Gen. William W. Harts House (1729)

May 20th, 2017 Posted in Colonial, Houses, Madison

The house at 908 Boston Post Road in Madison, currently in a dilapidated condition, was recently subject to a foreclosure. The first person to build on the property was Ensign Nathaniel Dudley, c. 1729-1730, and the building was then expanded over time with several additions. Capt. Edward Griffin (1762-1802), who sailed schooners between between Boston and Haiti, acquired the house in 1799 from Lyman Munger. On one voyage, Capt. Griffin once threw his son Harry overboard after a quarrel. The cook threw over a chicken coop to keep Harry afloat and the young man was later rescued by a passing ship. Capt. Griffin was a slave owner who committed a heinous act. Hearing that revenue officers were coming to his house to assess his property, he entombed two of his slaves by walling them in the basement and leaving them to die.

The house had a number of owners after Capt. Griffin. Unoccupied from 1895 until 1909, it then became the summer home of Martha Hale and her husband, William Wright Harts (1866-1961). An 1889 graduate of West Point, Harts served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, eventually rising to the rank of Brigadier General. He oversaw a number of large construction projects, involving fortifications and river and harbor engineering. In 1901, he was sent to the Philippines, where he built roads and designed and constructed Fort McKinley (now Fort Bonifacio).

During World War I, Harts served in France and was appointed military governor of the Paris District and then Chief of Staff of the Army of Occupation in Germany. He was also a military aide to President Woodrow Wilson. Back in the United States, he supervised construction of the Lincoln Memorial and the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater. He lived in Madison full time after 1930. The general’s uniform is now in the collection of the Madison Historical Society. In the years since his death in 1961, the house, which came to be called the “General’s Residence,” has been a wedding dress shop, a restaurant, and a bakery.

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