The Harriet Beecher Stowe House

Happy President’s Day!

On Friday I finally made it to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. I say finally because the two other times I had planned to make the drive we had snow storms. There was a snow storm earlier in the week and more snow on Thursday, but by Friday morning the roads were cleared and I made the hour drive up to Hartford on dry roads.

Legend has it that when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe on December 2, 1862 he said, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” Stowe was under four feet tall and Lincoln over six feet tall. Stowe may have been small in stature, but at the time she was America’s biggest literary superstar. Her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which had first been serialized, was published in book form on March 20, 1852. It was THE best-selling novel at the time and would end up being the top seller of the 19th century.

Pictures are not allowed inside the house, but I took a few of the outside. If I had been able to take pictures I would have snapped a few of the bold flower paintings by Stowe. And probably one of the stuffed toy pugs poking out from under a bed–Stowe loved dogs and cats and had an affinity for pugs.

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Brunswick, Maine when her husband was teaching at Bowdoin College. Stowe was born in Litchfield, CT on June 14, 1811. The tour guide, Ann, asked us all where we were from. There were five of us on the tour. A couple from Madison, WI who were in town visiting one of their sisters and their son who now live in Hartford. Ann perked up when I said I’d just moved to Guilford. During the tour Ann told us that Stowe lived for a time, as a child, in Guilford. There’s a historic plaque on a building down by the town green that I have to go find. Earlier on Friday I had checked out from the library Joel Eliot Helander’s book, A Treasury of Guilford Places (2008). When I got home that night I consulted it to see if Stowe is mentioned. She is. The house where she lived with her grandparents is just about three miles from my new house, down a beautiful winding road that we take to get to town. There’s also a house in town that was part of the underground railroad.
I love the logo of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center:
Flames of inspiration, courage, and truth flow from the nib of a pen. The pen is mightier than the sword.

The house where Stowe lived for the last twenty three years of her life was built in 1871 in the Nook Farm neighborhood. When the Stowe’s first moved to Hartford in 1864 they built a mansion they named Oakholm. In 1873, however, they decided to downsize and moved in to the house that was to be their final residence. Stowe lived here with her husband and twin daughters until her death on July 1, 1896. She was waked in the parlor, which is the front lower right corner room in the picture above. The house is 4,400 square feet with 17 rooms–not exactly a sacrificial downsizing, but one that better allowed the family to economize and perhaps to reflect the ideas set forth in the book Stow wrote with her sister, Catharine Stowe, The American Woman’s Home.

The back of the house. A year after the Stowe’s moved in another writer moved to Nook Farm and built his home in Stowe’s back yard. Check back on Wednesday to see who that was.

On March 19-20, 2014 the Stowe Center will hold its annual marathon reading of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. You can participate in person or via Skype. Have you read Uncle Tom’s Cabin? March would be the perfect time for a first read or a reread.

One comment

  1. I'd love to visit the Stowe house — it seems fascinating. Thanks for the tour! I might join in the annual marathon reading; what a good idea.

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