On High street in Farmington … is the sober-colored dwelling, the last of the three ancient houses, all possessing overhangs, which, within the memory of men not yet old, looked westward from the eastern side of the thoroughfare.- Norman M. Isham & Albert F. Brown, Early Connecticut Houses, 1900
History of the Historic Stanley-Whitman House
A “Dwelling House and six acres of land” was purchased by Ebenezer Steel from Deacon John Stanley on December 31, 1720, the first indication that the historic house at the heart of the museum existed. Records indicate that the building was constructed sometime between 1709 and 1720. In 1722, when Ebenezer Steel died, his oldest child, Mary, inherited the house, described in Steel’s will as “the other house and homestead.” Mary Steel and Thomas Smith, the earliest known inhabitants of the house, were married on January 14, 1725, when she was 18 and he was 25. They became the first of a succession of families who lived in the house.
The time period represented in the house ranges from 1720 to 1772, with the successive occupancies of Thomas and Mary Smith (1720-35) and Solomon and Susannah Cole Whitman (1736-72). Both families were economically comfortable and well educated. Both families followed the Puritan religion in the Congregational Way, and all were farmers, but practiced other trades, as well: Thomas Smith was a weaver and Solomon Whitman was an arbitrator, justice of the peace, probate judge, town clerk and shoemaker. The lives of both families are depicted in a tour of the historic house, beginning with the Smiths on the south side of the building, then moving to the Whitmans on the north side.
The Post Medieval-style house is a rare surviving example of early New England architecture, reminiscent of houses the early Colonists had known in England. A center chimney flanked by parlor and hall with two chambers above provided both living and storage space. The Colonists built houses from wood, the plentiful resource in the area, and used post and beam construction for the frame. The second floor extends beyond the first on the front façade, creating an overhang. The original purpose of the overhang is unknown, but it did provide more space in the upper chambers.
The lean-to addition that extends across the width of the back of the house was added some time in the mid 18th-centruy, giving the house its distinctive saltbox shape.
For more detailed information about the National Historic Landmark building and its history, please contact the museum at (860) 677-9222.