Joseph Webb House

NE Parlor Webb House

Northeast Parlor showing murals installed by Wallace Nutting in 1916

Joseph Webb HouseHistory of the Webb House, 1752-1913

The 1752 Joseph Webb House, a National Historic Landmark, is one of three beautifully preserved 18th century houses owned by the Museum in the center of Connecticut’s largest historic district.

Washington bedchamber woodwork and wallpaper restoration

Washington bedchamber woodwork and wallpaper restoration

The house served as George Washington’s headquarters in May 1781 and is where the Continental General met with French commander the Comte de Rochambeau to plan the joint military campaign that led to the victory at Yorktown and the end of the American Revolution. It was later owned by famous antiquarian and businessman Wallace Nutting, who commissioned murals in the two front parlors and the hallway.

The house was built in 1752 by Joseph Webb following his marriage to Mehitabel Nott in 1749. A young and successful merchant, he hired Judah Wright to frame a stylish three-and-a-half story house and shop with a massive gambrel roof that provided greater upper-floor storage for Joseph’s trade goods. It was also probably used as the sleeping quarters for the household’s enslaved Africans.

Portraits of Joseph and Abigail Webb

Left: Joseph Webb III, c. 1774. Pastel by John Singleton Copley from the collection of the Kent-Delord House Museum, Plattsburgh, NY
Right: Abigail Chester Webb, c. 1800. Oil on canvas by unknown artist. Collection of the Kent-Delord House Museum, Plattsburgh, NY

When Joseph Webb died in 1761, the property was inherited by his son Joseph Jr., who married Abigail Chester in 1774. The couple entertained lavishly, earning their home the nickname “Hospitality Hall.” In May 1781, they were the host and hostess when Gen. George Washington spent five nights in the house. Here, in one of the front parlors, Washington met with the French general Comte de Rochambeau to plan a joint military campaign that led to victory at Yorktown and American independence.

Due to economic difficulties, Joseph was forced to sell the house in 1790. After a series of owners, the property was finally purchased by Judge Martin Welles about 1820. He modernized the south half of the house and it remained in his family until his grandson died in 1913.

“Birthday Flowers,” hand-tinted photograph by Wallace Nutting, c. 1916, showing models in colonial dress in the “Yorktown Parlor” at the Webb House.

“Birthday Flowers,” hand-tinted photograph by Wallace Nutting, c. 1916, showing models in colonial dress in the “Yorktown Parlor” at the Webb House.

Wallace Nutting and the Colonial Dames of Connecticut

In 1914 the Webb House was bought by a group of local businessmen who sought to operate it as an athenaeum or library. When they failed to raise sufficient funds, they sold it to Wallace Nutting in 1916. After extensive redecorating, including the installation of painted murals in the hallway and front parlors, he opened the house to the public on July 4, 1916 for tours and as a sales area and studio. The Webb house was one of several historically significant sites in the “The Wallace Nutting Chain of Colonial Picture Houses.” Unfortunately, with the travel restrictions created by World War I, Nutting lost money on the venture. He sold the house to the Colonial Dames of Connecticut in 1919 to be preserved as a house museum. Click here for more information on Wallace Nutting and his ownership of the Webb House.