Connecticut was one of the original 13 colonies and the fifth colony to become a state in 1788. The long and rich history of the Nutmeg State features highlights like its pivotal role in the Revolutionary War, and homes belonging to legendary authors like Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain. Here are 15 fascinating historical sites in Connecticut.
Fort Griswold is the site of the largest Revolutionary War battle fought in Connecticut. The battle at Fort Griswold was fought on Sept. 6, 1781 and the fort was under the command of Colonel William Ledyard. Though vastly outnumbered, Colonel Ledyard bravely refused to surrender to British troops, but after a fierce battle, Colonel Ledyard and his troops were killed. Fort Griswold Park is open from sunrise to sunset and the small museum and monument are open and free to visit from Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Across the Thames River from Fort Griswold is Fort Trumbull, another important Revolutionary War site. General Benedict Arnold marched to attack Fort Trumbull and much of New London was subsequently burned to the ground. The fort that stands today was constructed between 1839 and 1852 and has also previously been used as a research location, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and Coast Guard.
Connecticut’s State Hero, Nathan Hale, taught at the New London schoolhouse in 1774 and 1775, prior to enlisting to fight in the Revolutionary War. Prior to his tenure at the New London Schoolhouse, Nathan Hale taught at the East Haddam Schoolhouse for only five months. The Nathan Hale Schoolhouse in New London can be visited from May 1 to Oct. 31 on Wednesdays to Sundays from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. The East Haddam Schoolhouse can be visited from May 1 until Oct. 31 on Wednesdays through Sundays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Mystic Seaport is one of the top-rated places to visit in Connecticut and consists of a 19th century village with original homes and stores moved to Mystic Seaport from all over the East Coast. The highlight of Mystic Seaport is the Charles W. Morgan whaling ship that was built in 1841. The Charles W. Morgan is the last surviving wooden whaling ship in the United States.
The famous American author, Mark Twain, lived and worked in this Hartford home from 1874 until 1891. Mark Twain’s former house is now a museum that can be toured and features original furniture. The opening hours are from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and more visiting information can be found on their website.
Located right next to the Mark Twain House, you’ll find Harriet Beecher Stowe’s former home. Harriet Beecher Stowe was a famous anti-slavery activist in her time and wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
The Submarine Force Museum has the world’s best collection of submarine artifacts and is run by the United States Navy. The museum holds more than 33,000 artifacts, 20,000 documents, and 30,000 photographs. The highlight of the museum is the USS Nautilus, which can now be visited by the public.
The Harkness Mansion, called Eolia, was the summer mansion of the Harkness family in the early 1900s. The beautiful gardens were designed by Beatrix Jones Farrand. The interior of the mansion can be toured on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend until Labor Day.
Located right on Boston Post Road (Route 1), Putnam Cottage was formerly known as Knapp’s Tavern during the American Revolution. Knapp’s Tavern/Putnam Cottage is still standing and dates back to the early 1700s. It is believed that the original building was lived in by Timothy Knapp, his wife Martha Weeks, and their children in the late 1600s. The house was later used as meeting place for the Freemasons and was important during the Revolutionary War because it housed General Putnam and was visited by President George Washington (who was a general at that time). Putnam Cottage can be visited and toured although it may be best to call or email ahead of your visit.
The combination of this original farmhouse and stunning Gertrude Jekyll Gardens come together to create one of the most authentic house museums in Connecticut. The Glebe House is a historic farmhouse built in 1740 in the Litchfield Hills and is an excellent representation of Revolutionary War-era Connecticut. The Glebe House was originally the family home of Reverend John Rutgers Marshall and his family. Shortly after American independence was won, Connecticut clergy members met at the Glebe House to work towards the building of an America that allowed their religious beliefs. The surrounding Gertrude Jekyll Garden is the only existing American garden planned by Gertrude Jekyll, who was a famous English garden designer.
The Old State House was the original statehouse in Connecticut and is the oldest in the United States. The Old State House has seen numerous historical events such as the signing of the first written Constitution and the Amistad and Prudence Crandall trials. The Old State House was designed by Charles Bulfinch in the late 1700s. The Old State House is open to the public on Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but is closed on most holidays.
The Scoville Memorial Library is the first publicly funded library in the United States and its creation began in 1771 when a local citizen offered to bring 200 books back from London. The free public library grew in 1805 when additional books were added to the collection by Caleb Bingham. The books were moved into the Scoville Library when a Salisbury native left money to the town for the building of a library to house the ever-growing collection of books. The library has since added on additional space and its collection of books is now over 30,000.
The Osborne Homestead was the former home estate of Frances Osborne Kellogg, a businesswoman and conservationist who lived in the early 1900s. This National Historic Site features a home from the 1850s still containing original antiques and art. The grounds have a beautiful rose garden and English rock garden. Museum tours offer a look into life in the early 1900s as well as women’s history at that time. The museum is open for tours from May 7 until Oct. 30 on Thursdays through Sundays. Donations are appreciated to help keep the museum running.
The Nathan Hale Homestead was the home of patriot and educator Nathan Hale and was built in 1776. The Homestead is decorated with pieces actually owned by the Hale family and period antiques. Additionally, in the summer, the grounds are used for the Coventry Farmers’ Market, making this both a historical and tasty visit. The Nathan Hale Homestead can be visited with a guided tour, but opening times vary depending on the season, so it is best to check their website.
Putnam Memorial State Park is the site of the Continental Army’s winter encampment in 1779 and was under the command of General Israel Putnam. Putnam Memorial State Park consists of rebuilt log buildings, the remains of an encampment, historical walking trails, and a small museum. The highlights of the park are their re-enactments and winter walks. The re-enactments take place every two years and are organized by the Friends and Neighbors of Putnam Park. The re-enactments illustrate how soldiers lived and fought in the winter of 1778-1779. The winter walk, which takes place on the first Saturday of December every year, is a guided tour that elaborates upon history and archaeology of the park.