Henry Whitfield State Museum, Guilford

Overview



Explore the complex history of nearly four centuries through the evolution of the Henry Whitfield House. The museum is in the process of changing its interpretation – confronting the facts about the site’s history in order to acknowledge past injustice, recognize how that injustice manifests in society today, and work towards an equitable future for all people. See the ‘Historical Significance’ section below for more information.

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 this time. 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
    • 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, 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 a participant 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 the Whitfield House, Visitor Center, and Education Building.

Historical Significance

Construction of the Henry Whitfield House began in 1639 when a group of English Puritans, including Reverend Henry Whitfield and his family, entered into an agreement with the Menuncatuck band of the Quinnipiac tribe and renamed the jurisdiction Guilford. Built of local granite, the house was one of the colonial settlement’s four stone houses that functioned as defensive buildings and private homes. It is now considered to be Connecticut’s oldest house and New England’s oldest stone house. Since 1900, it has been owned and operated by the State of Connecticut as a public museum, and the site is a State Archaeological Preserve.

The house underwent many structural changes over the course of its nearly 400 years. Restored by noted architects Norman Isham and J. Frederick Kelly in the early 1900s, it is an important example of Colonial Revival restoration work and was named a National Historic Landmark based on these historic preservation projects.

The Henry Whitfield House is a physical reminder of the European settler colonialism of the 1600s, as well as the Colonial Revival era of the 1800s-1900s that celebrated and glorified European ethnocentricity and superiority. The museum is striving to confront the facts about the site’s history in order to acknowledge past injustice, recognize how that injustice manifests in society today, and work towards an equitable future for all people.

 

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 a 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.

Related Resources  

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