The Isaac Stevens House
In 1786 leatherworker Isaac Stevens purchased half an acre of land on High (now Main) Street next door to the Webb House. He began construction of his new home in 1788, and completed it in 1789 prior to his marriage to Sarah Wright that same year. Although smaller than its neighbors, the house is a center hall Georgian similar in plan to the Webb House with handsome woodwork and paneling. On the first floor, the shutters slide closed (as compared to the folding shutters in the Webb House), a common feature in commercial, not residential buildings.
The Stevens family suffered unfortunate losses due to illness. Following Isaac’s death in 1819, his son Henry inherited the house. He succumbed to illness about 1825 and both of his sons, Elisha and Henry Jr., died by 1835. In 1828, Henry’s widow Elizabeth married Captain Stephen Francis. He was a Connecticut River and coast trader. They had five children, four of whom survived to inherit the Stevens House jointly. They and their descendents occupied the house for 170 years until it was acquired by the Connecticut Colonial Dames, who restored the house from 1959-1963 and opened it to the public.
The period interiors on the first floor offer visitors to the Stevens House an intimate connection with the people who actually lived and worked here. The rooms reflect the taste of a middle class family in the 1820s and 30s with many original family possessions on display. The kitchen, for example, was not designed to be staffed by slaves or servants but by the women of the household. It also doubled as an office with a desk to keep the accounts of the household and family leather business. The rooms are comfortable but not overly large, and the furnishings reflect the growing availability of consumer goods as well as changing tastes and technologies following the Industrial Revolution. They also hint of the beginning of Victorian ornamentation – a major style change in the decorative arts that was popular for the rest of the 19th century.
The second floor of the Steven’s house is now devoted to children. After being closed to the public for over ten years the space was reopened in the spring of 2007. Among the new exhibits is the restored bedroom with sleeping accommodations for five children. It was the practice at this time for children to share bedrooms and beds. The original blue-green and red paint colors on the paneling and woodwork were uncovered during the restoration in the early 1960s. A newly refurbished gallery features the Colonial Dames collection of toys, dolls and doll houses. There is also an interactive education room devoted to hands-on activities related to child life and play in the 19th century.