Armsmear was planned for Colt's 1856 marriage to Elizabeth Hart Jarvis, and constructed in 1856 on grounds overlooking the recently completed Colt Armory. It was described by a contemporary thus: "an Italian villa in stone, massive, noble, refined, yet not carrying out any decided principle of architecture, it is like its originator, bold and unusual in its combinations." It features a low-pitched roof, heavy bracketed cornice, round-arched doors and windows, iron balconies, Italianate tower and details, and Turkish domes and pinnacles.
The Colts occupied Armsmear in 1857 and promptly began to develop its gardens. Unusual, glass-domed conservatories, inspired by London's Crystal Palace, were added in 1861-1862. Ultimately the estate contained greenhouses, as well as ponds, fountains, and a deer park.
The house and manicured grounds were the primary residence of Samuel Colt and his family. The Colts entertained lavishly at the estate, holding large parties that were the highlight of the Hartford society season. Samuel Colt lived in Armsmear for approximately 5 years from 1857 until his death in 1862. He was buried on the grounds of Armsmear near the graves of Sam and Elizabeth's young children, amidst a copse of weeping willows known as the 'Grove of Graves.' Following her husband's death, Elizabeth Hart Colt and her son Caldwell Hart Colt lived together in the large home for several decades.
After Elizabeth Colt died in 1905, the house was converted to a home for Episcopal women (in 1911) under the terms of her will. The residential community to this day is administrated by the Colt Trust. She also gave 140 acres (57 ha) of Armsmear's grounds to create Hartford's Colt Park. The city has subsequently replaced the greenhouse, garden, and ponds with ball fields and a skating rink.
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Armsmear on Map
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