The Cove Warehouse
Wethersfield Historical Society’s Maritime Museum
The venerable Cove Warehouse on our Wethersfield Cove dates to the late 17th century; it is the last remaining of six warehouses that stood on the river’s edge to accommodate Wethersfield’s brisk shipping trade in the first century of the Town’s existence. The other warehouses were swept away in the massive flood of 1697 that changed the course of the Connecticut River and created the Wethersfield Cove we know today. In 1928, the Russell K. Bourne D.S.C. Post (now the Bourne-Keeney Post), of the American Legion and Jared Butler Standish restored the warehouse, and it was dedicated as part of the Town’s 300th Anniversary celebrations in 1934. After the 1936 flood, Prisoners from the neighboring Wethersfield State Prison built the raised stone foundation it sits on today. The Warehouse became a Wethersfield Historical Society museum in 1962. It is owned by the Town and leased to the historical society for the annual rent of one rope of red onions.
History of the Cove Warehouses
22 September 1648 – The Town voted that Thomas Deming would have a lot on the Common, near the landing for a workyard. The Town appointed Lt. James Bosie and Nathaniel Dickenson to pick out a lot so it would ‘[not be an] anoiance to the town’. Deming built and launched the Tryall in 1649 and then moved to Long Island.
Permission was given for six warehouses in the town records. The sixth warehouse may not have been built.
1. 11 March 1661-62 – A piece of land at the Common on the landing place was granted to Samuel Welles, son of Gov. Thomas Welles, ‘to set up a warehouse, and to no other use whatsoever.’ Samuel Welles resided in the Glastonbury section of Wethersfield and drowned crossing the Connecticut River in 1675.
2. 1670-71 – The Town granted to John Chester ‘a piece of land by the waterside, to build a warehouse upon’. John Chester died in 1697 and left ‘land at the landing near my brother’s warehouse’.
3. 1670-71—In the same year of John Chester’s land grant, the Town granted his brother Stephen a piece ‘of about 2 or 3 rods in breadth’ next to John Chester’s land, to build a warehouse. In 1672, at the Town’s request, Stephen Chester exchanged his piece of land for another, at the northeast side of the land he bought from Thomas Hurlbutt. The original piece of land might have been needed for a blacksmith performing ship repairs, near to the public dock. Stephen Chester died in 1705 and left a warehouse to his family.
4. December 1683 – The town gave Timothy Hyde a piece of land 40 feet square for a warehouse below Mr. Stephen Chester’s warehouse. Hyde came from Roxbury in the 1670’s and did not die in Wethersfield. He ended up in Saybrook and may not have built a warehouse.
5. August 1689 – The Town gave Joseph Rowlandson a piece of land 30 feet square below Mr. Stephen Chester’s warehouse, to build his own warehouse. Joseph was the son of Minister and Mary Rowlandson. He died in 1713 and did not own a warehouse at the time of his death.
6. December 1691 – The Town gave Nicholas Morecock a piece of land 40 feet square near Mr. Stephen Chester’s warehouse to build his own warehouse. He could also to build a wharf “against” his warehouse if he leaves a highway ‘for men cattell, or teams, to pass between said wharf and warehouse’. The wharf would be free for all people of the town. Morecock had come from England to Boston in 1635.
Inside the Cove Warehouse
The Warehouse features post and beam construction. The frame is free standing. The walls, roof, and sheeting hang on the post and the beam frame. Post and beam is an ideal building method for a warehouse because the space doesn’t require the construction of interior walls as there is no need for smaller rooms. The warehouse is all open space.
A Modern Timeline of the Cove Warehouse
1928 – Town votes to adopt a seal using a picture of the warehouse. The seal is designed by Jared B. Standish.
1931 – Warehouse donated to the town by Mrs. M. H. Newberry.
1934 – State prisoners secure the warehouse to a foundation and do minor repairs. Supervision of prisoners by American Legion.
1936 – Great flood knocks warehouse off its foundation and does extensive damage.
1971 – The Town of Wethersfield finances the construction of a protective foundation wall to prevent erosion. The approximate cost is about $10,000.
The Cove Warehouse is open Saturdays and Sundays, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm, late May through early October. Admission is free, but donations are gratefully accepted.