The other day, I visited the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe in Hartford, Connecticut. Harriet Beecher Stowe is best known for writing Uncle Tom's Cabin, the most popular book of the eighteenth century after the Bible. She was the daughter of a Calvinist minister and a passionate abolitionist who counted Sojourner Truth among her close friends. The house is located in Farm Nook on a bend along the riverbank. We signed up for a guided tour ($9 per adult) and, while we waited, watched a film about the history of slavery in the United States and the meeting between Harriet Beecher Stowe and President Lincoln, who greeted her by saying, "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war." He was talking, of course, about the civil war which was sparked by the government's desire to end slavery. Although the book was hugely popular and resulted in the creation of lots of merchandise, Harriet never saw much money and continued on to write more than 20 different novels.
We started our walking tour through the garden, which was dear to Harriet. Today there is still a large variety of flowers and plants, but we visited in mid-summer and most of the plants had died in the heat. I think early May would be the best time to really enjoy the beauty of the garden. We entered the gray house through a large porch. Upon entering, we were surprised by the dark woods, the jewel tones of the carpets and variety of wallpapers. The first room we visited was the writing room with the desk still standing there. We also saw some of her sketches and still life paintings.
We continued the visit with another small room with a piano and a large window that let in the sun from the garden. It was very quiet and the guide drew our attention to listen to the piano music playing softly in the background (the scores were actually composed by Mrs. Beecher Stowe herself). On the second floor are the bedrooms. Harriet Beecher Stowe had twin daughters, Hattie (a nickname for Harriet) and Eliza. The girls shared a room with two single beds and a very small closet to hold all their Victorian dresses. On a table were various silver tools, including a large brush to clean the dust from clothes, a hook to tie all the ribbons and buttons on their boots and clothes pins.
We went downstairs to see the large kitchen. Harriet Beecher Stowe was a devoted housewife. She wrote books on how to organize a kitchen more efficiently. In fact, her advice is still used in high school classes in the United States.
We loved the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, and Cherie, our guide, was a fantastic help in explaining the history of the house and its residents. It was a fascinating experience, and I highly recommend it.
Ideally, Connecticut’s diverse capital city deserves at least a few days of exploration. But for travelers with less time, a visit to the visually striking Bushnell Park (the oldest publicly funded park in the United States) can give a good sense of Hartford’s beauty, history, politics, and ongoing revitalization.
At one end of the park stands the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Arch. Looking like something out of a fairy tale, this monument spanned a bridge across the Park River until the 1940s, when the water was diverted underground.
Gracefully landscaped paths take you past attractions like the Corning Fountain, which depicts the Saukiog Indians who first inhabited the area; the Pump House, an active element in river flood control and a public art gallery; and the 100 year old Carousel.
Looming grandly over it all is the ornate State Capitol building, the only High Victorian Gothic-style state house in the country.
Depending on when you go, there may be a public event or performance in Bushnell Park, which functions as a community gathering spot as well as a leafy respite for office workers on their lunch hours.