The Hempsted Houses are comprised of two buildings: the 1678 Joshua Hempsted House and the 1759 Nathaniel Hempsted House. The Joshua Hempsted House is one of New England’s oldest and best-documented dwellings. Joshua Hempsted spent his entire life in this home and worked a variety of trades including a farmer, judge, gravestone carver, and shipwright. 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. The diary enables modern researchers to access the details of life in colonial CT and can be seen in its entirety at the museum at the Shaw Mansion.
The 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 by 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, may have been involved in the construction of the house.