Hart House & Exhibit Gallery

Built more than two centuries ago in 1767 for his bride, Esther Buckingham, the General William Hart house is one of the earliest houses in Saybrook, the first settlement on the southern shore of Connecticut.

William Hart was a prosperous merchant engaged in the West Indies trade. The Harts were noted for entertaining frequently and quite lavishly. During the Revolution, he led the First Regiment of Connecticut Light Horse Militia to Danbury to take part in Tryon’s raid. Hart and his brothers armed their merchant ships and served this country in numerous privateering forays against the British. From a second floor chamber in his house he could have seen the Hart fleet of ships when in port, off the Hart dock at the entrance to the North Cove.

General Hart’s home was typical of the residences of the well-to-do New England settlers. It contains many Georgian features and architectural influences more common to Williamsburg, Virginia, and even to Dutch Pennsylvania than to other New England houses. The U.S. Department of the Interior has listed the house on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of only three houses in Old Saybrook to merit this distinction. (The other two are not open to the public.)

Tours provide interesting and informative stories of the artifacts, the Hart Family and history of Old Saybrook.

General William Hart House and Museum and Exhibit Gallery

  • The General William Hart House will be open for tours on Sundays, beginning July 18 from 1 to 3 or by appointment.
  • Starting September 13 the House will only be open by appointment
  • $5.00 Tour Donations except for Members
  • Masks required in both buildings
  • Numbers limited to 6 in Hart House

Tour Highlights

  • Stories & Interesting Artifacts
  • Exhibit Gallery

The House is used for many Society functions including lectures, teas and parties.

When you visit the General William Hart house, several points of information may make your tour more rewarding. From the outside, for example, note the nine-window façade with 12 over 12 panes, the molded cornices, wide corner boards which act as pilasters topped with capitals. Note also the rather unusual fact that the clapboards at the top actually are wider, which gives the street-level viewer the impression of geometric perfection. The clapboards also are special because they are each marked with a decorative line of beading. At the bottom of the clapboards, there is a water board, designed to deflect rain-water from the foundation. These are architectural features found only on the finest homes.

Various features inside the house attest to the wealth and sophistication of the original owner; especially interesting are the eight corner fireplaces, which preserve the wall space for windows and permitted passage of air throughout the house in summer.

Wainscoting, paneling, bolection molding, corner cupboards, and English tiles surrounding one fireplace are further features that demonstrate that the owner was well traveled and well read, and certainly familiar with architectural vogues generally found well south of New England.

Inside, the rooms are characterized by the wide pine boards. There are four large rooms—each with a corner fireplace, and a kitchen or “keeping” room—a separate structure joined to the house after it was built. Four bedrooms—again with corner fireplaces and a slaves’ room over the kitchen are the second floor. The attic or third floor is divided into five rooms used as dormitory facilities during the 19th Century when the house served as a girls’ boarding school.

Exhibit Gallery

Olivia Gaidry. Student volunteer’s speech at the 250th celebration of the Hart House, June 2017