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The Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer House Museum in Stonington, CT

Stonington Borough is one of the most desirable places to live on the Connecticut Shoreline because of its unparalleled access to the ocean. It also has a scenic beach and a couple of excellent parks to enjoy, allowing residents to get outside make the most of their days.

There's also a surprising abundance of historical sites in this small village, including the Stonington Lighthouse Museum, James Merrill House, and the Stonington Free Library.

Another historical site worth checking out when living in the area is Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer House, a museum set in a mansion built for two famous sea captains in the mid 19th century.

Today, visitors can enter the facility and have a look at exhibits showing what life was like for the wealthy families that inhabited the building.

Here's what you should know about the Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer House Museum in Stonington, CT.

About the House

Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer House is a two-and-a-half-story Victorian-style mansion with elements of Greek Revival architecture. It has 14 rooms and overlooks the northern end of Stonington Harbor. 

The home was built in 1852 for Nathaniel and his brother, Alexander Smith Palmer. Even by today's standards, the house is impressive and sits on a four-acre plot of lands that guests can explore. You can also bring a picnic if you want to turn your outing into an entire day at the museum.

The house was also added as a National Historic Landmark in 1996.

Who Was Nathaniel Palmer?

The Palmer family has always been well-known in Stonington, as Nathaniel and Alexander are direct descendants of Walter Palmer, one of the town's founders. Other descendants of Walter include Vermont Governor and Senator William Adams Palmer, Michigan Senator Thomas Witherell Palmer, Connecticut Governor, Senator, and Congressman Lowell Palmer Weicker, and Ulysses Simpson Grant, the 18th President of the United States.

Nathaniel was by far the better-known of the two brothers, having been the second mate on the first-ever American expedition to Antarctica aboard the Hersilia in 1819. He would also captain a voyage to Antarctica in 1820. In fact, there are legends that Nathaniel discovered Antarctica, although there's no way to verify that information. There's no disputing, though, that he was one of the first human beings to ever lay eyes on the continent. 

The honors bestowed upon Nathaniel are numerous: Palmer Land, which is part of the Antarctic Peninsula, and the Palmer Archipelago, a group of islands off the coast of Antarctica, are named after him. Other namesakes include a research station on Anvers Island and an icebreaker ship that remains in operation to this day. Nathaniel also appeared on a U.S. postage stamp in 1988.

Unfortunately, Nathaniel died childless in 1877, and three of Alexander's four children died at relatively young ages. However, the property was left in the hands of Alexander's lone surviving daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband after Alexander's passing in 1894.

The home remained in the family until 1977 but was falling into disrepair. It was ultimately almost demolished in the early 1990s. However, the Stonington Historical Society bought the property in 1994 and has been maintaining it ever since.

What You'll Find in the House

Upon arriving at Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer House, you'll immediately notice the grand entryway. That style of entrance was typical in Victorian mansions in that period and made it feel like you're stepping into a castle.

From there, you can wander from room to room looking at artifacts, furniture, family portraits, dollhouses, and textiles. There are numerous model ships, as well, with many depicting vessels Nathaniel Palmer himself took on his multiple voyages.

The home's upper floor acted as a lookout when the family lived there since you could see out to the various ports on Stonington Harbor. Many of those sightlines remain today, giving visitors the chance to experience the same views as a Palmer family.

New exhibits are often added to the museum, all of which are of some local importance for town residents.

Getting to the Museum

Reaching Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer House is as simple as getting onto Water Street in Stonington Borough and heading north. You can get to the venue from other sections of town by turning onto North Water Street from Stonington Road.

Admission to the Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer House Museum is $10 for adults, $5 for children between the ages of five and 17, and free for younger kids. Members of the Stonington Historical Society get free admission, and your ticket includes same-day access to the Stonington Lighthouse Museum.

You'll find plenty of ways to spend your time after buying a home on the Connecticut Shoreline because there's truly something for everyone. Whenever you're looking to experience some local history, Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer House is one location that isn't to be missed.


Published July 8, 2021 in Local Information, Exploring Our Area