The Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum in Wethersfield offers visitors a rare peek into what life was like in colonial Connecticut. Though called a museum, the attraction is actually more of a “historical complex” than anything else, featuring four historical houses, a barn, colonial revival garden, and museum shop.
The Joseph Webb House
This house, a national historic landmark, served as George Washington’s headquarters in 1781 as he planned the military campaign that led to the victory at Yorktown and the end of the Revolutionary War (can we hear a round of applause for Connecticut?).
The structure was built in 1752 by the merchant Joseph Webb. Later in its history, it was sold to Wallace Nutting, who redecorated the interior (including the installation of many now-famous painted murals) and opened it to the public. It was then sold to the Colonial Dames of Connecticut, who maintain it today.
Silas Deane House
The Silas Deane house was designed and built by a prominent lawyer (can you guess his name?) around 1769. It is located next to the Joseph Webb House (having been built after Deane married Joseph Webb’s widow).
Beyond merely being a lawyer, Deane was a representative to the Colonial Assembly in Hartford and had a direct hand in events leading up to the Revolutionary War. He helped to plan and finance the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, and later traveled to France to seek aid for the rebels. He is often known a America’s first diplomat.
The house transferred hands a number of times until ultimately it was left to the Colonial Dames of Connecticut. It was carefully restored and refurnished so as to be historically accurate, with a cut-off date of 1776 for furnishings and style.
Isaac Stevens House
Built by leatherworker Isaac Stevens in 1788, this house is smaller than the others owned by the museum and makes use of some unique features (such as sliding shutters as opposed to folding shutters). The house made its way into the hands of the Colonial Dames of Connecticut, who restored it and opened it to the public in 1963.
The house’s first floor consists of “period interiors” that offer visitors a look into how a middle-class family in the 1820s and 1830s might have lived. The second floor is now full of children’s exhibits, showcasing toys, dolls, doll houses, and sleeping/living arrangements of children in the 1820s and 1830s.
This is the oldest of the homes in the complex, having been built originally in 1711. In 1941, it was restored according to historically conservative practices (preserving the stone foundation, chimney stack, hewn-timber framing, and much of the interior woodwork, doors, and floorboards).
The interior of the house acts as a display for a late 17th century collection of American decorative arts. This includes pilgrim furniture, early-colonial cooking utensils, pewter items, and other items.
This house inspired author Elizabeth George Speare to write the novel The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The museum offers tours centered around the events of the book for school-age children.
Four Homes Telling a Story
When you visit the historical complex run by the museum, what is likely to strike you is just how different each of the houses looks. From an architectural standpoint, these houses are all unique despite having all been built within just a span of 90 some odd years—and if you take out the Buttolph-Williams House, those remaining were all built within 40 years of each other.
Beyond architecture, the museum uses the houses, grounds, and exhibits to show visitors what life may have been like for the average middle-class family at various times in Connecticut’s history. From colonial Connecticut through the Revolutionary War and into the 1830’s, you’ll learn a lot about the tastes and sensibilities of the people who made our state into what it is today.
Where: Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum, 211 Main Street, Wethersfield
When: Hours are dependent on the season and are liable to change, so please see the hours of operations page of the museum website here.
Cost: Tickets to tour the first three houses together are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (60+), $6 for students and children age 5 to 18, and $28 per family (2 adults and however many children). The Buttolph-Williams House tour costs $6 for adults, $5 for seniors (60+) and for students and children age 5-18, and $15 per family (2 adults and however many children).