Secrets of Historic Wethersfield CT; a Weekend Getaway Guide

Settled in 1634, back-in-time Wethersfield CT, just three miles from Hartford, truly reflects its history as one of Connecticut’s two oldest towns. (It shares a “friendly rivalry” with Windsor).

The Historic District, the oldest and largest in the state comprising dozens of buildings some dating from the 1600s, is in every way a “living history village.”

Wethersfield is the setting for the children’s book, The Witch of Blackbird Pond and is considered the “cradle of the American Seed company.” It’s also the kind of place where the local “farm-to-fork” deli delivers to the elderly when they can’t leave their homes. And where residents can’t help bumping into neighbors on daily walks.

Come for some surprisingly good food, the Revolutionary War, and agricultural history. And of course, stay in comfort steps from everything.

Wethersfield CT Historic District With Dogs

Where Is Wethersfield CT?

Wethersfield, Connecticut, is a town located in Hartford County, situated along the west bank of the Connecticut River. It is part of the Greater Hartford metropolitan area and lies approximately five miles south of Hartford, the state capital.

Established in 1634, Wethersfield is one of the oldest towns in Connecticut and is rich in history and colonial architecture. The town is easily accessible via Interstate 91, making it a convenient location for those commuting to Hartford or other nearby cities. With its well-preserved historic district, museums, and a beautiful riverfront, Wethersfield offers a blend of historical significance and modern amenities.

Looking for more weekend getaway ideas? Here’s our curated list of romantic getaways in New England.

Things to Do in Wethersfield CT

Keeney Memorial Cultural Center, Wethersfield CT

VISIT: Wethersfield Museum and Visitors Center AKA Keeney Memorial Cultural Center

Start your getaway here. In the former Board of Ed building, the Wethersfield CT Visitor Center also serves as a museum, encompassing approachable exhibits about all aspects of Wethersfield’s personality.

Thankfully for historians, Wethersfield’s residents came early to Historic Preservation. In the 1920’s several Wethersfield homes were torn down, prompting a response to save the rest. This early rescue is now recognized as one of the keys to this town’s appeal.

Shipbuilding, furniture making, red onions, and packaged seeds put Wethersfield on the map. Boats and furniture are no longer made here, but some onions and seed companies remain.

Wethersfield CT Chest

Once a deep port on the Connecticut River, Colonial Wethersfield was a shipbuilding center. The Tryall, built here in 1649, was first in a merchant fleet that shipped beaver and deer pelts, salted meats, grain, flax seed, and of course onions around the world. Shipping created wealth for resident exporters and ship captains.

They, in turn, spent money on Wethersfield furniture, engraved with the town’s logo of three sunflowers, and purchased exotic foreign goods.

Wethersfield CT children dressed as onions

Between 1738 and 1839, hundreds of residents grew Red Onions, (a third were women called “onion maidens”). The crop was shipped south to feed slaves in the West Indies.

But all was not lost. In 1826, wealth came again with the construction of the State Prison – a penitentiary, like Eastern State Penn in Philadelphia, that attracted tourists. A trolley line was installed, connecting Wethersfield to Hartford.

Onion Maidens, Wethersfield CT

The town’s nautical era ended in the 1700s, when the Connecticut River altered course, thus creating a shallow cove where a deep oxbow had been. And the Onion era ended with blight in the mid-1800s.

In 1907, developer Albert Hubbard built 240 homes. These still stand on roads identified by house-shaped street signs – and are highly desirable.

Wethersfield Prison Cell

The Wethersfield State Prison, called “Castle on the Cove,” was a point of pride in the town. For some time it coexisted nicely with town residents. Wethersfield Little League played on prison grounds, the prison’s football and baseball teams played against town teams, and prisoners made ships in bottles, state license plates, and other goods.

By the 50’s and 60’s, however, overcrowding and riots forced the prison’s closure. In 1963, the building was demolished.

But you can step inside a cell, sit on the bench, and slide the door closed in a special exhibit.  It’s probably the most popular part of the museum for kids (and adults). Come here to sign up for an engaging walking tour, pick up self-guided tour books, or just talk to knowledgeable locals. You’ll find town pride in abundance.

Stevens House, Wethersfield CT

TOUR: Webb-Dean-Stevens Museum

The most popular “museum” in Wethersfield is actually three separate homes standing next to each other – each with its own style and history. Of course, there is the verified claim that George Washington slept here, as the Webb House belonged to Joseph Webb, the brother of Washington’s aide-de-camp, Samuel Webb.

But, there’s also documentation that Washington met with General Rochambeau here in May 1781, six months before Yorktown. The two generals purportedly discussed the logistics of moving Washington’s army from Newport RI to New York.

Both Silas Deane and J. Webb were wealthy landowners, Deane a delegate to the First Continental Congress. Stevens, a tanner who had done business with the Webbs, was considered an acceptable neighbor.

Luncheon for VIP, Silas Deane House, Wethersfield CT

The 1770 Deane House

The Deane House was restored in the 1970s – but historians now know that the interior colors would have been more vivid. As a statesman, and the first diplomat to visit France during the American Revolution, Deane’s home would have housed prominent guests. The dining room is set up for a luncheon with dignitaries of the time.

Man Trap, Stevens House, Wethersfield CT

The Stevens House

The Stevens House now represents a 19th-century “Man Trap.” By the 1800’s, home décor was the woman’s domain. Striped carpets and floral wallpaper came into vogue. Women would “stuff suitors with cake and entertain them while playing the pianoforte,” according to a docent.

The Webb House

Nutting Colonial Era Mural in Webb House, Wethersfield CT

Interestingly, the history of the 1700s Webb House was popularized in 1916 by Wallace Nutting, a retired Congregational Minister. In his later years, Nutting took up art and photography and became a central figure in the Colonial Revival movement of the 1920s.

Nutting purchased five colonial-era homes throughout New England. He scoured antique shops for period furniture and inadvertently painted historically inaccurate murals on the walls. He staged rooms as they would have appeared during the late 1700s, and then took silver tint photos of each one.

Hitting on a formula to reproduce and sell these renderings, Nutting hired 100 women in Wethersfield to hand-paint the photos and then shipped them to department stores all over the country.

Over ten million pictures, favored as wedding gifts, were sold. Your tour provides a close-up look at these murals, restored in the mid-1990s, along with an exhibit about Nutting.

George Washington Room, Webb House, Wethersfield CT

The most thrilling part of the tour is upstairs in the Webb House – a historically accurate renovation. It features original wallpaper and faux cedar-graining woodwork in the “VIP guest room.” This is where George Washington is believed to have stayed for five days while meeting with Rochambeau.

Reopened to the public in 2010, the room encompasses an example of the original wallpaper with an English tax stamp on the back, a table set with a map of Yorktown, and reproduction military dress coats draped over the chairs.

First Church, Wethersfield CT

TOUR: First Church of Christ

Before he became president, George Washington worshiped here in 1781, and John Adams, after climbing the steeple, proclaimed the “most grand and glorious sight seen.”

Originally built in the style of famous Church architect, Christopher Wren, the First Church was remodeled in 1880 to reflect the fussier Victorian tastes of the day.

However, in 1973, First Church was restored to the way it looked when it was built – with high central pulpit, clear glass windows, chandeliers, and long slip-and-box pews.

Walk through the windowed “Dunham Connector” – linking the lobby to the sanctuary. Stop a moment to gaze at the Ancient Burying Ground right outside.

First Church interior, Wethersfield CT

In 1973, restorers discovered an original window. It had been removed in 1880 and stored in the attic for nearly 100 years. Amazingly, the original glassmaker was still in business in the UK, and thus the English company was able to replicate and replace the rest. Visitors are welcome to attend one of two Sunday Services or take a peek inside anytime.

wethersfield ancient burying ground ct

TOUR: Wethersfield Ancient Burying Ground

Adjacent to the First Church, tombstones here tell the story of Wethersfield and its settlers. Families of “Quality” were buried at the top of the hill. Slaves and free blacks were interred at the foot.

Though the oldest stone in the cemetery is marked 1648, the most compelling is that of Lydia Beadle and her four children. These unfortunate victims were murdered by husband/father William in 1782 after he lost his wealth post-American Revolution. Fearful for his family’s reputation and standing in town, William felt it best they all leave this earth. A very sad story indeed.

Buttolph Williams House, Wethersfield CT

TOUR: Buttolph-Williams House

Middle-school kids are thrilled to visit this circa 1711 Elizabethan-style home. That’s because it was the setting for the acclaimed 1958 book, Witch of Blackbird Pond.

Author Elizabeth Speare’s work of historical fiction brings to life the witch trials in Wethersfield in the mid-1600s, predating those of Salem MA by 30 years. The Buttolph-Williams house itself, however, never had anything to do with witches.

The 4-room structure was a stagecoach stop and then a home for the Williams family for a hundred years. The furniture is authentic to the late 1600s (though not original to the home). The oldest and rare items include a blanket chest, a 1690 Lantern Clock (hour hands only), and a 1680 “Fireback” – an ornate iron design in the rear of the walk-in fireplace.

The stark design and dark exterior color represent the transition between Old England and Colonial America. The home offers a glimpse into the Pilgrim’s life, which was not as dreary and monotone as one might expect.  Upstairs, a pink four-poster bed features a funky-looking Hungarian Flame Stitch canopy and settee, a whimsical design that dates to the 1500s.

Cove Warehouse, Wethersfield CT

VISIT: Cove Warehouse

This circa 1680 warehouse was situated on the bend of the Connecticut River when it was still navigable. For nearly 200 years, farmers grew produce in the fertile soil for the community and for trade. Ship-builders used local timber to build boats that brought products to points along the Atlantic rim.

Now, the warehouse sits perched over a quiet, shallow cove, and serves as a hands-on museum. Use shipwright tools, peek into barrels, pull block and tackle, make tree nail pegs, and braid ropes made from onion tops to get a first-hand idea of life here in Colonial times.

Hurlbut-Dunham House, Wethersfield CT

TOUR: Hurlbut-Dunham House

Though most historic homes in Wethersfield represent Colonial History, the Hurlbut-Dunham House, last owned by society couple, Jane and Howard Dunham in the 1900’s, reflects more modern sensibilities.

First built for Captain Hurlbut in 1790, and renovated to Italianate design in the late 1800’s, the house is crammed with the Dunham’s original furniture and accessories. These include a radio, card table set with an ongoing bridge game, a monogrammed golf bag, and a steamer trunk. The Dunhams never had children but loved dogs, so you’ll see evidence of that passion throughout the rooms.

It’s a unique peek into a lesser-known era – post-Victorian, pre-mid-century modern. It’s definitely worth a 45-minute peruse.

Spiro and Julia Koulouris, Wethersfield CT

VISIT: Comstock Ferre & Co.

The oldest continuously operating seed company (est. 1811) in the country came back to its original location. Sort of.

Bought out by Baker Creek Co., the old Comstock Ferre property reopened as a gardening supply, natural food market, gift, seed, and café emporium thanks to young foodie/chef couple, Spiro and Julia Koulouris.

Heirloom Seeds, Commstock Ferre, Wethersfield CT

The Koulouris repurposed old seed cabinets and used reclaimed wood to renovate the barn. In doing so, they created a place to eat, shop, and provide advice on gardening with a selection of 1,700 different kinds of seeds.

They also offer classes in Urban Gardening, created a year-round “seed to plate” indoor Farmer’s Market, and much more. This is a large coup for Wethersfield – one that has been drawing back-to-earthers in droves.

Hart Seeds, Wethersfield CT

SHOP: Hart Seed Co.

This 4th and 5th generation-run seed company has been in operation since 1892 here. Although Hart sells mostly wholesale, you can purchase heirloom seeds, and garden, grass, and turf maintenance tools and products at the on-site retail shop.

Martha Smart, Librarian, Old Weathersfield Academy Geneology Center CT

GO: Wethersfield Historical Society Library in the Old Academy Building

Originally the local High School, this 1804 building has been repurposed as offices for the Wethersfield CT Historical Society and Genealogy Research Center.

If you are a scholar or writer researching for a book, this place is priceless. An extensive Maritime Collection includes business records, ledgers, log books, and ephemera going back to the early 1700s. Back then, trade was Wethersfield’s “lifeblood,” according to librarian, Martha Smart.

From the log of a 1786 merchant ship: “7 pm- weigh anchor in New London, winds fresh out of the west, bound by God’s grace to Martinique.”

Wethersfield Academy for the Arts, CT

DO: Wethersfield CT Academy of the Arts

This classical atelier is the only one in the area outside of New York and Boston that provides Barque Drawing courses for serious artist-in-training. Some students drive an hour just to take this figure and anatomy reproduction class.

But drop-ins are welcome to attend evening lectures, music, poetry slams, demonstrations and other cultural events. Check the website for event and class calendars. There’s always something going on.

Hubbard Home Street Sign, Wethersfield CT

WALK: Broad Street Green in Wethersfield

Ringed by beautiful old homes (some for sale!), this lush “Central Park” originally used to graze livestock. Somewhat strangely, Broad Street Green is also considered the Birthplace of the US Cavalry. You’ll find Hubbard House street signs, indicating those iconic homes, on surrounding roads. They remain desirable Wethersfield real estate.

Great Meadows Conservation Trust, Wethersfield CT

HIKE: The Meadows

This must have been the way Wethersfield looked when the settlers arrived here: flat, flood-prone, fertile farmland. The Meadows is hidden from bordering Interstate 91 behind the corporate Putnam Park. It’s managed by the Great Meadows Conservation Trust and popular with model airplane enthusiasts, Fish and Game Club members, and birders.

Go out on a hike with naturalists to see eagles and other birds nesting in boxes. Or just take a drive on the long dirt road that leads you to the Meadows. You’d never imagine that commerce and civilization are just a few feet away.

Old Wethersfield Country Store, CT

SHOP: Old Wethersfield Country Store.

A “country store” for hipsters. How can you tell? This place stocks specialty peanut butter from NYC, a selection of soaps and lotions, and prepared foods for discerning patrons.

House of Images, Wethersfield CT

SHOP: Wethersfield CT Independent Stores

Neill Walsh Goldsmiths & Gallery for one-of-a-kind fine jewelry. Heart of the Country for gifts and hand-made crafts.

Restaurants in Wethersfield CT

EAT: Lucky Lou’s

In the 1787 Deming-Standish House, this upscale Italian/American tavern could get by on atmosphere alone. But the food hits a high mark as well. By day, it’s a locally sourced burger and salad place, by night a chophouse.

But any time you go, you’ve got to try the slightly charred octopus. I’ve dined on these generally-chewy creatures around the world. This soft, slightly smoky version is the best I’ve ever had.

Ido Ichi, Wethersfield CT

EAT: Edo Ichi Sushi

Though not technically in Wethersfield’s Historic District, this sushi palace (on Silas Dean Hwy.) is the real deal. Rolls are fresh and creative and come to the table on model ships. 

EAT: Cove Deli

Though a bit confusing, this popular little take-out/catering place with a few tables is not actually on the cove. It’s right in the historic center of Wethersfield. You’ll find simply great soups, overstuffed sandwiches, and other prepared foods. 

Main Street Creamery Wethersfield CT

ICE CREAM: Main Street Creamery

Every small town worth its salt (or in this case, onions), has a great ice cream spot. And this is Wethersfield CT’s!

Hotels in Wethersfield CT

Chester Bulkley House Exterior, Wethersfield CT

STAY: Chester Bulkley House B&B

Original wide floorboards, painted in vivid colonial colors, in this beautiful white brick home, built in 1710, with an 1830 Greek Revival addition. You might feel as if you’re on a ship at sea. But you are actually next door to the Wethersfield Visitor’s Center – rendering the Chester Bulkley House a most convenient and charming place to stay.

Bedrooms are not ultra luxurious per se. But they are clean, filled with interesting antiques and comfy bedding. Small bathrooms feature some cutesy flourishes, like dipped candles and tiny straw hats hanging from towel pegs. And elegant common rooms are dressed for each season.

The dining room is especially appealing. This is where owner/innkeeper, Tom Aufiero, serves his “Candlelit Breakfasts.” If you’re lucky, he’ll make his famous French Toast with Spiced Peach and Homemade Syrup. 

Silas Robbins BnB, Wethersfield CT

STAY: Silas Robbins House

A “new house in an old shell,” this former lawyer’s office on Wethersfield Green opened as a B&B in 2007. It certainly captures the grandeur of the Victorian era. Rooms and bathrooms are sumptuously appointed, and a lovely gourmet breakfast is served in a formal tearoom.

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  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine,, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

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11 thoughts on “Secrets of Historic Wethersfield CT; a Weekend Getaway Guide”

  1. Looks like a great picture of Wethersfield and all it has to offer to locals and visitors alike. Exciting to realize the many beautiful old homes, and to have so many of them close by the Cove and water access to the Connecticut River for boating, ending at Long Island Sound and Atlantic Ocean.
    It is the best of both worlds.

  2. Love Wethersfield; one of my favorite towns in the world. Wethersfield Academy offers many worthwhile art education opportunities with world class artists.

  3. I love this town. As a resident of Alexandria, Va, I am a fan of our founding history. Wethersfield not only supplies that need; but, also has a citizenship that is open and friendly. I would recommend people to visit Wethersfield any chance they have. A truly wonderful place.

  4. I love Wethersfield, especially Old Wethersfield. I lived there for many years and would move back if at all possible.

    Thank you for posting this wonderful tour.

  5. This is such a wonderfully written article that captured so well the many beautiful features of our great town. A life long resident reading this will be reminded of some of the awesome history and features that the daily resident might forget. Well done.

  6. I moved to Old Wethersfield in October after a chance trip to the are had me falling head over heels in love with this beautiful town. I am so happy to be here now, getting to enjoy the beautiful scenery where a walk through the town to the cove daily is such a treat. I always look at the beautiful homes on Main Street and dream of one day having my own. The Country Store is awesome too, such nice people running it and they have little gems inside from Stonewall Kitchen treats to little homemade personal care goodies at the front of the store. I couldn’t be happier living in this awesome neighborhood and look forward to exploring it even more in the months and years to come.

  7. Great place. Almost bought a home on Garden St. I would love to live there again if I could.
    Great article thankyou so much.
    The book ” The Witch of Blackbird Pond” is an excellent read.

  8. Born and raised in Wethersfield and my mother served as President of the Historical Society, as President of the NASCD-CT (the orgnaization that owns and operates the Webb-Deane-Stevens Musuem) and served on the Historic District Commission for 9 years (and chaired it for 5 o those years). I now live in Rocky Hill but still attend First Church and support many of the businesses mentioned here. Great article! One Update – there is a new Visitors/Education Center currently under construction at the Webb/Deane/Stevens museum. Come back in a year or so to see that too!

  9. Would dearly love to come visit Wethersfield. I am a descendant of Honor Treat and John Deming. Perhaps I will make it up that way once this pandemic settles down.

  10. Yes, it’s definitely an historic, lost in time town. Especially meaningful when you have ancestors there. Connecticut has gotten a handle on the virus – so now’s a great time to visit. Thanks for reading!

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