The Influence of Wallace Nutting

Wallace Nutting holds a significant share of the history for the Wentworth Lear Historic Houses. Without Nutting’s influence and attention, the houses might have become private homes rather than museums open to the public.

After attending Harvard, Hartford and Union Seminaries, Nutting began his career as a Congregational minister; however, Nutting became determined to preserve what he thought of as “that old life in America, which is rapidly passing away.”  These sentiments led him to become one of the most successful players in the American Colonial Revival.  While not always historically accurate, the Colonial Revival romanticized America’s early years.  In 1915, he purchased the Wentworth-Gardner and Tobias Lear houses, adding the properties to his “Chain of Colonial Homes.”  He expected tourists to come from Boston, New York and beyond to tour New England, stopping at his house museums.

Many Victorian features had been added to the WG and Nutting set about putting the house back to how it would have appeared in the 18th century, when it was built. Nutting took many pictures in the Wentworth-Gardner, many of which are highly prized by Nutting collectors. Wallace Nutting also wrote and did the photography for many books and created reproductions of early furniture, which he then marketed wisely.

In 1918 Nutting sold the houses to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He still remains a large focus in the interpretation of the Wentworth-Gardner House today.