The Noah Webster House in West Hartford is the 18th-century birthplace and home of Noah Webster (of dictionary fame). In addition to being educational, a visit to the historical society can be loads of fun for a family with younger children, who will actively learn through hands-on activities. This is a great place to visit over the winter holiday or any other time of year when you’ve got bored kids at home but nowhere to go because of rain, snow, or heat.
About the Man
Noah Webster was born in his namesake house in 1758. His father was a farmer and weaver, while his mother tended the home. Webster was a natural “learner,” and because he showed academic promise his parents sent him to Yale University, even though college education was not the norm for the time.
Though he wanted to study law, Webster did not have enough money to continue his education, so he became a school teacher. This is when he realized that the American education system was broken: Even after the American Revolution, schoolchildren were learning from books from Britain. Determined to create an American alternative, he created his own textbook called A Grammatical Institute of the English Language which was also called “The Blueback Speller” due to its cover.
This book was used for more than 100 years to teach children to read, spell, and pronounce words, and was immensely popular, selling over 100 million copies. For the rest of his life, he pursued various interests including lawmaking and fighting for the abolition of slavery. By 1828, he had finally published his namesake Dictionary, which held the definitions of more than 65,000 words and would come to standardize the way that Americans from all around the country spelled.
About the Museum
There’s a lot to do at the house and museum, so staff members recommend you allot 2 hours (at a minimum) for your visit.
Upon arriving, guests have the option of watching a short film about Noah Webster before moving into the tour. The house itself consists of 4 period-furnished rooms on 2 floors. A costumed-guide brings visitors through the home, explaining the significance of items and answering any questions. Though the second story is not handicapped accessible, the museum does offer a tablet tour so that they can experience all that the museum has to offer.
After the tour, there is an interactive space perfect for young children to learn by playing, called Noah’s Discovery Learning Space. Here, children can play pretend “Colonial House,” with fake food and costumes; try their hand at archaeology; and have fun building a farm on an interactive play mat. This exhibit is only open Thursdays through Monday, so if it’s on your list of to-dos then be sure you don’t go on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Where: Noah Webster House, 227 South Main Street, West Hartford
When: 7 days a week from 1pm to 4pm, except for major holidays. Hours are subject to change on days with large events, so just call ahead before going (860-521-5362)
Cost: Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and AAA cardholders, $5 for students with a college ID, $5 for children age 6 to 18, and Free for children under 5.