This house is a Greek Revival masterpiece, closely resembling a Greek temple with its six Corinthian columnns. It was built in 1828 for Samuel Wadsworth Russell (1789-1862), the founder of the extremely successful Russell Company, which became the country's largest company to trade with China during the 1800s. The house has served the local college, Wesleyan University, for many different uses over the years it has been in their possession since 1937. For its architecture and association with Russell, the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. Then in 2001, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. Today, the old house is used for events including concerts, poetry readings, and concerts. It is also home to the Philosophy Department.
Samuel Wadsworth Russell was born on August 25, 1789. He founded his company in 1824 in Canton, China, becoming one of the few Americans to establish a business in China. Although Russell left in 1836 to return to the United States, his company maintained its dominance over its competitors until its closing in 1891. Thanks in large part to Russell, the United States was able to successfully challenge Britain's control of the Chinese market, which consisted primarily of silk, tea, and opium trade.
Ithiel Town, one of the country's best architects, designed the house. He was a big advocate for the Greek Revival style and the house is an exceptional example of his work. Thanks to Town's influence, the Greek Revival style spread around the country during the antebellum (pre-Civil War) period.
The Town family owned the house until 1937 when they deeded it to Wesleyan. It was home to the Honors College until 1996.