The Hempsted Houses comprises two buildings: the 1678 Joshua Hempsted House and the 1759 Nathaniel Hempsted House. The Joshua Hempsted House is a frame building and is one of New England's oldest and best-documented dwellings. Joshua Hempsted lived here his whole life, filling many roles, including farmer, judge, gravestone carver, shipwright, and father of nine children left motherless by his wife's death in 1716. As a boy, Joshua lived in the house with his parents and 7 sisters. As a young husband and father, he shared the house with Abigail and their 9 children. Later in life, he was joined by enslaved African-American, Adam Jackson, some of his children, hired helpers, and 2 grandsons whom he raised. Joshua kept a diary for nearly 50 years prior to his own death in 1758. It is full of sometimes meaty, sometimes mundane, details of daily life in colonial Connecticut.
The frame house reflects an English medieval style of building with its steeply pitched side gable roof, massive central chimney and diamond pane windows. A major addition was added in 1728 for Joshua's son, Nathaniel and his family. It is more modern in style with different shingles and sash windows. The house is furnished with a multitude of colonial artifacts. After Connecticut Landmarks acquired the house in 1942, a major restoration of the house was done using both structural evidence and Joshua's diary for guidance.
Adjacent to the Joshua Hempsted House is the stone Nathaniel Hempsted House. The house was constructed for Joshua the diarist's grandson, Nathaniel, whom he had raised. Stone was rarely used to construct houses in Connecticut. Evidence suggests that French Canadian refugees, called Acadians (who were Catholic), may have been involved in the construction of the house.
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