Time Machines – Where History Meets the Modern Last Updated 2/17

By Stephen Wood
Connecticut is a state that embraces its past while forever being inspired by what’s possible. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the art museums and architectural marvels you’ll find here. It’s this passion for exploring the future while preserving the past that gives residents so much pride, and gives visitors so much to discover, in these nine modern and historic attractions from Woodstock to Ridgefield.  

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Roseland Cottage, Woodstock

Woodstock’s Roseland Cottage, known as The Pink House, is the jewel of Connecticut’s Quiet Corner. Painted a resplendent coral pink, this stunning 1846 Gothic Revival home is said to be one of the best-preserved Gothic summer houses in the nation. Seemingly endless gardens beautify the grounds, which only serve as an appetizer to the colorful interior. 

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Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam

Equally stunning in an entirely different way, Gillette Castle in East Haddam is a gem. Designed by actor William Gillette in 1919, this is a true castle perched on a bluff above the Connecticut River. At first blush, the castle seems foreboding and cold. However, upon exploring its nooks and crannies, visitors leave in awe of the creativeness of Gillette’s design. For an extra bit of whimsy (and a unique view of the castle), an approach by ferry from Chester is always a treat.

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Mystic Seaport, Mystic

The wondrous Mystic Seaport is the largest maritime museum in the entire country. This sprawling, historically accurate living museum reflects what life was like in a 19th-century maritime village. The entire complex includes 60 original buildings, including the Preservation Shipyard. Here, traditional tools are used to repair the fleet of vessels the Seaport has on hand. One of the ships is the Charles W. Morgan (1841), the last surviving wooden whaling ship in the country. 

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Lockwood-Mathews Mansion, Norwalk

A visit to Norwalk’s Lockwood-Mathews Mansion will transport you to another time and place. It took four years to build in the mid-1800s, which isn’t surprising considering it contains 62 rooms and more than 44,000 square feet. The mansion is one of America’s finest examples of the Second Empire style that was popular among the wealthy at that time. 

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Mark Twain & Harriet Beecher Stowe Houses, Hartford

Mark Twain commissioned his own retreat in Hartford, and today, the Mark Twain House & Museum, completed in 1874, is a beautiful example of the High Gothic style of architecture. Situated on what was once called Nook Farm, it shares space with Twain’s friend’s house: the Harriet Beecher Stowe House. Visited in tandem, exploring the former homes of two of America’s literary giants is a must.

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Connecticut Science Center, Hartford

While in the capital city, take time to slip from Connecticut’s past into its future. The sweeping modern design of the Connecticut Science Center is evocative of the “connecting” river that flows beneath it. Opened in 2009, the showcase museum features four floors of fun. Permanent exhibits such as Invention Dimension and Sight and Sound allow visitors young and old to explore their own creativity and push them to think in new and exciting ways. Temporary exhibits from around the country always keep the science center fresh and innovative. 

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Glass House, New Canaan

New Canaan in the southwest corner of Connecticut boasts one of the finest and most important “collections” of mid-century modern houses. Among the dozens of elegant and sleek designs, Philip Johnson’s Glass House stands out. Now a National Historic Landmark and museum, this iconic home is but one structure among many on the property that were designed by the world-renowned architect. Visitors also tour art galleries and learn to appreciate the stark beauty of mid-century modern design. 

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Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield

Just a short drive north from New Canaan's Glass House, you'll find The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield. Always at the forefront of modern art and design since it was founded in 1964 as one of America’s first museums dedicated solely to contemporary art, the Aldrich has vaulted to become one of the region’s most respected venues for emerging and established artists alike. 

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Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, New Haven

Re-opened in 2016 after an extensive renovation, the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library in New Haven is housed within a remarkable 1963 contemporary building featuring translucent marble "windows" and sunken sculpture garden. Inside, you’ll find one of the world’s largest libraries devoted entirely to rare books and manuscripts.