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Roseland Cottage (1846)

A colorful summer retreat (Woodstock, Connecticut)

Built in 1846 in the newly fashionable Gothic Revival style, Roseland Cottage was the summer home of Henry and Lucy Bowen and their young family. While the house is instantly recognizable for its pink exterior, Roseland Cottage has an equally colorful interior, featuring elaborate wall coverings, heavily patterned carpets, and stained glass, much of which survives unchanged from the Victorian era. The house is a National Historic Landmark.

Woodstock native Henry Bowen returned to his hometown after establishing a successful business in New York City. He used Roseland Cottage as a place to entertain friends and political connections, including four U.S. presidents. The picturesque landscape includes original boxwood-edged parterre gardens planted in the 1850s. The estate includes an icehouse, aviary, carriage barn, and the nation’s oldest surviving indoor bowling alley. It reflects the principles of Andrew Jackson Downing, a leading nineteenth-century tastemaker.

Historic New England has launched a series of digital visitor experiences featuring never-before-seen videos, new photography, oral histories, and archival material, including Roseland Cottage.

Plan Your Visit

Location

556 Route 169
P.O. Box 186
Woodstock, Conn. 06281

EXPLORE DIGITAL TOURS

Days & Hours

Thursday – Sunday
June – October 17

Saturday and Sunday 
October 26 and 27

Tours on the hour
11 AM – 3 PM

Closed July 4

Admission

$20 adults
$17 seniors
$7 students and children

Free for Historic New England members

Accessibility

Tour involves standing, walking, and stairs. Visitors with limited mobility may be able to enjoy a first floor tour of the house and grounds. Visitors can access a virtual tour of the museum from their own digital device onsite. Folding chairs are provided for visitors who would like to use them while on tour. The site is not equipped with ramps, elevators, or lifts and there is no air-conditioning. Service animals are welcome. We are happy to work with you to make your visit an enjoyable one and we encourage visitors with questions or requests to call ahead.

Directions

From I-395, take Exit 47. Turn onto Route 44 west; follow for one mile. Go west on Route 171 for three miles. Route 171 will merge with Route 169 north. Take Route 169 north for 1.5 miles. Roseland Cottage is on the left. Or, from I-84, take Exit 73. Turn onto Route 190 east. Turn right onto Route 171 east; follow for two miles. Turn left onto Route 197 east; follow for eight miles. Turn right onto Route 169 south. Travel three miles south. Roseland Cottage is on the right.

Parking

There is ample parking on the grounds of Roseland Cottage. Follow signs to parking area behind barn.

Contact Information

Gothic Revival House and Parterre Garden

The Bowen family sought refuge from the summer heat, congestion, and formality of New York City in Woodstock.

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  • Gothic Revival House and Parterre Garden

    The Bowen family sought refuge from the summer heat, congestion, and formality of New York City in Woodstock.

  • North Parlor

    The parlors were used for formal entertaining and informal family gatherings, such as charades and poetry readings.

  • South Parlor

    The south half of the double parlor mirrors the north. Pocket doors closed so that men and women could socialize separately.

  • Gothic Revival Hall

    In the mid-1880s the Bowens installed Lincrusta-Walton, a newly patented wall covering that imitated richly tooled and gilded leather.

  • Butler's Pantry

    Four to six servants provided regular support to the family, with more staff called in for special engagements such as Fourth of July parties.

  • Bowling Alley

    Roseland Cottage has the oldest surviving indoor bowling alley in the country. It was built in an outbuilding when the house was constructed in 1846.

Lake with trees in fall foliage along the shoreline- Roseland ParkWabaquasset

Northeast Connecticut has been home to Algonquin people for at least 12,000 years. The Nipmuc, or Fresh Water People, lived in numerous encampments or villages near bodies of fresh water in a territory that extended from present-day Vermont and New Hampshire through central Massachusetts to northern Rhode Island, and into northeastern Connecticut. Those who lived in the area now known as Woodstock identified themselves as Wabaquasset, which signified they lived in an area where reeds were gathered to be woven into mats for their homes.

Wabaquasset was located at the conjunction of three trails important to the Nipmuc and other Indigenous people, and eventually European traders and colonists–situated as it was on the Great Road from Hartford to Boston, and on the road from Providence to Albany.

In 1674, John Eliot, pastor of the First Church of Roxbury and known as the “Apostle to the Indians” extended his efforts to Wabaquasset, with the hope of converting the people from their traditional spiritual practices to Christianity. Wabaquasset became one of fourteen sites known as a Praying Indian town, and the largest of those in Northeast Connecticut, with 150 residents from thirty Nipmuc families.

King Phillip’s War in 1675 dispersed much of the Wabaquasset population. Many fled to other tribes and villages, some joined the Narragansett to fight the English and some Wabaquasset fought on the side of the English. At the end of the conflict, some returned to their ancestral lands, but the relentless push of European colonization and the colonials’ use and enclosure of the land—so foreign to Nipmuc ways— put significant stress on returning peoples and their way of living with the land, and greatly reduced the Nipmuc population.

Print of Woodstock town common. Cows graze on central green with meeting house and other buildings.New Roxbury

Encouraged by their pastor John Eliot, men known as the Thirteen Goers left Roxbury in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for Wabaquasset in 1686. Eliot, familiar with the area from his proselytizing, knew the land to be fertile and sparsely populated after the dispersal of the Nipmuc people during King Phillip’s War. These Goers founded the town of New Roxbury, the earliest European settlement in the region. Homes and a meeting house were built in the area around present-day Woodstock Hill and Plaine Hill.

In 1690, New Roxbury changed its name to Woodstock because of its proximity to the town of Oxford, reflecting the nearness of those two towns in England. The Town remained a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony until 1749, when, after a contentious legal battle with the Massachusetts  colony, it seceded in favor of becoming a part of the Connecticut Colony. The Common served as assembly sites for troops during the American Revolution and the War of 1812.

Henry and Lucy Bowen and son Henry carte de viste photographic portrait.“First class abolitionist”

In 1813 in a house on the common at Woodstock Hill, Lydia Bowen gave birth to a son, Henry Chandler Bowen. His father George operated a tavern and store in that house which still stands today and is called Sunset Hill.

As a young man, Henry exhibited talents and aspects of character that would flourish as he matured. He helped with his father’s store, exhibiting an exceptional gift for business. He joined the First Congregational Church and was a charter member of the town’s first temperance society. Influenced by the persecution of Prudence Crandall and her school for young Black women, just down the road in Canterbury, Connecticut, Henry wrote that he was moved to become a “first class abolitionist.”

In 1834 Henry moved to Manhattan to serve a five-year clerkship at Arthur Tappan’s silk importation and dry goods firm. Though Henry was reluctant to leave Woodstock, he acquiesced to the wishes of his parents, who wanted him to take advantage of this opportunity. The Tappan brothers Lewis and Arthur had a profound effect on Henry’s growth, developing his entrepreneurial skills, strengthening his commitment to New England Congregationalism, and to the ideals of temperance and abolitionism.

When his clerkship was over, the Tappans assited Henry and another former clerk, Theodore McNamee, to establish their own silk importation/dry goods company. Within a few years Bowen and McNamee had become the most successful importers of European silks on the Eastern seaboard. Now firmly established as a successful merchant, in 1844 Henry married Lucy Maria Tappan, daughter of his former employer. They made their home in fashionable Brooklyn Heights.

The depth of his commitment to abolitionism was revealed when he founded The Independent, one of the most important anti-slavery newspapers in the United States, designed to spread New England culture, religion, and values throughout the country. At the center of its mission were Congregationalism, temperance, and “the freedom of the slave against the tyranny of the master.”

Bowen family on porch of Roseland Cottage, Woodstock, Conn., on the Fourth of July, with President William McKinley.

A Colorful Summer Retreat 

In 1845, the Bowens purchased a little over two acres across the road from the Woodstock Hill Common as a site for their summer home, Roseland Cottage. Construction was completed in 1846, at a cost of $10,000. At least a portion of these funds came from profits made from Bowen and McNamee’s silk trade with southern planters, and thus was indirectly the result of the labor of enslaved people. The system of slavery was so deeply rooted in the economy and fabric of the United States, it entangled even dedicated abolitionist Henry Bowen.

According to Lucy, the months spent at Roseland Cottage were filled with “riding, studying, eating, sleeping, and thinking.” Accounts of the children are filled with outdoor experiences, and games like croquet and bowling in the alley that is still part of the barn complex.  The landscape, including the boxwood parterre garden, largely follows the theories of landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing, though Downing would have taken exception to the color of the stylish summer home.

Roseland Cottage attracted attention immediately, with its pinnacled gables and bold color scheme, dubbed “a brilliant crushed strawberry” by the New York Times. A house such as Roseland Cottage was a conscious effort to convey status and, with its Gothic Revival design, the morality of the people who lived inside. Roseland Cottage made a powerful statement: Henry Bowen had returned to Woodstock a moral, successful, fashionable, and thoroughly modern man.

Lucy died in 1863, just weeks after the birth of the couple’s tenth child, probably from childbed or puerperal fever. Two years later Henry married Ellen Holt, his second cousin, from Pomfret, Connecticut. They had one child together. The character of Roseland Cottage changed in the ensuing years. Though it still served as a summer retreat for the family, it also served as a place to further Henry’s and the family’s business and political interests and pursuits. Starting in 1870, lavish Fourth of July parties were held at Roseland. The guest lists included four United States presidents, foreign dignitaries, cabinet secretaries, important literary figures, and well-known clergymen. The size and spectacle of the celebrations prompted the L.A. Times to comment “if we wanted to know how to celebrate the Fourth, we should look to Henry C. Bowen in Woodstock, Connecticut.”

The 1870s were a period of growth at the Bowens’ summer home. Additions were made to the servants’ ell, four acres of bordering land were purchased expanding the grounds to the north and south, resulting in the current size and appearance of the surrounding landscape.

Henry died at the family home in Brooklyn Heights in 1896. His body was brought to Woodstock and is buried in the cemetery adjacent to the First Congregational Church across the common from Roseland Cottage, where several other family members rest.

Continuing Family Traditions

After Henry’s death, the family continued to use Roseland Cottage as a country retreat. The cottage became suitable for year-round living when radiators were added in 1911, which may also be when modern plumbing was added. Roseland Cottage was the second house in Woodstock to be electrified around that same time. Except for the utility updates, the second generation of Bowens made few changes to the interior or exterior of Roseland Cottage.

Through a complicated series of bequests, the cottage eventually came to Mary Bowen Holt, Lucy’s and Henry’s oldest daughter. She left Roseland Cottage to her son Henry with the stipulation that her daughters (his sisters) be allowed to live there until they married. One of those daughters, Constance, never married, and the striking pink Gothic Revival became her year-round, permanent home. Known as The Great Lady of Roseland, Constance Holt maintained the Victorian character of the house, living there with servants and companions until her death in 1968.

Becoming a Museum

In 1970, the property was purchased by Historic New England with the help of local and state agencies and Roseland Cottage opened as a museum. The Bowen family collection, including original furniture, china, glassware, books, artwork, clothing and archival documents, were donated to Historic New England as part of the sale. Henry’s and Lucy’s descendants continue to donate family artifacts to Historic New England and Roseland Cottage which serves as a repository of Bowen family treasures.

Roseland Cottage, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992, remains one of the nation’s best preserved examples of Gothic Revival architecture. Preservation is an on-going process at the Bowens’ exuberant Victorian summer home. Roseland Cottage provides visitors a glimpse of the lifestyle and tastes of an upwardly mobile, ambitious, and close-knit family during the Victorian era and offers the often surprising slice of the history of New England and of Connecticut’s Quiet Corner.

Present day Woodstock continues to be a rural community, with more operating dairy farms than any other town in Connecticut. And at the center of this quintessential New England village with a white church and classical-style houses overlooking a tree-shaded common, Roseland Cottage still stands in marked contrast to its sedate neighbors.

Property FAQs

Find out about group tours, photography policy, and more.

Learn More
  • Has Roseland Cottage always been pink?

    Yes, Roseland Cottage has always been painted pink. Several years ago, Historic New England undertook a scientific analysis of the layers of paint that coat the house. The analysis identified thirteen different shades of pink, ranging from a light dusty rose to a deep coral pink, that were used throughout its 160-plus years. The current shade, a vibrant coral pink, reflects the color scheme of the 1880s, a period in time that is consistent with the decorative details of the first floor of the museum.

  • Why is the house called Roseland Cottage?

    According to family stories, Roseland Cottage was named after the family’s favorite flower, the rose. In letters, journals and other documents, the Bowen family always referred to their country house in Woodstock as Roseland Cottage, or simply Roseland in later years.

  • Do I need to take a tour or can I just look around?

    All visitors to the house receive a guided tour. The gardens and grounds are open from dawn to dusk.

  • Can I take photographs at the museum?

    Interior and exterior photography for personal use is allowed at Historic New England properties. For the safety and comfort of our visitors and the protection of our collections and house museums, we ask that you be aware of your surroundings and stay with your guide. Video, camera bags, tripods, and selfie sticks are not permitted. Professional/commercial photographers and members of the media should visit the press room for more information.

  • Can I schedule a private group tour?

    Yes, group tours of ten or more people can be arranged from April through November. Learn more.

  • Are dogs allowed on the property?

    Historic New England welcomes responsible pet owners to enjoy our grounds. Dogs must be on a leash and under control at all times. Dog waste must be picked up and properly disposed of, off the property.

  • How can I participate in the Roseland Cottage Fine Arts and Crafts Festival?

    Email Historic New England’s festivals coordinator to get on the notification list for when the next application is available.

  • How do I become a member of Historic New England and get more involved?

    Join Historic New England now and help preserve the region’s heritage. Call 617-994-5910 or join online.

  • Do you provide admission discounts for EBT cardholders?

    EBT cardholders from all fifty states can show their card for $2 admission to house tours for up to four guests per card.

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Explore the Roseland Cottage web app.

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