Henry Whitfield State Museum, Guilford

Overview



Explore four centuries of Connecticut history through the evolution of the Henry Whitfield House. Reverend Henry Whitfield and his family were part of the group of English Puritans who founded Guilford in 1639 for religious freedom. Built of local granite and restored in the 1930s, the Whitfield House is now Connecticut’s oldest house, New England’s oldest stone house, and a National Historic Landmark.

Open Outside, Closed Inside

For the health and safety of our visitors and staff, we are keeping the interior spaces of the museum closed at least through the rest of 2020. We feel this is the best decision given the small rooms and poor ventilation in both the Whitfield House and the Visitor Center.

While the inside is closed, the outside is wide open! We are embracing this unusual time to develop and offer:

  1. Outdoor Experiences – in addition to seeing the historic buildings in person, we encourage you to enjoy the museum grounds with their sweeping lawns and stone walls, and please maintain a safe physical distance from other visitors
    • Explore the site’s history through interpretive signs with photos and links to online material
    • Bring your own pen or pencil and pick up a scavenger hunt at the parking lot kiosk, puzzle out the clues, and submit your answers for a chance to win a prize at the end of the year
    • Figure out the three Visitor Center “What Is It?” window displays
    • Walk the short Whitfield spur of the New England Trail
    • Picnic, play catch, read, paint, etc. – there are over 8 acres of shady and sunny spots to enjoy!
  2. Digital Resources – find links to our Whitfield House virtual tour, scavenger hunts, museum collections website, coloring pages, jigsaw puzzles, and video conference backgrounds. You can also find us on social media with photos, videos, and fascinating history stories.

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  3. Improved indoor experiences when we fully re-open
    • We’re thankful to be one of this year’s participants in the Collections Assessment for Preservation Program – a conservation study of all of the museum’s collections, buildings, and building systems.
    • We’re tackling some interior construction projects in both the Whitfield House and the Visitor Center, including fire code upgrades and new fire and security systems.


Historical Significance

Construction of the Whitfield House began in 1639 — the same year the Taj Mahal was being built, three years before Isaac Newton was born, and 135 years before the American Revolution. Through the years, the "Old Stone House" has undergone many changes, and many families have called it home. Since 1900, it has been owned and operated by the State of Connecticut as a public museum. Restored by noted architects Norman Isham and J. Frederick Kelly in the early 1900s, the house is an important example of Colonial Revival restoration work. The site is a State Archaeological Preserve.

 

The Whitfield House stands not only as a tangible link to Guilford’s Colonial English origins, but as a testament to the generations that followed and to those who preserved this piece of America’s history.

 

The museum features:

  • Whitfield House — Take a self-guided tour through three floors filled with furnishings and artifacts, tour the introductory exhibit The Old Stone House detailing the house’s history, and test your observational skills with an educational scavenger hunt.
  • Visitor Center:
      • Gift Shop – Browse a wide selection of gifts and souvenirs, including historical reproductions, toys and games, and books for adults and children.
      • Tourism Information Center – Pick up brochures and maps, learn about upcoming local events, and get answers to your travel questions about Guilford and throughout Connecticut.
      • Exhibit Galleries – Explore history exhibits and hands-on activities that change each year (included with museum admission).
      • Research Library – Make an appointment to research your family’s genealogy, local history, and the 1600s. There is no charge to use the library.
  • Education Building — Tour history displays and try hands-on activities in the site’s repurposed 1870s barn.
  • Grounds — Stroll the landscaped site that features extensive stone walls, a bronze statue representing Henry Whitfeld, a ship’s cannon from the War of 1812, and a spur of the New England Trail that runs from Long Island Sound in Guilford through New Hampshire.

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