16. Pratt House Museum

Another Museum To Prattle On About
(Google Maps Location)
June 2, 2007

mq17a.jpgFlashback to October 20, 2006: Essex, CT on our way to the Connecticut River Museum; “We also passed the Pratt House, another museum in town – but it was closed.”

Flashback to December 10, 2006: Essex, CT on our way back to the same museum; Pratt House not open.

Now, June 2, 2007: Essex, CT on our way to the town’s annual Shad Bake; Pratt House not open. Hm. But it was a Saturday and it was 2PM and it was June and therefore it was supposed to be open according to the sign out front (here, right)! Arrgh! So Damian played with a random cat in the yard and we knocked on the door and peered into windows. While doing so, a minivan from Pennsylvania arrived and disgorged three women hoping to check out the Pratt House as well. Now there were five adults, a baby, and a cat all wanting to experience this elusive old house. Unfortunately, it would take a criminal act – or an incredibly fortunate happenstance for that to happen.

“Hello, are you wanting to tour the house,” said the one pedestrian who happened to walk by just as Hoang and I had given up knocking on the door. “Um, yes we are, but it’s closed. And there are three women from Pennsylvania out back to do the same. Oh well. We’ll just go cry in our shad.”

mq17d.jpg“If you’re willing to wait fifteen minutes, I can go home and get the keys to the house and give you a tour,” said the random passerby. “Really? Sure, we’d really like that!” we said. I didn’t feel guilty at all about putting this nice lady out because, well… Because the giant sign out front said it should have been open anyway! So run! Run on home and get the keys and let’s get to it! Pratt House ahoy!

While waiting, we enjoyed the sunshine and the took a walk to some nearby properties; Pratt this and Pratt that – it was as if the Pratts just went splat and that was that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Essex, CT is where you want to go when in southern CT to get a feel for what New England is all about. A maritime past, a historic district, well-kept colonials… luxury sedans, $6.00 ice cream cones, sweaters tied around necks… [Just read today in "1000 Places to go Before You Die" that Essex is one - right up there with Machu Picchu and The Great Barrier Reef. No joke.]

mq17e.jpgAm I avoiding the Pratt House itself? Because maybe I didn’t take any notes and all it was was an old house with some old stuff in it? Yes and yes, unfortunately. Though, the museum website link at the bottom provides all the details about the property you could ever want to know. The nice lady returned and let the six of us in. She even gave us all a tour but as usual when Damian is in tow, something gets lost in translation.

The house was built in 1700 and seven generations of Pratts lived there until 1915. There were additions to the original house over the years, of course, as Essex’s society moved from agrarian to ship-building to commerce. John Pratt, Jr. who first lived there, was a blacksmith and a bit of an rogue, since no one really lived here back then.

mq17f.jpgWe toured the large first room with a huge open hearth for colonial cooking and a few spinster, um, spinster things. There was a dining room, a parlor, a couple bedrooms and a child’s room. The back half of the house was being rented out by an older gentleman who lives there. Everything from the period (18th and 19th centuries) is well represented and the docent was quite decent to give us a tour. The house hadn’t been open since Labor Day weeked but amazingly was all pretty clean.

mq17j.jpgTwo things I learned there were what “courting mirrors” were (late 18th/early 19th century decorative gifts given to women that they usually hung on their walls) and what a house built by “Lath and plaster” looked like. There was a cool cutaway view of the inside of the house’s walls and it gave a good idea of what it took to build these houses 300 years ago. There’s more on this process in the lins below.

We enjoyed the house tour as it really just sort of “sets the mood” for a walking tour around Essex. Once again I was fascinated that the floors (though bowed and mishapen) were still quieter than my own 50 year old house’s floorboards. Afterwards, as mentioned, it was off to the delicious shad fest thoughts that we’d still visit be back to li’l ol’ Essex for the Essex Steam Train and museum. Apparently, we can’t get enough of this town.

That would be the “Open” sign that would be outside if it were actually open

That’s me… “smoking” a candle snuffer. I’m dumb.

That’s me… “cooking” some food. Before getting yelled at.

AaaaaAAaa! Old timey toys are scary, seriously

Since you wanted to know what courting mirrors looked like…

…Not to mention lath and plaster walls

Damian finally has his first CTMQ Thumbs Up picture


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Cost: Free; donations accepted
Hours: June – Labor Day; Sat and Sun 1-4
Food & Drink? One of CT’s oldest and best; The Griswold Inn
Children? Sure, we did
You’ll like it if: You giggle at the British meaning of “pratt”
You won’t like it if: You’re there, it’s closed, and the docent doesn’t happen to walk by
Freebies: None


For the Curious:

Museum Website
Essex Website
Other Essex historic property pictures
“Pratt” in England
Courting mirrors
Lath and plaster colonial construction
Essex shad bake video – for real

3 responses to “16. Pratt House Museum”

  1. Mike says:

    Actually you are smoking a clay pipe – was it in the pipe box on the wall behind you?

    BTW – I like the CTMQ. Keep it up!

  2. Steve says:

    I’m not sure… I think it was solid and I also think it was on the mantle near the candles.

    I’ll let the mystery fester. Thanks for reading!

  3. An RV Adventure through the Connecticut River Valley | Monty's Musings - RV Travel Blog says:

    [...] camera to capture the beauty to take home with you. Another sight to place on your itinerary is the Pratt House Museum. You can tour this home that was built in 1700, truly getting the feeling of how life was at the [...]

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