We have Big Plans…
And we invite you to be a part of them!
Help Save the House at the Heart of Old Wethersfield.
Wethersfield is proud of our status as Connecticut’s first town, its oldest and largest historic district, and recently named the first cultural district in the greater Hartford area. The area is booming as a destination year-round and a true Connecticut success story.
The members and friends of Wethersfield Historical Society have been a driving force in the preservation and promotion of the village for 91 years. Now the society has embarked on an ambitious and necessary restoration of the Hurlbut-Dunham House, which has been pivotal in the preservation movement in Old Wethersfield.
A Prominent Home for Centuries
This Georgian-style dwelling has long served as one of Wethersfield’s landmarks. The property was bought in 1792 by Thomas Chester (Yale 1780) who probably built the house, the largest house in Wethersfield at the time. The latest owners of the home, Jane and Howard Dunham were leaders in the early 20th-century historic preservation movement that saved Old Wethersfield and were among the founders of the Wethersfield Historical Society. Their legacy included donating the house and its contents to the Society in 1970 “to encourage a general interest in history, and to promote the study, appreciation, and understanding of the history and traditions of my town, state, and country.” Wethersfield Historical Society opened the house as a museum in 1995.
The Urgent Need for Rehabilitation
Over the years, the home and grounds have welcomed visitors and residents for tours, social gatherings, music and theatrical performances, and most recently as a film set for several productions. Volunteers and staff from the Society have carefully maintained the property and its beautiful contents. Yet time has taken its toll on the house and key structural elements of the building have deteriorated. An engineering assessment emphasized the urgency and need for repairs, including:
- The repair of the deteriorating porch along with the addition of a wheelchair ramp for accessibility.
- Extensive basement work to maintain the building’s structural integrity.
- Reinforcement of roof rafters.
- Replacement of the exterior structural brownstone sills and lintels.
- Restoration of the windows and shutters.
The Vision for the Hurlbut-Dunham House
Once completed, the rehabilitated Hurlbut-Dunham House will be a newly polished jewel in the crown of our village. It will be a cultural attraction open and welcoming to all visitors, with an inclusive interpretation, and expanded year-round hours enhancing the unique appeal of Old Wethersfield. As always, regular daily admission to the House will continue to be free of charge.
Re-Examining a Forgotten Past
The need for this restoration also inspires a reinterpretation of the House that is more relevant to the current times and will better serve our community. There are many stories this house can tell:
• The Hurlbut-Dunham house has a strong tie to Women’s History in Wethersfield, as for much of its existence it was either owned or controlled by women. This will be an important theme throughout the house’s interpretation, and there are many stories to tell.
• Through all periods, people of color and immigrants were integral to the community and the house, and both those who were enslaved and who were employed. These stories will be brought to the forefront.
• The Dunhams and the important story of early 20th-century historic preservation in Wethersfield.
• Maritime trade, sealing and whaling, and the opening of trade routes with East Asia.
• The Goodwin family within the context of the 1849 Gold Rush, ups and downs in the American economy, and the renovations to the building .
• The story of Silas Robbins, which also touches upon Connecticut agriculture and Victorian Wethersfield.
A Venue for the Community
The Hurlbut-Dunham House will be host to gatherings and parties, becoming a venue for entertaining, just as its original owners intended. Tours will elaborate on the House’s unique history for visitors of all ages. Its restored beauty, updated exhibits, and accessibility and availability to the public will make it a vibrant gateway to the historic and cultural district.
Wethersfield Historical Society hosted events will include:
• Staff, volunteer, and guest presentations on the history of the house and Wethersfield.
• Tea/coffee events to share background on the historical society or to discuss issues of importance and relevance to the Wethersfield community.
• Concerts on the porch, plays and family events on the lawn during the summer.
The House will be available for rentals to the public for small to medium-sized groups for events such as:
• Parties, Bridal showers or small weddings
• Business meetings or quiet retreats for non-profit organizations
• Celebrations of milestone events for small local organizations
The Hurlbut-Dunham House restoration is a key part of the continuing revitalization of Old Wethersfield, which has grown in popularity over the past few years and is drawing visitors from near and far to explore, learn, shop, dine in the beauty, culture, and history of our treasured town.
How Can I Help?
The Wethersfield Historical Society has launched its largest undertaking ever to raise private and public funds to restore the Hurlbut-Dunham House to ensure that it can be treasured by all for years to come.
Our phase one goal includes raising a million dollars to reactivate the restored house as an axis point for cultural events and gateway to the district. Your generous gift in any amount will help save the building, including Old Wethersfield’s most iconic porch, restabilize the foundation upon which the historic preservation movement in Wethersfield was built, extending the legacy of those such as architectural historian and advocate Anne Kuckro, who said, “Preservation is our gift to the future.”
There are several different tiers of giving available. Add your name to the Cornerstone Collective with a donation of $500.00; a gift of $250.00 is recognized as a “Supporting Pier”, and $92.00 ($1 for each year of the society’s life) receives the designation of “Friend”. Each contribution makes a difference. Please join us in support of this effort. Make your gift to the present (and future) HERE or if you’d prefer, mail a check made payable to:
Wethersfield Historical Society
150 Main Street
Wethersfield, CT 06109
Additional Naming opportunities available for gifts $5,000.00 and up.
Wethersfield Historical Society Leadership
Dorene Ciarcia, President
Marc Berube, Vice President
Beverly Lucas, Secretary
Doug Weed, Treasurer
Capital Campaign Committee
Lee G. Kuckro, Co-Chair
Michael Mendoza, Co-Chair
Elaine St. Onge
Amy Northrop Wittorff, Executive Director (ex-officio)
Joshua Borenstein, Campaign Counsel (ex-officio)
Amy Northrop Wittorff, Executive Director
Kristina Oschmann, Curator
Kevin J. Andersen, Program Coordinator
William S. Johnson, Museum Educator
Claudia P. Ale, Visitor Services Coordinator
Martha Smart, Volunteer Research Librarian