Roseland Cottage (1846)

Experience exuberance

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.

Plan Your Visit

Location

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

Days & Hours

Wednesday – Sunday
June 1 – October 15
11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Tours on the hour.
Last tour at 4:00 p.m.

Closed July 4 and Columbus Day

Admission

$10 adults

$9 seniors

$5 students

Free for Historic New England members and Woodstock residents.

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 at Roseland Cottage were used for formal entertaining and informal family gatherings, which included charades and poetry readings.

  • South Parlor

    Double parlors were common, and this room mirrors the north parlor. Pocket doors were 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.

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

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

A Summer Country Retreat for the Bowens

Henry Chandler Bowen (1813-1896) was born and raised in Woodstock, Connecticut. As a young man in the 1830s Bowen left his hometown for New York to pursue his interests in business. After serving as a clerk for several years with the successful Arthur and Lewis Tappan silk merchants, Bowen, along with another former Tappan clerk, set up their own dry goods business, specializing in silks. Bowen’s strong work ethic and sharp business acumen helped to make the new venture a success.

After establishing himself financially, Bowen married Lucy Maria Tappan, daughter of Lewis and Susanna Tappan, in 1844. Henry and Lucy welcomed their first child, Henry Elliot Bowen, in 1845. Their family continued to grow over the next two decades. Ultimately, Henry and Lucy had ten children: seven boys and three girls.

As their family grew, the Bowens wanted to establish a summer country retreat so that the family could escape the stifling heat and congestion of New York. Woodstock, Connecticut, with its rural rolling hills, cool ponds, and deep family history, was an ideal location. In 1845 Bowen commissioned Joseph C. Wells, the English-born architect who designed Bowen’s Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights, to design a summer home for the family. Joseph C. Wells designed a fantastic five-bedroom, 6,000-square-foot Gothic Revival cottage. The architectural style and plans of the house, as well as the grounds depicted in Wells’ original drawings, were in line with the theories and writings of Andrew Jackson Downing, a popular nineteenth-century American landscape architect. The Gothic Revival summer house, called Roseland Cottage by the family, was completed in the fall of 1846. At the time of construction, an adjacent carriage barn, complete with a private indoor bowling alley, and a detached woodshed were also built in the Gothic Revival style.

In 1850, shortly after the family started summering in Woodstock, the Bowens planted a colorful and nearly 3,000-square-foot boxwood parterre garden. The garden, as depicted in Joseph C. Wells’ drawings, sits prominently in front of the cottage and can be appreciated from the parlors, dining room, and second-floor bedrooms. According to Henry Bowen’s detailed orders the garden comprised 600 yards of boxwood hedge which surrounded twenty-one beds of more than thirty-five varieties of perennials and thousands of annuals. Roseland Cottage’s formal parterre has been an important feature of the house and landscape ever since.

The growing Bowen family returned to Woodstock and Roseland Cottage every summer in the mid-nineteenth century. In line with the Bowens’ Congregationalist values, their time at Roseland Cottage offered fresh air, wide open spaces, and the opportunity for clean and moral activities. The Bowen boys were deeply interested in sports and other energetic activities that reinforced ideas of masculinity and class in the late nineteenth century. They participated in newly popular sports such as polo, croquet, bowling, golf, and badminton, as well as more conventional outdoor pursuits like hunting and fishing.

While the Bowen boys were generally ambitious and progressive, the Bowen girls were determined to be as “ladylike” as their beloved mother, and their activities at Roseland Cottage reflected that difference. Lucy Bowen and her three daughters engaged in quieter outdoor activities and other domestic and social pastimes. In a letter sent to a friend in June 1854, Lucy Bowen recounts her summers at Roseland Cottage: “Just one week since we arrived here and found every thing looking beautifully indeed – Now, we are all settled for the summer, and how rapidly it will pass…After breakfast, each day, sisters & myself read French for an hour & then in the afternoon, read History or something of that nature…The remainder of the day is spent in riding, eating, sleeping, sewing & thinking.”

In 1863 Lucy Bowen died due to complications related to the birth of her tenth child, Winthrop Earl Bowen.

Bedchamber Roseland Cottage. Collection Services - library archGrowing Family and Influence

Two years after the death of his first wife and soon after the untimely death of his youngest son, Henry Bowen married Ellen Holt of Pomfret, Connecticut, a neighboring town to Woodstock. Ellen was the daughter of a well-known country doctor and a member of the local gentry. She not only shared Bowen’s conservative moral views, but also embraced his ambitious business and political interests. Ellen Holt Bowen became a loving and proud mother to Henry and Lucy’s nine surviving children and in 1868, she and Henry had a son, Paul Holt Bowen. Ellen happily filled the role of an upper-class wife and mother. She served as a gracious hostess and readily traveled with Henry for social engagements, and did not question Henry’s lavish spending or tastes.

Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, the Bowen family continued to seek the quiet serenity and comfortable luxury that their summer cottage in Woodstock afforded. The family continued to grow during these years. Not only did Henry and Ellen have a son, but several of the older Bowen children were married and had children of their own. As the family grew to include ten children and seventeen grandchildren, they could no longer all find comfort at Roseland Cottage alone. Seeking to keep his family together for summer retreats, in 1878 Henry Bowen purchased Plaine Hill, the elegant estate built in 1816 by his grandfather, William Bowen. Plaine Hill, located less than a quarter mile from Roseland Cottage, allowed the entire Bowen family to enjoy summers in Woodstock.

During the 1870s Bowen expanded Roseland Cottage and its outbuildings to accommodate his growing family, the expansion of agricultural pursuits, and frequent social gatherings. In the 1860s and 1870s he purchased lots surrounding the cottage, expanding the property to approximately six acres. In 1870 the service ell of the house was expanded to include a full laundry room, butler’s pantry, scullery, and more bedrooms for paid live-in staff. Around the same time, an additional exterior privy was built and the adjacent barn was significantly expanded to accommodate livestock and additional staff housing. In the 1880s, after summering at Roseland Cottage for nearly forty years, the Bowens undertook a major redecoration of the house. Fireplace tiles were updated with the latest decorative styles, the parlor windows were refurbished with colored etched glass, new and vibrant carpets were laid, and impressive new wall coverings, called Lincrusta Walton after the inventor Fredrick Walton, were hung in all the principal entertaining rooms of the house.

While Roseland Cottage was primarily a family country retreat, during the second half of the nineteenth century the Bowens more frequently entertained distinguished guests and hosted large festivities at Roseland Cottage. The most notable of these festivities were Henry Bowen’s grand Fourth of July parties. Initiated in 1870 as a way to promote patriotism, Bowen’s Independence Day celebrations continued for twenty-five years. Hundreds were invited, and thousands gathered for the festivities that included food, elegant decorations, festive music, and stirring patriotic orations. Three United States presidents, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, and Rutherford B. Hayes, and three past and future presidential candidates, John C. Fremont, James G. Blaine, and William McKinley, in addition to a long list of senators, congressman, governors, and other political, literary, and social luminaries, made their way to Woodstock to participate in these Fourth of July events. Eventually these events grew so large that Bowen purchased an approximately sixty-acre parcel in Woodstock and developed an elegant public park, replete with gilded fountains, decorative statuary, windmill, boat house, and private bungalows, in which to host his Fourth of July celebrations. The park, named Roseland Park, was first opened in 1876 and in accordance with Bowen’s will is still open to the public today.

The Bowens’ active social calendar was a result of Henry Bowen’s growing wealth and influence as a New York businessman and activist. After his dry goods business failed leading up to the Civil War, in large part due to his anti-slavery views and difficulties with Southern clients, Bowen pursued a number of other successful business ventures. He co-founded and served as a director of a profitable insurance company. He founded and later served as editor of a popular anti-slavery weekly newspaper, The Independent, and for a period of time, he was the appointed tax collector for the Third District of the State of New York. While not a politician himself, Bowen was actively engaged in politics. As an abolitionist and an early supporter of the Republican party, Bowen, and his newspaper, became important players in regional and even national politics as the party gained strength in the mid- and late nineteenth century.

Roseland Cottage - exteriorContinuing Family Traditions

After Henry and Ellen Bowen passed away in 1896 and 1903, respectively, Roseland Cottage was passed onto their children. Ultimately three of their children, Edward (known as Ned), Franklin, and Mary Bowen Holt, would maintain ownership. The three siblings and their families continued to summer at Roseland Cottage and stayed on for longer respites at times. As in the Bowens’ time, Roseland Cottage continued to be a location for family gatherings.

Between 1910 and 1920 the Bowen children updated the outdated utilities at Roseland Cottage to provide a year-round retreat. These updates included bringing in electricity, modern plumbing, and an oil-fired central heating system. Besides the utility updates, the second generation of Bowens made few changes to the interior or exterior of Roseland Cottage. A few minor changes were made to the landscape. The lattice fence that originally surrounded the parterre garden was removed, likely due to rot, and a quaint classical garden house was erected at the edge of the parterre.

After the deaths of Ned, Mary, and Franklin, Roseland Cottage was passed on to the third generation of Bowens in 1940. Roseland Cottage was deeded to Henry Holt, Mary Bowen Holt’s eldest son and Henry C. Bowen’s grandson. Henry Holt, however, never lived at Roseland Cottage. Rather, as provided in Mary Bowen Holt’s will, his two unmarried sisters, Constance and Sylvia Holt, were the primary residents of the grand pink cottage. Miss Constance and Sylvia lived at Roseland Cottage year-round and they carefully preserved the family home and its contents, making very few changes to the estate. After Sylvia died suddenly in 1945, Constance Holt remained at Roseland Cottage with a few trusted live-in staff. Like her grandfather, Constance was active in the community, most notably as a strong supporter of the Woodstock Academy, the area’s secondary school, and its students. At the age of eighty-nine, Constance passed away in 1968. She was the last Bowen family member to call Roseland Cottage home.

Looking into rear parlorBecoming a Museum

After the death of Constance Holt in 1968, the family decided to sell the estate. The superior historic integrity of the structure and landscape, coupled with the completeness of the Bowen object and archival collections, offered an exceptional view into a piece of New England’s history and architectural heritage. Historic New England recognized that significance and set out to preserve the property and the Bowen family story so as to share it with generations to come.

In 1970, the property was purchased by Historic New England with the help of local and state agencies and has been open as a museum since. 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.

Since 1970 Historic New England has undertaken a number of interior and exterior restoration projects to preserve the structure and collections at Roseland Cottage. Projects in the 1970s and 1980s largely focused on repairing and rehabilitating structural and decorative elements, as well as making improvements to the drainage on the property, in an effort to stem future damage. During this same period Historic New England, with the help of Dr. Rudy Faveretti, professor of landscape architecture at the University of Connecticut, undertook a significant rehabilitation of the Bowen’s formal parterre garden. With meticulous field work and background research, the garden as seen today very closely reflects the garden laid out by Henry C. Bowen more than 150 years ago. In 1977 Roseland Cottage was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.

In the 1990s Historic New England utilized state-of-the-art techniques and equipment to assist in the preservation of the Bowen family collection and enhance the museum experience. A computerized climate control system was installed and an extensive paint analysis was performed. In recent years, Historic New England has focused on telling a more complete story of the Bowen family and their time at Roseland Cottage. Several rooms in the house have been reinterpreted to more fully include the lives of the Bowen women. Portions of the service ell, and the history of the staff that worked for the Bowens, are now incorporated as part of the regular tour.

Roseland Cottage, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992, remains one of the nation’s best preserved examples of Gothic Revival architecture. Roseland Cottage provides visitors a glimpse of the lifestyle and tastes of an upwardly mobile, ambitious, and close-knit family during the Victorian era.

Property FAQs

Find out about accessibility, 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.

  • Is the museum accessible to people with disabilities?

    A tour of any Historic New England property requires a considerable amount of standing and some walking. Roseland Cottage has not been equipped with accessible ramps, elevators, or chair lifts. Folding chairs can be provided for visitors who would like to use them during a tour. Visitors with limited mobility may be able to enjoy a first floor tour of the house and grounds. A virtual tour of the house is available to all visitors in the accessible carriage barn. Service animals are welcome. We encourage visitors with concerns to call ahead. We are happy to work with you to make your visit an enjoyable one.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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