Deacon Benjamin Hart House
30 Meetinghouse Lane
This iconic Madison home, once dubbed “Hartsbourne,” is well known for its lovely setting as a cornerstone of the green. It is also widely admired for its unique and elegant architectural design. Its roof, for instance, consists of a flat copper center with a raised structure that strongly resembles a Chinese pagoda. The house also is sited flush with the Congregational Church next door and shares with it some similar features, including large columns and two-story shutters. Volney Pierce, who also later designed the church, is likely the architect of this house.
An earlier structure on this property was erected in 1707 for the Reverend John Hart, who was the first student at Yale College to receive a bachelor’s degree. He also served as the first minister of the new Congregational Church in East Guilford. John Hart was paid his annual salary of ninety pounds in wheat, rye, pork, and Indian corn, in addition to twenty loads of firewood.
The structure that stands here today is the result of a dramatic renovation that occurred in the early 1830s, overseen by Deacon Benjamin Hart, a descendant of John Hart. Records of the Congregational Church say that Deacon Hart, who also lived in this house, played an influential role in choosing the location of the present-day meetinghouse next door. Benjamin died in 1852 and is buried in West Cemetery with his wife, Lucy Baldwin.
Local architectural lore claims that the four main rooms on the first floor were built from four different types of wood. Although we cannot confirm the story, we have no reason to doubt it. Unfortunately, we cannot say which four woods were used. A good guess on locally sourced woods might be pine, oak, cherry, and maple, or perhaps chestnut. The current owner could not confirm those guesses, but we do know that, at this time as in its early years, the interior includes pedimented doorways and decorative window cornices.