The Handy House is not the home of a famous person—Washington did not sleep here! Yet the story of the people who lived here provides an extraordinary window into a world of ordinary lives that is otherwise lost to history.
As you walk through this house you will travel through 300 years of history and encounter some of the individuals who lived in its rooms. You will discover how they shaped the house and also, how they were shaped by the world around them.
Perhaps what makes the Cadman-White-Handy house so interesting is that it is not simply a well-preserved old house, but rather three remarkable houses that correspond with the first three significant trends to occur in this nation’s architectural history. Each campaign—from the original early eighteenth century house, to the mid eighteenth century improvements in the Georgian manner, to the Federal style addition—speaks volumes about the people, place, and period they represent.
The original structure consisted of the east third of the house that exists today. It was built in c. 1713 for Elizabeth Cadman White and William White. It had a simple floor plan, consisting of one or two large multipurpose rooms on each floor. There was no privacy at all as the members of this family of thirteen shared these spaces for daily activities such as eating, sleeping, chores, and storage.
Today, the Handy House is owned by the Westport Historical Society, and is open to the public July - October. Far from being an overly restored historic house frozen in time, the Handy House provides the visitor with an experience of discovery. The public will not encounter rooms full of rare and valuable antiques, but instead experience ever-changing “windows” into the town’s past through changing exhibitions and educational programs.
The Handy House has been left mostly unfurnished so that visitors can view the walls, floors, windows, doors, hinges, moldings, plaster, and other parts of its structure. Visitors who are curious to know what lies behind the shingles, beneath the plaster, under the floorboards, can view “windows” in the walls and floors that contain the keys to evolution of the house.