Historic Structures

William Pinto (Eli Whitney) House, New Haven Connecticut

Date added: February 4, 2011 Categories: Connecticut House Federal Style

Tradition in New Haven holds that Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin and a manufacturer of muskets and rifles lived in this house and died there in 1825. Whitney was also great financier in early New Haven.

William Pinto was a merchant when New Haven was a great seaport. He spent many years away from home; in Trinidad and in the Atlantic islands. He owned a few houses and a large amount of land in and around New Haven, much of it on the wharfside. These holdings were continually used in mortgages. The house on Orange Street, however, was held in unquestionable "fee simple" with no encumbrances until 1818 when it was taken in mortgage by Eli Whitney. The only evidence we have of any connection between Whitney and the Pinto House is that he took a mortgage on it and there is no record of a release of the mortgage, a not uncommon discrepancy of that time.

Munson rented the premises from Douglass for several years before purchasing it in 1937.

The house, excluding the modern cement block addition on the rear, measures 28'-0-1/4"across the front by 50'-4-3/4" in depth. It is a rectangle of three bays and has two and one-half stories, excluding basement.

Although the house has been altered on all floors, the basic plan of the first floor remains intact. The house is two rooms wide, three rooms deep. Entrance and stair hall are located on the south side of west front, A doorway to the left of stair hall leads to a large room with the most elaborate of the fireplaces. A doorway at the rear of the hall leads to another large room which was the dining room; beyond this is a room with a large kitchen-type fireplace and exterior door on the south wall. There are two doors on the east wall of the front room, one to the presumed dining room and the other to a smaller room. This room is divided by a service stair from a small room on the northeast corner.

The main stairway is a straight run just inside the front door on the south wall. It is an open stringer with a small triangular molding pattern on each step. The handrail is unmolded rounded mahogany. The balusters are plain square members. The newel is a cluster of balusters in a spiral bottom tread. Back stairs is located between middle room and rear room on the north side.