The Nathaniel Hempsted House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted form a copy of the original nomination document. [‡] The Nathaniel Hempsted House is located within the Hempstead Historic District.
The Nathaniel Hempsted House (Old Huguenot House) is a one-and-a-half story stone house with a gambrel roof. It stands now as the picturesque focal point of a busy New London intersection, wrapped in a wild overgrowth of Ivy and so well-covered that the only apertures visible are the two dormer windows, a centrally located skylight, and the doorway.
Under the ivy the building has three double hung windows on the front which faces southeast. Two of these are located at the eastern end and the other is between the southern end of the building and the door. On the southwestern end of the building are four more windows: two on the ground floor located near the corners of the building and two windows located near the corners of the gambrel roof at the second floor level. The organization of window openings on the southwest is not duplicated on the northeastern side since there is only one window on the first floor and that is located near the north corner.
There are two chimneys located on each end of the building. The roof is shingled with asphalts shingles and these are continued around the roof dormers which are later additions. These dormers are flat-topped and narrow with six-over-six sash. The dressed stone of which the building is constructed is granite. It is laid in regular horizontal beds with the use of a small amount of mortar.
The Huguenot House (Nathaniel Hempsted House) is the only structure of its type in New London. The house was built about 1759 by Nathaniel Hempsted, grandson of Joshua Hempsted who was author of the Hempsted Diary a chronicle of the life in New London from 1728 to 1758. Because gambrel-roofed houses were not usually built of stone the story of the origins of this house seemed to require explanation: Hence, a local tradition arose that the building was constructed by Huguenots who lived for a while in New London.
However, efforts to find records of Huguenot workers in New London in the mid-eighteenth century prove to be fruitless, A more probable explanation is that some of the Acadians who had been exiled by the British from Nova Scotia and who arrived in New London in 1756 were the laborers who constructed the house. It is well-established that soon after their arrival some Acadians were employed for the construction in stone of the home of Captain Nathaniel Shaw, a wealthy merchant of New London. Since these Acadians did not return to Nova Scotia until 1767, it is not unlikely that they also worked on the construction of Nathaniel Hempsted's house.
Further evidence that the work was done by Frenchmen is the kind of stone-work: the stone is evenly finished and laid in regular horizontal beds which is characteristically French (whereas rubblework is characteristically English). Another piece of evidence is a note in Joshua Hempsted's diary of a Peter Frenchman and a Peter Frenchboy who were employed by him doing "suitable work."
Thus the Huguenot House (Nathaniel Hempsted House) is significant as the source of a local and probably erroneous tradition of Huguenot laborers passing through the town, as well as being a picturesque gambrel-roofed structure which is unique for the area. It is also important for its location which is adjacent to the Joshua Hempsted House, a property of the Antiquarian and Landmarks Society and one of the oldest houses in Connecticut.
"The So-called Huguenot House, c.1759, New London, Connecticut," by Gordon Bodenwein in Old-Time New England, Bulletin of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (Volume XXXIV, No.3) January, 1944.
Florence S. Marcy Crofut, Guide to the History and the Historic Sites of Connecticut, Vol.II. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937.
‡ Constance Luyster, Connecticut Hitorical Commission, Nathaniel Hempsted House, New London, Connecticut, nomination document, 1970, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.