Historic New England’s Roseland Cottage

Called the “Pink House” by locals, the house and grounds of Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, CT are the only Connecticut property managed by Historic New England (HNE). The Bowen family constructed in 1846, combining a 19th century Gothic Revival exterior with several generations of renovation on the interior. The property is listed as a National Historic Landmark as the Henry C. Bowen house.

Henry Chandler Bowen earned his money through the silk industry, a popular alternative to cotton for early 19th century American abolitionists. Bowen originally worked for the Tappan brothers, Arthur and Lewis, who founded the American Anti-Slavery Society with William Lloyd Garrison. In fact, Bowen married Lewis’ daughter Lucy Maria Tappan and had ten children with her. Bowen was an activist throughout his life, starting the tradition of hosting large Fourth of July parties to celebrate American Independence Day. He invited several sitting presidents to his party, and several joined the celebration. Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt sent certificates in lieu of attending, and the framed documents hang in the first floor hallway of Roseland Cottage.

South Parlor at Roseland Cottage; A wide view of a parlor, including an alcove with seating and stained glass windows, furniture, and a fireplace
PHOTOGRAPH BY Abigail Epplett
Fireplace in the Dining Room at Roseland Cottage; A black lacquer fireplace with floral designs is decorated by a pair of candle holders, a pair of vases, and three American flags. Above the fireplace is a portrait of a man, Henry Bowen. To either side of the fireplace are heavy, wooden dining room chairs
PHOTOGRAPH BY Abigail Epplett

The house was designed as a summer cottage for the large, wealthy family. It was considered under-decorated for the time, although the design is much more ornate than modern houses. Stained glass windows, decorative wallpaper, and intricate carpets bring color to the space. During the summer months of modern tours, the rooms are decorated with American flags for Independence Day, Henry Bowen’s favorite holiday. During the winter months, the rooms are decorated with traditional 19th century Christmas trees, gifts, and china. Guides in authentic period costume regale guests with stories about Bowen family Christmases at their other mansion in New York City, now torn down.

Dining Room Table at Roseland Cottage decorated for Christmas; a wooden dining table with a white table cloth and Christmas dishes. A tiny, table top Christmas tree in the center of a table. Hung horizontally above the tree is a wreath with red ribbons connecting the wreath to the table. In the background is a fireplace filled with poinsettias.
PHOTOGRAPH BY Abigail Epplett
Christmas Tree at Roseland Cottage; a decorated evergreen by a floor to ceiling stained glass window.
PHOTOGRAPH BY Abigail Epplett

The last occupant of Roseland Cottage was Constance Bowen Holt, the granddaughter of Henry and Lucy Bowen, and the daughter of their oldest daughter, Mary. Called the “Great Lady of Roseland” by Woodstock residents, Constance invited newcomers to her house to assess their personality. Taking advantage of the prestigious Woodstock Academy located across the street, Constance and her sister Sylvia began an annual tradition of inviting the senior class to a high tea during the week before graduation. HNE continues this tradition, serving pink lemonade to match the pink house.

Miss Constance’s Bedroom at Roseland Cottage; A pair of metal framed twin beds with matching white coverlets underneath a pair of Qing dynasty Chinese portraits hung on a mustard yellow wall. Between the beds is a round, wooden side table holding a pink tea set and a low hung painting of Roseland Cottage
PHOTOGRAPH BY Abigail Epplett

Besides being ahead of his time in political matters, Henry Bowen was also a sports enthusiast who built the oldest extant indoor bowling alley in the United States, which you can visit during summer and fall tours. A favorite story from the tour described an event during the visit of President Ulysses S. Grant. After receiving a tour of the property, Grant decided to try bowling, as he had never played the sport, and reportedly rolled a strike on his first try. Always one to celebrate, Grant proposed that cigars, which were banned on the Bowen property. Henry relented to let Grant smoke in the field, and the Bowen children gathered by an upstairs window to watch.

Oldest Extant Indoor Bowling Alley in the United States; Inside a barn-like structure with a raised, wooden bowling lane with ten pins on the right
PHOTOGRAPH BY Abigail Epplett
Boxwood Gardens at Roseland Cottage; an overhead view of a garden made of boxwood bushes surrounding heritage flowers.
PHOTOGRAPH BY Abigail Epplett

If you love to support local artists, look no further than the annual Arts & Crafts Fair at Roseland Cottage held in mid-October at the end of the regular tour season. During this event, I have enjoyed seeing historical crafts like pottery, jewelry, painting, woven baskets, and beeswax candles alongside more modern crafts including digital photography and handmade dog coats.

Stained Glass Window in the Study at Roseland Cottage; A tall stained glass window with red and blue glass in front of a desk and matching chair. A bookshelf stands to the left of the window
PHOTOGRAPH BY Abigail Epplett

As a flagship property of HNE, Roseland Cottage is busy! Buy tickets in advance, as this property sells out, especially during a nice day. Regular season tours occur June through October and start on the hour from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and last for 55 minutes. Tickets for these tours are standard HNE pricing for mansions, at $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, $7 for students and children, and $0 for HNE members. Winter tours occur on the second weekend in December, with free fifteen minute tours running continuously from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Be sure to arrive early for any tour, as short lines form at the register in the little gift shop, a unique feature among HNE properties.

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Abigail Epplett

Abigail Epplett leads a dual life as a freelance digital marketing consultant for small humanities-focused organizations and as a customer experience design creative specialist at lab equipment manufacturer Waters Corporation. She holds an MA in Museum Education from Tufts University, where she researched the history of New England from Plymouth to the Civil War. To learn more about her adventures with museums, visit her current blog at abbyeppletthistorian.blogspot.com.