Documentation of the Hart-Cluett House

In 1983, a collection of wooden trunks bearing Betsey Hart’s name on the outsides, were discovered at the Troy Savings Bank. These trunks held virtually all of Mrs. Hart’s bills and financial records for the majority of her years at the House. This unusual, infinitely detailed record provides a thorough understanding of how the Hart family lived in and took care of the house. Coupled with the few personal papers of the family that are known, and a set of photographs of the house’s interior, RCHS has been able to recreate a relatively complete picture of life in the Hart house for the second half of the 19th century.

The Cluett record is not as thorough, although family papers, photographs and reminiscences do exist and the public record of the business activities of the company is extant in the RCHS archives. Many personal items remain in the possession of the family. Recently, a survey, including oral histories, was conducted of the Cluett family by RCHS staff, and this research has been critical to the understanding of how the Cluett families lived in and used the house.

Additional documentation comes from study of the building itself. Careful examination of paint layers, architectural details and changes to the structure due to additions and different uses of spaces, when added to the information from documentary and photographic sources, provides a rare view of the occupation of the house over 125 years by private residents and almost 50 years of museum use. The ability to say with such certainty what was going on in the building at a given time is extremely unusual for most historic house museums and makes the preservation of the Hart-Cluett House even more important. The house, the documents and the collections, when taken as a whole, are of great significance to the study of American life.