That name may not ring a bell with most today, but Oliver Ellsworth was one of our nation’s founders, and an important one at that. His accomplishments included:

  • As a Connecticut delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia , he was among the select few who helped draft what became our nation’s basic governing document;
  • He was Connecticut’s first United States Senator;
  • And, he was the third Chief Justice of the United States.

There were two other things that were even more important than the public offices he held. He is credited, along with fellow Connecticut delegate Roger Sherman, with developing what became known as The Connecticut Compromise, or just The Great Compromise.

The word “compromise” may be anathema to certain true believers today, but that willingness to work together on a contentious issue decided the fate of the federal legislature, and it could be argued the country itself.

The agreement called for an upper legislative chamber, a senate that had two members from each state, regardless of size. Up to that point, there were serious disagreements between the large and small states. The effort  to create a national government that could actually govern hung in the balance.

As if that weren’t enough, we can thank Ellsworth for the very name of our country. He authored an amendment that removed the word “national” and replaced it with “United States,” as in the United States of America.

The Georgian style structure in Windsor that Ellsworth called home has been expanded since it was built in 1740 and it was subject to major upgrades in more recent times by its present owners, the Connecticut Daughters of the American Revolution, which owns a number of historically significant properties in the state.  The Ellsworth family home  was built on land that had been in the family since 1664.

If you visit the home situated on 12 acres in the north central part of Connecticut, keep in mind that among many others who walked through the front door were two sitting U.S. Presidents, George Washington in 1789 and John Adams, a decade later in 1799. It was a measure of the respect our country’s earliest leaders held for this Connecticut native.

He called his small patch of Connecticut soil Elmwood and such was his patriotic fervor that he planted 13 elm trees there to symbolize the newly created 13 states.  The trees haven’t survived, but the noble experiment in democracy that he championed lives on.

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The Ellsworth Homestead and Museum

778 Palisado Ave.

Windsor, CT 06095

860-688-8717

Open through Oct. 12

Fridays 12:00 Noon until 4:00 PM;
Saturdays 12:00 Noon until 4:00 PM;
Sundays 1:00 PM until 4:00 PM. 

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Norwich’s Leffingwell House Museum once entertained George Washington and Benedict Arnold, but not at the same time

CT Hist Leffingwell House Museum

Christopher Leffingwell wasn’t the first owner of the stately house that bears his family name in the historic city of Norwich, but he was, arguably, the most notable.  It was his entrepreneurial skills and business sense that made him a significant supplier of provisions for Washington’s Continental Army.

The home he inherited wasn’t always as big as it became when visitors as varied as Uncas, the great Mohegan sachem, General Washington himself and his one-time neighbor, Benedict Arnold came calling.

The house built by Stephen Backus, Circa 1675, was initially a two-room structure that expanded over time as needs changed.  The initial addition  allowed it to be use as an inn and gathering spot for those historic personages and many more ordinary travelers.

The current owners, the Society of the Founders of Norwich , term it a living museum, an apt description. It is one of many house museums to be found in Connecticut, but this one has a special resonance.

In addition to being an extraordinary example of a restored example of New England Colonial architecture, the Leffingwell House Museum offers a little something for everyone’s  interests.

The eastern Connecticut city of Norwich, where the Leffingwells were among the original settlers, is one of the state’s oldest communities. It was once among its richest communities and a most productive example of our nation’s the spirit of innovation.

It played significant roles in both the Revolutionary War and again in the Civil War, where its manufacturing and commerce  aided the national causes.

Examples of this past can be found in displays throughout the Leffingwell House. These include  all manner of things from the Colonial era; items brought back from China and elsewhere by whaling captains; British-made pewter; a British uniform frock and even samplers that were used to teach young girls how to needlepoint  as their learned their alphabet and numbers.

But among the most stirring things to see is the nearly 200-year-old U.S. flag designed by Samuel Chester Reid, a navy captain and Norwich native. The flag created by Reid by was adopted by Congress as the basic American flag design. This one was found in the attic of a Norwich home and is proudly displayed.

That cherished bit of Americana alone is worth a visit, but it in terms of offerings, it is one among many.

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Leffingwell House Museum 

348 Washington St, Norwich, CT 06360
(860) 889-9440

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History blossoms at 14 gardens planted around Connecticut

weir Farm National Historic Site

The Weir Farm

Connecticut offers its history up to visitors in many forms, shapes and colors. The most familiar might be museums, battle sites, house museums and, yes, colorful gardens that grace Connecticut’s landscape and accentuate its past.

Connecticut’s Historic Gardens , a group that promotes this part of the state’s history, has highlighted 14 of them.

The Weir Farm National Historic Site in Wilton — the only national park devoted to American painting– is perhaps the best known, given that it was home to three generations of Weir family artists, starting in with J. Alden Weir, a pioneer in the development of American Impressionism.

If there were an award for the historic garden site with the most interesting name would go to the Thankful Arnold House Museum in Haddam, which features the Wilhelmina Ann Arnold Barnhart Memorial Garden.  Itmay be the garden with the longest name.

The other 12 historic gardens located throughout the state are:

Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden,  Bethlehem  06751Butler-McCook House & Garden, Hartford 06103;   Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme 06371; Glebe House Museum & The Gertrude Jekyll Garden, Woodbury 06798; Harkness Memorial State Park, Waterford 06385Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford, CT 06105; Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington 06032; New London County Historical Society & Shaw Mansion, New London 06320; Osborne Homestead Museum & Kellogg Environmental Center, Derby, CT 06418; Promisek at Three Rivers Farm, Bridgewater, CT 06752;  Roseland Cottage, Woodstock 06281; Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum , Wethersfield 06109;

The Henry Whitfield State Museum stands as a Reminder of a Time Little Remembered in Connecticut’s Past

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This year marks the 375th anniversary of what began as a home for the Rev. Henry Whitfield in Guilford. He built a home and helped found a town.

It was 19 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth when the Rev. Whitfield, leading a group of fellow Puritans arrived here with a desire to worship as they pleased. It would be the forerunner of journeys taken by so many others in succeeding generations.

The community they hoped to form would be an outpost from the deadly challenges back in England, a country tearing itself apart in what would become known as the English Civil War, a protracted period of sectarian strife. Today, as Connecticut Public Television has noted, the home is one of Connecticut’s Cultural Treasures.

His home, the Henry Whitfield State Museum, one of three museums owned and operated by the state, has a number of historic milestones to its credit. Among them:

  • The oldest home in Connecticut.
  • The oldest stone house in New England.
  • Connecticut’s first state museum, opened in 1899.

Accompany CPTV on this brief walk through an early part of Connecticut’s past.

 

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The Henry Whitfield State Museum

HOURS

January – April 22, 2014

  • Open by appointment Monday-Friday, 10:00-4:30.
  • Regular admission fees (no discount coupons or library passes accepted).
  • Call 203-453-2457 or e-mail whitfieldmuseum@ct.gov for details or to make a reservation.

May 1 – December 14, 2014

  • Open Wednesday-Sunday, 10:00-4:30 (last tickets sold at 4:00 pm).

CLOSED Mondays, Tuesdays, July 4, and Thanksgiving Day

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Walk Through One of the Few Remaining Houses in Connecticut from the 1600s.

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Photo: East Lyme Historical Society

The Thomas Lee House and Museum in East Lyme, built between 1660 and 1664, is one of Connecticut’s oldest wood frame houses still in its primitive state.

You can walk through rooms named for their functionality: the buttery, the borning room and Mr. C’s favorite, Judgement (yes, that’s how it was spelled) Hall.

In 1915 at the completion of a restoration project there, former U.S. President William Howard Taft delivered the principal address at the annual meeting of the East Lyme Historical Society.

For Taft, the journey to East Lyme was not as long as might be presumed. After leaving the White House in 1913, he and his wife, Helen, moved to New Haven, where the former president taught at Yale Law School.

The Trumbulls Played Big Roles in our Nation’s History

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Facing Lebanon’s Town Green and open to the public is the Gov. Trumbull House.  Inside you can see how the only colonial governor who supported the Revolution, a man whom Gen. Washington said was indispensable to our country’s victory. Gov. Trumbull who organized the effort to provide essential supplies including food for Washington’s Continental Army that led to Connecticut being called the “provisioning state” was also a merchant whose dealings spread beyond the colonies to overseas trade in the years leading up to the fight for independence. Today it is owned by the Connecticut Daughters of the American Revolution.

A son of the war-time governor, Jonathan Trumbull Jr. served as Gen Washington’s secretary and held a number of other notable posts before becoming a United States Senator, Congressman and Governor of Connecticut. His home is owned by the town of Lebanon.