Historic Sites In Connecticut. More Than Just Parks has 15 incredible must-see sites for you to visit.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I’m going to give you my list of the 15 Historic Sites In Connecticut that you’ll want to see.
This list includes national park sites (as in sites managed by the National Park Service) as opposed to national parks. It also includes sites not managed by the National Park Service. After all, we’re more than just parks!
One book that I highly recommend is: Connecticut Bucket List Adventure Guide: Explore 100 Offbeat Destinations You Must Visit!
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Table Of Contents: Historic Sites In Connecticut
Historic Sites In Connecticut
- Top 15 Historic Sites In Connecticut
- Top 10 Historic Sites In Connecticut
- Top 5 Historic Sites In Connecticut
Top 15 Historic Sites In Connecticut
15. Glebe House & Gertrude Jekyll Garden
The Glebe House is a historic farmhouse built in 1740 in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut.
It was the home of Reverend John Rutgers Marshall and his family. It was used as a meeting place for Connecticut clergy members after the Revolutionary War.
The house is now a museum. It’s surrounded by the Gertrude Jekyll Garden. It’s the only existing American garden designed by the famous English garden designer of the same name.
14. Putnam Cottage
Historic Putnam Cottage, located on Boston Post Road (Route 1), is a historic building dating back to the early 1700s. Formerly known as Knapp’s Tavern, it was the home of Timothy Knapp and his family in the late 1600s.
During the American Revolution, it served as a meeting place for the Freemasons. It was an important location as it housed General Putnam. It was also visited by President George Washington, who was a general at the time.
The cottage is open for tours, but it is recommended to call or email ahead before visiting.
13. Harkness Mansion & Park
The Harkness Mansion, also known as Eolia, is a historic mansion and surrounding park located in Waterford, Connecticut. The mansion was built in the early 1900s as a summer home for the Harkness family. They were wealthy industrialists and philanthropists.
The Harkness family was known for their contributions to the arts, education, and public health.
The Harkness Mansion was designed by James Gamble Rogers. Rogers was known for his work on prestigious institutions such as Yale University and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The mansion is a grand, Beaux-Arts style building, with a limestone exterior and a grand entrance hall with a marble staircase. The surrounding gardens were designed by the renowned landscape architect Beatrix Jones Farrand.
The Mansion Was A Summer Home
The Harkness family used the mansion as a summer home for several decades, entertaining guests and hosting events. After the family’s death, the mansion was donated to the state of Connecticut, and it was opened as a public park in the 1970s.
The park’s grounds are open year-round and offer visitors the opportunity to explore the gardens, the waterfront, and the nature trails.
The park also offers visitors to take a guided tour of the Eolia mansion, and the mansion’s gardens are open to the public during the summer, with guided tours and plenty of opportunities to relax and enjoy the beautiful setting.
12. Osborne Homestead
The Osborne Homestead is a National Historic Site that was the former home estate of Frances Osborne Kellogg, a businesswoman and conservationist who lived in the early 1900s.
The estate features a home dating back to the 1850s, which still contains original antiques and art. The grounds also have a beautiful rose garden and English rock garden.
Museum tours offer visitors an insight into the lifestyle of the early 1900s as well as women’s history of that time period. The museum is open for tours from May 7th until October 30th on Thursdays through Sundays.
11. Fort Trumbull
If you love military history then you’ll enjoy Fort Trumbull. It’s historic fort located across the Thames River from Fort Griswold.
During the Revolutionary War, it was attacked by General Benedict Arnold, which led to much of New London being burned to the ground.
The fort that stands today was built between 1839 and 1852, and has been used for various purposes over the years, including as a research location, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and by the Coast Guard.
Top 10 Historic Sites In Connecticut
10. Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail
The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail is a trail that traces the route of the American and French armies during the Revolutionary War.
It was established in 2009 and covers over 600 miles of land in the northeastern United States, including parts of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
The trail commemorates the 1781 march of the combined American and French armies, commanded by General George Washington and General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, from Newport, Rhode Island to Yorktown, Virginia.
The trail is designed to provide a way for visitors to learn about the events and people of the Revolutionary War, and the trail includes historic sites, museums, and interpretive centers that provide information and context about the march of the armies and the impact of the war on the region.
CHECK OUT: 10 BEST Revolutionary War Sites In America
9. Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park
Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park is a Connecticut state park that commemorates the Revolutionary War battle that took place there in 1781.
The battle was fought between the British troops under the command of General Benedict Arnold and the American troops under the command of Colonel William Ledyard. The fort was built by the American colonials to protect the port of New London and the surrounding area from British attack.
On September 6, 1781, the British, under the command of Arnold, who had switched sides to the British, launched a surprise attack on the fort, overpowering the American defenders. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, the American soldiers fought bravely, but were eventually forced to surrender.
The British Caused Significant Damage To The Town
The battle was brutal, with many American soldiers killed or wounded, and many others taken as prisoners. The British then proceeded to loot and burn New London, causing significant damage to the town.
After the war, the fort was abandoned and fell into disrepair. In the early 20th century, the state of Connecticut acquired the land and restored the fort, and it was opened as a state park in 1902.
Today, visitors can tour the fort, which has been restored to its appearance during the Revolutionary War, and learn about the history of the battle through interpretive exhibits and guided tours.
The park also includes hiking trails, picnic areas, and a visitors center with additional information about the park’s history and resources.
CHECK OUT: 15 MUST-SEE Historic Sites In New Jersey
8. Historic Nathan Hale Homestead
Nathan Hale was an American soldier and spy during the American Revolutionary War. He is best known for his execution by the British for espionage.
Hale was a Captain in the Continental Army and was appointed as a spy to gather information about the British army in New York City. He was captured by the British and found guilty of espionage.
Before his execution, he is reported to have made a famous speech, in which he said “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
Nathan Hale is considered a martyr and a hero in American history, known for his bravery and selflessness in the service of his country. He is often remembered as a symbol of the revolutionary cause and his execution is seen as a rallying point for the Patriots during the war.
Things To See & Do
The Homestead, which was built in 1776, 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.
7. Submarine Force Museum
Located in Groton, CT., the Submarine Force Museum, which contains 33,000 artifacts, is the only submarine museum managed exclusively by the Naval History & Heritage Command division of the Navy. It’s a repository for many special submarine items of national significance, including USS Nautilus (SSN-571).
The Nautilus was America’s first nuclear-powered submarine. It traveled under the polar ice cap and reached the North Pole during the Cold War.
The museum also has a library with around 20,000 documents and 30,000 photos related to the history of submarine development.
The library also includes 6,000 books related to the field of submarine history, including a 1551 text on submarine retrieval, and an 1870 copy of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with a model of the fictional Nautilus.
Documents in the collection include notes and calculations by John Philip Holland for the Navy’s first commissioned submarine, one-of-a-kind artifacts from World Wars One and Two, and the submarine library collections of Electric Boat Corporation and the Navy.
CHECK OUT: 20 MUST-SEE Historic Sites In New York
6. New England National Scenic Trail
The New England National Scenic Trail, also known as the “Metacomet-Monadnock-Mattabesett Trail”, is a 215-mile long trail that runs from Long Island Sound in Connecticut to the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border.
The trail was first proposed in the 1960s by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association and it officially opened in 2009 after several decades of planning, fundraising and trail building.
A Trail Named For The Mountain Ranges It Traverses
It’s named for the three mountain ranges it traverses: the Metacomet Ridge in Connecticut, the Monadnock Mountain in Massachusetts and the Mattabesett Mountain in Connecticut.
The trail passes through some of the most diverse and scenic landscapes in New England, including forest, wetlands, and rocky ridges with views of the surrounding countryside.
The trail also passes through a number of state parks, forests, and wildlife management areas, including Pachaug State Forest, the Hanging Hills, and the Talcott Mountain State Park.
In 2009, the trail was designated as a National Scenic Trail, one of only 11 such trails in the United States. This designation provides recognition and federal funding for the trail’s preservation and promotion.
The trail is maintained by a partnership of federal and state agencies, local land trusts, and volunteer organizations, and it is open to the public for hiking, camping and outdoor recreation.
CHECK OUT: 10 MUST-SEE Historic Sites In Pennsylvania
Top 5 Historic Sites In Connecticut
5. The Harriet Beecher Stowe House
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House is the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Stowe was an American abolitionist and author, who is best known for her novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
The novel was published in 1852, and it helped to fuel the abolitionist movement in the United States, by bringing attention to the horrors of slavery and the human cost of the institution.
The house was built in 1833, and it was the home of the Beecher family for over 20 years. Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in the house from 1832 to 1850, and it was here where she wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
The hosue has been restored to its original appearance. It’s now open to the public as a museum. Visitors can explore the house and learn about the life and work of Harriet Beecher Stowe.
The museum features exhibits about the author, her family and the abolitionist movement, as well as interactive exhibits that provide an understanding of the context in which the novel was written.
The house is considered a National Historic Landmark. It’s an important part of American literary and cultural history.
CHECK OUT: 10 BEST Civil War Sites In America
4. Coltsville National Historical Park
When Samuel Colt started his Hartford factory on the banks of the Connecticut River in 1847, it followed years of mismanagement and failure. Soon, demand for Colt’s revolver would change his fortunes and the Colt empire was born.
Following Colt’s untimely death in 1862, his wife, Elizabeth Colt, would lead the company to its legendary status, and influence Hartford for over 40 years.
Things To Do At Coltsville
I recommend the guided walking tour. Using the Coltsville NHP App, you can visit eleven different sites all while learning about Samuel Colt and Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt.
While you’re there, you should also check out the Blue Onion Dome. It’s a bright blue dome, dusted with stars and topped by a rearing colt on top of a globe. This stunning monument has been a part of the city since 1855.
It sits on top of what was Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company.
The dome is a reminder of Samuel Colt, his factory, his family, and their contributions to the industry of precision manufacturing in Hartford and the world.
CHECK OUT: 10 MUST-SEE Historic Sites In Vermont
3. Mark Twain House
Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30th, 1835, Mark Twain was one of the greatest American writers of all time.
Twain’s talents included that of an American humorist, novelist, and travel writer.
Twain’s written works challenged the fundamental issues that faced the America of his time; racism, evolving landscapes, class barriers, access to education and more.
Each text he produced was careful to make clear and concise points on society as everyone knew it, with many of his writings still holding relevance today.
Every work stands as an outstanding achievement of authenticity, and there are autobiographical elements in all of them, featuring real places and experiences from Twain’s childhood to add further truth to his work.
Things To See & Do
The famous American author, Mark Twain, lived and worked in this Hartford, CT., home from 1874 until 1891.
Mark Twain’s former house is now a museum that can be toured and features original furniture.
2. Weir Farm National Historical Park
Imagine a national park that’s all about art. Julian Alden Weir was an American impressionist painter and member of the Cos Cob Art Colony near Greenwich, Connecticut.
Today you can visit the home and studio of this amazing artist. And while you’re there you can walk in the footsteps of generations of world-class artists.
Weir Farm National Historical Park is set amidst more than 60 acres of painterly woods, fields, and waterways, Weir described his home as the “Great Good Place.”
His beautiful farm with its gorgeous surrounding landscape is a national legacy to American Impressionism, the creative spirit, and historic preservation.
The Weir Farm National Historical Park’s permanent art collection consists of over 300 pieces.
The museum’s collection contains over 200,000 archives and objects including fine and decorative arts, letters, photographs, and furnishings associated with the site and the history of the Weir, Young and Andrews families.
You also find large oil paintings by Julian Alden Weir and Sperry Andrews, sculptures by Mahonri Young, and a growing collection of artworks by Doris Andrews, Dorothy Weir Young, and Caroline Weir Ely. (Source: NPS)
1. Mystic Seaport Museum
Mystic Seaport Museum or Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea in Mystic, Connecticut, is the largest maritime museum in the United States.
It is notable for its collection of sailing ships and boats and for the re-creation of the crafts and fabric of an entire 19th-century seafaring village.
The collections range from marine paintings, scrimshaw, models, tools, ships plans, an oral history archive, extensive film and video recordings, and more than 1 million photographs—including the incomparable Rosenfeld Collection.
The Museum is home to more than 500 historic watercraft, including four National Historic Landmark vessels, most notably the 1841 whale ship Charles W. Morgan, America’s oldest commercial ship still in existence.
List Of Historic Sites In Connecticut
- Mystic Seaport Museum
- Weir Farm National Historical Park
- Mark Twain House
- Coltsville National Historical Park
- Harriet Beecher Stowe House
- New England National Scenic Trail
- Submarine Force Museum
- Nathan Hale Homestead
- Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park
- Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail
- Fort Trumbull
- Nathan Hale’s Schoolhouse
- Harkness Mansion & Park
- Putnam Cottage
- Glebe House & Gertrude Jekyll Garden
About The People Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and a proud dad of these two wonderful guys who are hopelessly obsessed with the national parks. I taught history for over a quarter of a century. Now I enjoy researching and writing articles for More Than Just Parks. I’m always on the hunt for topics where nature and history intersect so please feel free to share any ideas that you might have with me.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then sign up below!