Proper Victorians Last Updated 11/16
The Victorian Era remains visible everywhere in Connecticut: in its churches, public buildings and cemeteries, but perhaps nowhere as much as in its private houses. Go to the center of any of the state’s 169 cities and towns, and you’ll see them - sometimes solo, sometimes lined up as if in formation - these great “painted ladies” of a bygone era. The great news is that some of Connecticut’s most spectacular Victorian houses have been saved as museums and are open for your inspection:
The Smith-Harris House Museum in Niantic is an 1845 farmhouse saved from the wrecker’s ball and brought back to life as a local museum. Especially notable is an extensive front-hall mural depicting the town of East Lyme.
Roseland Cottage in Woodstock was built as a summer retreat in 1846 by Henry and Lucy Bowen, he a local native who had made it in New York. The estate, which once hosted presidents and other luminaries, consists of the distinctive rose-colored house as well as elaborate gardens, and icehouse, aviary, carriage barn and the nation’s oldest indoor bowling alley.
Second Empire Style
Norwalk’s spectacular Lockwood-Mathews Mansion was built 1864-68 by railroad baron and financier LeGrand Lockwood, who suffered financial setbacks during its construction and died not long after it was completed. It was taken over by the Mathews family and eventually passed over to the town, which destroyed many of the outbuildings before finally being persuaded to save the main house.
Mark Twain House in Hartford is probably Connecticut’s best-known single residence, and today it’s a fitting museum to the greatly beloved American writer. Twain and his family moved into the house in 1874 (“It is a home,” he wrote at the time, “& the word never had so much meaning before.”) and he composed some of his best-known works there.
The Hotchkiss-Fyler House Museum in Torrington resides in an 1897 gem built by a local business family. It is especially notable today for its magnificent millwork and interior detailing, such as stenciling, murals and ornamental plaster ceilings. The interior remains as it was in 1956, when the last family member moved out.