Home of Samuel Colt the inventor and manufacturer of the Colt firearms, Armsmear means “Meadow of arms” and lies at the center of Hartford, Connecticut’s Colt Historic District. Also known as the Samuel Colt Home, it was built for his 1857 marriage to Elizabeth Hart Jarvis on a rise of land overlooking the newly created Colt Armory. It was built in an Italian Villa Style, with a low pitched roof, heavy bracketed cornices, arched doors and windows with a distinctive five story Italian tower and Turkish domes.
The Colt Armory is the site where Samuel Colt patented the first revolver in 1835. The ability to get off six shots from a handgun at a time when most pistols were single shot was a major escalation in an individual’s personal firepower. The Colt 45 revolver that could fire the same caliber bullets as a rifle was a major game changer in the American West – and saved many frontiersmen’s lives only having to carry bullets of a single caliber when they were needed.
Colt’s new firearm had become quite popular by the time of the Mexican American War in 1846 when the army ordered a thousand revolvers and his business grew rapidly. He became a major early innovator in efficient factory automation, as well as in social engineering building a factory community that offered employee housing in the “Swiss Cottages” still standing today in what unofficially came to be known as “Coltsville” which his mansion overlooks.
Coltsville remains one of Hartford, Connecticut’s boldest real estate ventures of all time and left an enduring mark on Connecticut’s State Capital. Samuel Colt first conceived of the idea for a model manufacturing community in 1851 while representing American industrialists at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London where British “Factory towns” were being promoted. Upon his return, Colt bought 250 acres of land on the Connecticut River, building two miles of dykes to protect the Armory against flooding.
By 1856, Colt had built what at the time was the largest armory in the world – along with a community of worker’s housing and a wharf on the river. He was one of the first industrialists to fully exploit the assembly line and use of interchangeable parts.
Coltsville offered upscale worker’s housing for its era, a park with a miniature lake, a school, a church, a theater, reading rooms and library. It had a military band and manicured lawns – all intended to create the type of environment Colt thought best for good work and quality of life.
At the time of Colt’s death in 1862 at the beginning of the Civil War, the Armory was producing a thousand firearms a day. Most of the Armory burned to the ground on February 4, 1864, – allegedly by Confederate arsonists. The factory was rebuilt after the war in 1868 by Colt’s Widow and today is one of Hartford’s most tangible evidences of the Colt architectural legacy.
Elizabeth Colt died in 1905, and the house under the terms of her will was converted to a home for the widows of Episcopalian clergymen. Armsmear is described in official documents today as a “51 unit apartment complex for retired single women.”
Located at 80 Wethersfield Avenue, Hartford, CT the Samuel Colt House at the center of the Colt Historical District was deemed a National Historic Landmark in 2008 making it one of Harford, Connecticut’s most important historic homes.