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Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Disassembled Childhood Home Is for Sale… on eBay

It has yet to receive any bids

(National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)
smithsonian.com

For the first 13 years of her life, Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in a large house in Litchfield, Connecticut. As Andrew R. Chow reports for the New York Times, that house is now for sale—on eBay.

The property is a bit of a fixer-upper. Beecher Stowe’s former residence was taken apart about 20 years ago, and it is being stored, in pieces, in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The co-owner of the property, an antique dealer named Art Pappas, has listed the home for $400,000. But while in his post, he argues "[t]his is the most important Dismantled American House that is available for reconstruction,” the house had not received any bids as of Friday afternoon.

It has been a rather anti-climactic journey for the home where Beecher Stowe, beloved author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, spent her early childhood years. Revolutionary War Captain Elijah Wadsworth first built the house in 1774, and Beecher Stowe's father, Reverend Lyman Beecher, bought the property in Litchfield in 1810, one year before the author was born.

It was a crowded, bustling home, according to Joan D. Hedrick, author of Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life. The Litchfield household included seven Beecher children and—at various points—two indentured servants, an uncle, two aunts, Grandma Beecher, an orphan cousin, “several students from Tapping Reeve’s Litchfield Law School and as many as eleven boarders from the Litchfield Female Academy,” according to Hedrick.

Beecher Stowe lived in the home until she was 13, when she left to attend the Hartford Female Seminary. The family moved from Litchfield in 1826. In a letter to her grandmother that same year, Beecher Stowe wrote: “You have probably heard that our home in Litchfield is broken up. Papa has received a call to Boston and concluded to accept, because he could not support his family in Litchfield.” 

Many years after the Beechers vacated the residence, the Litchfield house was moved to a new location and transformed into a sanitarium, according to Susan Dunne of the Hartford Courant. It was subsequently used as a school dormitory; folk singer Pete Seeger lived in the dorm between 1927 and 1929.

In 1997, the house was sold for $1 to a buyer who hoped to transform it into a museum, the Associated Press reports. Those plans were never realized, however, and the property was acquired by Pappas and an unidentified partner.

Pappas tells the AP that he tried to sell the house to museums (including the Smithsonian) and to organizations that specialize in selling historic properties. "A lot of them just don't show any interest whatsoever, which blows my mind," he says. "It's the birthplace of Harriet Beecher."

The Litchfield Historical Society did examine the home, but it determined that “there was not much left of it from Beecher era," according to Katherine Kane, Executive Director of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, in an interview with the AP.

"I wouldn't say that it wasn't worth preserving,” she elaborates. “But it's not on the site where it was built or in the community where it was built. So it's lost some of its context already and then being deconstructed makes it even more difficult. It's very sad."

If nobody bids on the house, Pappas may be forced to parcel off fragments as antiques or building material. But he hasn’t given up hope yet. The eBay listing for the Litchfield property says that its current owners are still “seeking a person or organization that is financially capable to correctly restore this National Treasure.”

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a journalist based in New York City. Her work has appeared in New York magazine, Flavorwire, and Women in the World, a property of The New York Times.

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