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August 2, 2019
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August 5, 2019

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Learning Through Places:
Hill-Stead Museum


This lesson plan introduces the concept of how historic houses and house museums can tell the story of individuals who are significant in American history—in this case an important early female architect. Historic houses can also represent high artistic design values or traditional building practices. The lesson plan features Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, Connecticut.

Lesson Objective

By investigating the life and work of Theodate Pope and by designing their perfect home, students will identify three things architects consider when designing a home for a client. 

Grade Level

3 - 6

Introductory Discussion Questions

Q. How do we learn our family history? 
A. We talk to our family members about their lives and what they remember, we look at photographs, and we learn family traditions like holiday celebrations. We can also go to a museum to see a collection of objects and images that share history.

Q. What is a house museum? 
A. A house museum is a house that has been transformed into a museum. A house museum usually tells the story of an important person like a president, inventor, artist, or writer. The very first house museum in the United States was Mount Vernon, in Virginia, the home of the first president of the United States, George Washington.

Q. What are some famous house museums in Connecticut? Have you ever visited one? 
A. Perhaps the house museums in Connecticut of the most famous people are The Mark Twain House and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford. House museums related to our two state heroes are: the Nathan Hale Homestead in Coventry and the Prudence Crandall Museum in Canterbury. The Glass House is a house museum devoted to the famous modern architect Philip Johnson.

Q. Is the historical society in your town located in a historic house? Who lived there? 
(This might be a good inquiry project)

Q. Can a house museum also be a beautiful building?
A. Many house museums are also the work of talented designers and builders.

Q. Is architecture art? Can a building be a piece of art like a painting or a piece of music? 
A. Yes, beautiful design, craftsmanship and building materials are part of the reason that architecture is also an art form. Buildings can be works of art.

Q. What does an architect do? 
A. An architect is a person who designs buildings and, in many cases, supervises their construction.

Q. How do you become an architect today?
A. Go to architecture school and complete a degree, complete an internship, and pass tests to become licensed. 

Lesson Activity & Procedure

1. After discussing the questions above, invite the students to investigate Hill-Stead Museum using the following story link:
Hill-Stead Museum

As students are reading the story, have them list three ways Theodate Pope was able to learn to be an architect without getting a formal education. Note how the process of becoming an architect has changed.

2. Student activity: Design your perfect home (Theodate Pope's was a big house, but a home can be an apartment, a tiny house, even a tree house)! Just as Theodate Pope got to design her perfect home, you can design yours! But first let’s make a plan just like Theodate did by answering some questions. Then use your answers to draw a floor plan. Theodate Pope's client (her father) was wealthy, but most of us have to plan carefully. We have to start with what we need. But everyone can dream, too--especially on paper!

- What rooms do you need in your house? Examples are: kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, TV room, exercise room, laundry, dining room, playroom, garage

- How many people will be living in your house? (How many bedrooms do you need?)
- Does your dream home have a yard, what features would you like outside? A big lawn is fun to play in but requires maintenance. A basketball court needs to be shoveled off when it snows.What about an orchard? A zip line? A pool? A patio?
- How will you make your home ecologically friendly? Which direction will the windows face? Do you want trees for shade? A wooded lot or a cleared lot?
- Would you like one floor living, or maybe a view on a higher floor?
- What will make your home special?
Use the Design a House Planning Worksheet

3. Now you are ready to design your home. Use graph paper to keep the spaces proportional to real life and each other. 

4. Exit slip: To be a successful architect, a person needs to consider these three things:
________________________, _____________________________, and __________________________________.

Additional Resources

You may also want to have students read Where I Live: Connecticut, chapter 5 Notable Connecticans, pages 37 – 44, all or parts of Let’s Create: Arts & Culture, page 65, and Let’s Learn: Museums, pages 66 – 67 and “Hill-Stead’s Mastodon Discovery.

Hill-Stead Museum
Hill-Stead Museum is located at 35 Mountain Road, Farmington, Connecticut.

This page on the museum’s website describes her process of becoming an architect and could be adapted or read by you to your students.


Hill-Stead is a designated National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior.
Nomination, National Historic Landmark, David F. Ransom, 1990.

Hill-Stead’s Wikipedia page

Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, Women’s Heritage Trail

Historic House Museums in Connecticut

Theodate Pope Riddle
Recommended: Pioneering Women in Architecture, scroll down to essay below stats

Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame

Lusitania Sinking

Connecticut Explored
The Collection of Alfred Pope at Hill-Stead Museum
Lunch with Monet (art collection at Hill-Stead)
Mastodon Discovery in Farmington (found on the Hill-Stead Museum grounds)
Golf at Hill-Stead
Beatrix Farrand’s Connecticut Gardens (includes Hill-Stead Museum)

Connecticut history.org Theodate Pope- Riddle
Theodate Pope Riddle: Connecticut’s Pioneering Woman Architect
Colonial Revival Movement Sought Stability during Time of Change

Wikipedia page Theodate Pope Riddle

Word Wall


State Standards 

Change, Continuity, and Context
HIST 3.3 Investigate historical Connecticut residents and their impact on Connecticut and national history.
Historical Sources and Evidence
HIST 3.10 Use information about a historical source, including the maker, date, place of origin, intended audience, and purpose to judge the extent to which the source is useful for studying a particular topic.