Celebrate the work and legacy of Asher Benjamin, one of the most influential members of the first generation of American architects. Take in a full day of learning and reflection — and gorgeous Fall foliage, of course! — at the site of his first formal architectural commission, the Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden in Suffield, Connecticut.

Preliminary Schedule

Sessions will take place in the historic barn at the Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden in Suffield, CT, from 9:30-4:00 pm on Saturday, October 7. A preliminary schedule of speakers is listed below, and a draft PDF is also available for download.

Update: Unfortunately, due to extenuating circumstances, the Historic Deerfield private tour scheduled for Sunday, October 8 has been canceled. Registrants will be notified of this cancellation via the email address provided upon registration.

If you have any questions, please email Site Administrator Lynn Mervosh at lynn.mervosh@ctlandmarks.org.

Program for Saturday, October 7th

9:00 am • Registration & Coffee

9:30 am • The Books of Asher Benjamin • William Ranauro

10:15 am • Sources of Inspiration: Architectural Treatises and Builder’s Guides in the Era Before Benjamin • Eric Gradoia

11:00 am • Country Houses for a New Republic: Asher Benjamin & the Origins of American Architecture • William Hosley

12:00 pm • Lunch & Tours of the Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden

1:30 pm • Benjamin Before Boston • Jack Quinan

2:15 pm • Asher Benjamin’s Boston Career: 1803 to 1845 • Joe Cornish

3:00 pm • Constructing Race: Architecture and Racial Identity in the Atlantic World • Brian Whetstone

3:45 pm • Closing & Departure

Lunch will be provided by Barista Café, 66 North Main Street, Suffield. Information on allergens and dietary restrictions available by request to Lynn at lynn.mervosh@ctlandmarks.org

Please see the Draft Program PDF for detailed session descriptions.

Listen to this episode of Grating the Nutmeg featuring author and symposium speaker, William Ranauro and Site Administrator for the Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden, Lynn Mervosh. William and Lynn discuss Asher Benjamin’s life, architectural guidebooks, and commissions. Thank you to our friends at Grating the Nutmeg and Connecticut Explored for partnering with us on this episode!

The Setting: Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden

Suffield native Shem Burbank built a center chimney structure in 1761 where he and his wife Anna Fitch Burbank raised nine children. Although well-appointed for the mid 18th century, the Burbank house reflected conservative trends in design popular for the period. Financial hardship forced Burbank to sell his house to Oliver Phelps in 1788.

The youngest of 17 children from neighboring Windsor, CT, Oliver Phelps was apprenticed to a Suffield merchant at an early age. During the Revolution, he skillfully served as Deputy Commissary under George Washington. A budding land speculator after the War, Phelps commissioned the addition of a substantial wing decorated with imported Parisian wallpaper in 1794.

For the new construction, he sought the services of Thomas Hayden of Windsor, who in turn entrusted a 21-year old Asher Benjamin to design the entry of the new addition. The contrasts between the Phelps and Burbank sections of the house further highlight differences between the personalities and experiences of the two men, and between the times in which each lived.

From the stylish new rooms, Phelps peddled a vision of American expansion to New Englanders looking for a new life in the west. Phelps’ attempts to sell significant swaths of Seneca Nation land as part of Connecticut’s Western Reserve proved unsuccessful. Within a decade, Oliver Phelps’ fortunes had collapsed; Asher Benjamin, meanwhile, had become a rising star among the architects helping to set the standard for taste in the young United States. Using the pattern books Benjamin created, countless structures and a new national identity were born.

Learn more about the Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden on the Connecticut Landmarks website.

Registration Information

Registration is $75 and includes all Saturday sessions, lunch and a tour of the Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden. Registration will open at 9:00 am on Tuesday, August 1. Advance registration is recommended as space is limited.

Join a Community of Shared Interest

Connecticut Landmarks members who register for the symposium by September 1 using code BENJAMEM at checkout will receive $15 off their registration!

Not yet a member?

Discount available to members at the Individual, Dual, Family, Contributing, Preservation, Landmark, and higher membership levels. Student members are not eligible for this discount.

WELCOME, Students of History!

Connecticut Landmarks is pleased to introduce a BRAND NEW membership tier in conjunction with this event. For $50, current students and recent graduates (within one year of graduation date) can join Connecticut Landmarks AND register for the Asher Benjamin Symposium. As a student member of Connecticut Landmarks, you will receive the following benefits:

  • Free admission to CTL’s six historic properties, plus discounted admission for Palmer-Warner House tours
  • Free subscription to CTL’s print and online media, including a young members emailing list
  • 10% discount in all of CTL’s museum shops
  • Special programming exclusively for this community of CTL Members, including virtual talks on a variety of topics, demonstrations of historic preservation techniques, networking receptions, and discussion groups

And, if you purchase a Student Membership and admission to the symposium your membership term will be extended to 12/31/2024!

Once you have joined at the Student level, log in to your account in our ticketing system to receive the appropriate discount on registration automatically in your cart. Proof of Student or recent graduate status will be requested the first time you use your membership.

Thank you for your support!

This program is made possible by the generous support of preservationists like you. Donate today to support programming at the Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden.

For information about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Shaelyn Amaio, Director of Public Engagement, at shaelyn.amaio@ctlandmarks.org.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the facilities like?

The sessions will take place in the historic barn at the Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden. Several stairs must be climbed in order to access the space. It is not climate controlled, so please dress for the weather. Restrooms are located in a separate building.

Visiting the house museum requires the use of stairs. A virtual tour will also be available.

What accommodations are available?

Speakers will use amplification and print-outs of any projected materials will be available. If you need sign language interpretation for this event, please email Shaelyn Amaio at shaelyn.amaio@ctlandmarks.org.

How do I get to the event? Where can I park?

Parking is available on-site at the Phelps-Hatheway House & Garden, located at 55 S Main Street, Suffield, CT. Please use this map for directions.