In 1925, Windsor Historical Society saved the 1758 Strong-Howard House from being demolished to make way for a gasoline station. Since then, it has anchored Windsor’s historic district and served as the foundation for the Society’s many services for school children and adults.
Today, after a successful $750,000 capital campaign, the home has been fully stabilized and reinterpreted. Furnished with reproduction artifacts instead of antiques, the home replicates the life of the Howard family in the year 1810. We invite you into this historic home, which has garnered local, state, and national awards.
Learn more about the Howard family’s lives and their concerns. Set the dining table, try out the bed, experiment with hearth-cooking tools and guess how they were used. Pull open the drawers of the high chest and try on stays, bonnets, and britches. And explore some of the treasures the Howards sold in their store. Enjoy this hands-on historic home!
Many four-letter words evoke complication – help, love, hope – but none more so than home. “Home is where the heart is,” but sometimes our hearts are full of joy and sometimes they are filled with sadness. Home can be heartwarming and heartbreaking and everything in between. When you visit the Strong-Howard House, you will undoubtedly learn some history, but we also want you to experience the Howards’ home , and all its complications.
Before you step over the threshold, you will know that Capt. and Mrs. Howard did not live in a vacuum. Many of their neighbors’ larger and fancier homes still stand around the Palisado Green. How would you feel to live in their shadows – proud or envious? The Howards, having built many additions onto their house, likely had mixed feelings. Their home was also their place of business and nicely situated in Windsor’s commercial district right across the street from the church. While advantageous for their store, the Howards’ particular location must have felt like a fishbowl with neighbors, townsfolk, and travelers constantly meandering on or near their property. Would you fare well with so little privacy at your home?
Once inside the Howards’ 1810 parlor, the complications continue. It is decorated with their best furniture – new painted chairs, a mahogany desk, a tilt-top tea table – ready to entertain friends, family, or store patrons. And yet the fancy décor contrasts sharply with the humbleness of the architecture. The bright paint also masks the family’s sadness since Nathaniel and Ann’s son and grandson passed away the year before. Their widowed daughter-in-law, Nancy, and surviving granddaughter, Annie, returned from New York, bringing vitality to the home, but the mourning continued. And to complicate things more, the Howards’ 23-year-old son, George, and his bride, Sarah, moved in as well. The New England merchant economy was still lagging after President Jefferson’s Embargo, and many young adults did not have the financial means to support themselves yet. Does this sound familiar in our post-recession world? So with three generations in the same home, the Howards tried to make the best of a complicated situation.
Capt. Howard’s store along Palisado Green was his retirement venture. After a life at sea, he settled down to sell fineries to Windsor’s elite and be with his family. But did his restless spirit settle down as well? Perhaps he continued to regale his guests gathered around the dinner table with salty stories from his former life. You can almost feel Ann cringe as she tried to elevate the conversation. Her polite sensibilities, and wealthy upbringing, meant she was keenly aware of her husband’s low brow tendencies. And the juxtaposition was even more striking given their well-appointed dining room. Capt. Howard also frequently discussed his adventures during the Revolution, including two imprisonments by the British. The fervor with which he despised the British was not only at odds with his need to sell their products but also with many of his neighbors’ hopes to avoid war. Most New Englanders despised President Madison and his hawkish policies. Although they were native New Englanders, the Howards were in the minority as Democratic-Republicans who supported the coming war. Have you ever held a minority opinion in your home, in your family, or in your community? Did you express it openly?
While Capt. Howard’s politics dominated dinner time discussion, guests also had a clear view into their bedroom – an intimacy that we shy away from today. The hangings on the bed, as well as their quilts, sheets, and blankets, were symbols of their wealth and were advertisements for textiles the Howards could supply from their store. What Ann Howard shielded from view was her Keeping Room – her kitchen, her family’s functional workspace, and a relaxed room filled with the “stuff” accumulated over 37 years of marriage and inherited items from family. It was also Ann’s classroom – where she first raised her four boys and then later taught her daughters-in-law and granddaughter how to run a household, keep a pantry stocked, read a recipe, prepare a meal, and pass down knowledge from one generation to the next. Is the kitchen in your home multipurpose? Intergenerational? Messy? We welcome you to come explore the Howards’ kitchen and the rest of their complicated lives in the year 1810, and we hope that you will feel at home.