This historic house was constructed in 1842 and immediately played a significant role in some of the most important events of the late antebellum period. Austin F. Williams was a leading abolitionist and housed the Mende tribe members who had led the revolt against their would-be enslavers on board the Amistad. Williams was involved with the defense of the Mende and housed them here on his recently-acquired property after they were released from prison. The Mende stayed in the carriagehouse, which still stands, while the current home on the property was being constructed. The house main house later served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The carriagehouse and the main house were both declared National Historic Landmarks in 1998.
After a successful legal defense, the Mende were able to leave Connecticut and return to Africa in November 1841. The Mende stayed about eight months in Connecticut, and for most of that time, they lived here. Williams supported the abolitionist movement and likely hid escaped slaves here on his property, although direct records of this more clandestine activity are difficult to obtain and would have been kept secret owing to the opposition abolitionists faced from most white residents and the occasional violence that befell abolitionists even in a state such as Connecticut. After the Civil War, Williams assisted former slaves as a director of the Freedman's Bureau.