Filed Under Preservation

Cadman-White-Handy House

How can one house tell the story of an entire town?

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.

Images

Handy House, c. 1900. This photograph shows the Handy House as it appeared circa 1900. Source: http://westhist.pastperfectonline.com/photo/863D71B9-594B-45DF-998E-214590276561 Date: 1900
Dr. James Handy Dr. James Handy lived in the Handy House during the 19th century. Dr. Handy was the physician to many Westporters. Miraculously, his account books have survived and are now part of the Westport Historical Society’s collection. Source: http://westhist.pastperfectonline.com/photo/6D85064C-B978-4A50-90D7-926698703720
Handy House Artisan Fair Handy House Artisan Fair, held annually in late September, showcases local craftspeople who specialize in skills and traditional crafts commonly practiced in the 18th and 19th century. Traditional craftsmanship, from blacksmithing to green woodworking, is still very much alive in Westport. The Artisan Fair offers a rare opportunity to meet these craftspeople, learn about their skilled hand work and human powered technologies through hands on demonstrations.
Exhibit at the Handy House The Handy House presents a schedule of changing exhibits and educational programs from July to October.

Location

202 Hixbridge Rd Westport, MA 02790

Metadata

Westport Historical Society, “Cadman-White-Handy House,” Rhode Tour, accessed January 30, 2023, https://rhodetour.org/items/show/271.