800 Denison descendants. During that gathering, Gates announced her plans to create the Denison Society to control her family’s land and home, which would be turned into a museum upon her death. Gates died in 1941.
By 1948, the homestead had been restored and opened as a museum, a process led by J. Frederick Kelly. A Connecticut architectural historian, Kelly “wrote the Bible on Colonial restoration,” says Julie Soto, office coordinator and tour guide at the Denison Homestead.
“Each of the five rooms reflects a different time period, which shows what life was like for the early Americans,” she says.
The first room visitors see on the tour is the Colonial kitchen. A long table has a bench running the length of one side, with chairs facing it and at the head and foot. The focal point is a large hearth, which has a steel beam stretched across one section to hang several pots. A spinning wheel sits in one corner; herbs are drying from the rafters.
A tiny chamber sits right off the kitchen.
“This was the birthing room, or a room the sick or elderly would use,” explains Soto.
Upstairs is a Victorian room where a wooden chest still holds a slight scent of camphor and a sleigh bed sits in one corner.
“The story goes that the bed belonged to a Denison man whose wife refused to sleep in it. So the man went to his lawyer’s office to get a divorce,” says Soto. While there, the daughter of the lawyer agreed to marry the Denison, saying she would sleep in the bed. The pair married.
Although the museum is open June to October, tours are available yearround by appointment by contacting the museum office.