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American Period Rooms



The Connecticut Room

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Brrr . . . it’s cold outside. You’d better come in and warm up by the fire.

Enter this room and step back in time, to colonial New England. Part of the room came from a farmhouse near the country town of Foxon, Connecticut. In colonial days, houses were generally much smaller than those we see today. Although the Foxon farmhouse was two stories high, it contained only four rooms: the parlor and the kitchen, on the first floor; and two rooms on the second floor, used as bedrooms or storerooms.

This was the parlor, or “best room,” where guests and family members gathered to socialize. It was also the master bedroom. In small houses, rooms often served more than one purpose. Although you can’t see it in the picture, there is a bed in the corner for the adults to sleep in. (Beds were among a family’s most valuable possessions.) In the cold winter months, the children also slept in the parlor, to keep warm.

The green painted wall, an original part of the farmhouse, draws our attention to the parlor’s most important feature: the fireplace. As a source of heat and light, the fireplace was vital to the family’s survival. The room’s low ceiling helped conserve heat during bitter winter nights. The windows let in daylight, and in the evening hours candles burned in the wrought-iron candlesticks.

Although the furniture here is not from the original farmhouse parlor, it gives you a good idea of how that room might have looked. When not in use, the sparse furnishings were pushed out of the way. As you can probably guess, these chairs, with their stiff backs and woolen seat cushions, aren’t nearly as comfortable as the chairs people relax in today. The table placed between them was used for serving tea, a custom popular in England, which the colonists adopted. On top of the tea table sits a small wooden “Bible box,” for safe keeping of the family’s treasured Bible and other important documents.


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1. This room came from Foxon, Connecticut.
2. This wall was once part of the original farmhouse. From this viewpoint you can see the fireplace that was so essential to the family that lived here.
3. This portrait of Abigail Gowen hangs above the chest in the room. Although Abigail didn't live in this house, the portrait gives us a good idea about how a young girl in colonial times dressed.

 

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February 2005