Tapping Reeve House and Law School

Tapping Reeve House and Law School, Litchfield: Hours, Address, Tapping Reeve House and Law School Reviews: 4.5/5

Tapping Reeve House and Law School

Tapping Reeve House and Law School
Speciality Museums • Historic Sites • Points of Interest & Landmarks
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
The Tapping Reeve House and Law School takes visitors on a journey through the life of a real student from the early 19th century. Through role-playing, hands-on areas, and interpretive exhibits, each visitor explores timeless issues of travel, communication, education, and community.
Suggested duration
1-2 hours
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29 reviews
Very good

Adventure Diva
Manchester, CT1,596 contributions
Journey through the 19th century life of a law student
Oct 2021 • Solo
As this is the nation's first law school, you have an opportunity to take a journey through exhibits and video narration. This school brought about 2 Vice Presidents and 101 US congressmen.
Written 13 October 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Monroe, NJ309 contributions
A gem
Aug 2021
Very interesting to learn about the legal studies in colonialists times! The guide was very knowledgeable. There is a short movie to watch and a small museum to visit.
Written 8 September 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

South Windsor, CT528 contributions
A Hidden Gem
Aug 2019
If you are an attorney or have any interest in in the history of our country, this is an interesting place to spend a few hours and thankis to the Litchfield Historic society, it is free. This was the first law school in our country and many of our early leaders attended here. You could walk thru the building in 10 minutes or you could spend hours here if you wanted to read all of the information available to you. We probably spent an hour and a half. The house is open only during the extended summer, so check the website before you go to make sure it will be open when you get there.
Written 3 September 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Nicholas D
30 contributions
Historic Visit
Sep 2018 • Family
Lot of history packed away in a relatively small area. If there is someone present which I believe there usually is and they are into it the place comes alive with stories reflecting personalities and notable students who attended.
Written 6 November 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Windsor, CT335 contributions
Unique Museum with Historical Significance
Apr 2018 • Couples
My husband and I visited the Tapping Reeve House and Law School on Sunday, April 29, 2018, the same day that we visited the Litchfield History Museum, which was up the street. The Law School was unique having historical significance being America’s first Law School, employing new approaches for teaching law, such as lectures and mock trials rather than apprenticeships. Parking for this museum was on the street in front of the museum, which was very convenient. After we visited this museum we drove to the Litchfield History Museum, which was at the beginning of South Street. Our tour of both museums took about an hour and a half in total, based on the amount of time available to us. However, we could have easily spent more time in each museum. We enjoyed both museums and we hope that you have the opportunity to enjoy them as well. They were interesting, informative and educational. Our experience was like a walk back through time. Also both museums offered free admission at the time of our visit, which was quite nice.

Our tour of the Tapping Reeve House and Law School started off with a docent providing a good overview of the important aspects of Tapping Reeve’s life, and the role the Law School played after the American Revolution, as well as information on what was included in the museum. We then saw a video, entitled, ‘Coming to Litchfield’, which was a re-enactment providing good background on how students got to both the Law School and the Litchfield Female Academy, the connection between the two schools, as well as why they went to these schools. Also, included in the film were specific details about the type of students that went to these schools, including their different social and political backgrounds.

We then went through the four rooms of exhibits in the house which included information on the activities the students performed on a daily basis, letters, lecture notes, documents, photographs and other quite interesting artifacts. Included in the exhibits was information on who some of the students were and the careers that they went on to pursue after they attended the school, which added to its historical significance. The students that attended the school went on to become a distinguished list of Vice-Presidents, United States Congressmen and Senators, Cabinet Members, Governors, Justices of the US Supreme Court and State Supreme Courts as well as many more types of impressive occupations. The house itself had a very nice architecture associated with it and was well restored.

The Law School itself was separate from the four rooms of exhibits in the house, but was in a small, one room school house, a good place for lectures and perhaps mock trials. It was simple but interesting.

Touring this museum was very interesting from a historical, social, cultural, and political perspective, again being quite educational. The museum nicely illustrated the ideas, lifestyles, issues and conflicts of the 19th century. I liked this museum and recommend going to it.
Written 2 May 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Michael K
Melbourne, FL56 contributions
At last, Aaron Burr was first in something worthwhile ....
Oct 2017 • Couples
First of all, I thought the answer to the question of the location of the first American law school would be Harvard or Yale. Nope. While preparing for our journey driving through New England, I came across a curious note in Fodors and that was that the first American Law School was in fact found in Litchfield, Connecticut. Who would have known ? I sure didn't.

And, although I gave away the punch line in the title of this review, Aaron Burr was the first student enrolled. Of course, as with most things with Aaron Burr, there was a catch to that distinction. The school was begun by Judge Tapping Reeve who as it turns out became Aaron Burr's brother in law, marrying Sally Burr, Aaron Burr's sister, after tutoring them both as children.

The school was opened in 1784 and by the time that it closed in 1833 over 1000 students from throughout the country had attended. Judge Reeve built what amounted to a one room school house where he and his former student James Gould delivered their lectures based in part upon such scholars as Sir William Blackstone and Edward Coke.

The list of dignitaries of those students who attended is long and (mostly) illustrious. For example, two future vice presidents attended: Aaron Burr and John C. Calhoun (who later led the attempt to financially aid Judge Reeve who had fallen on hard times when the school closed). Ninety seven students served in the United States House of Representatives. Twenty Eight students became United States Senators, six became United States cabinet members, and three students were appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Also, 14 attendees became state governors.

So, being an attorney myself, I was quite excited to arrive at the Tapping Reeve Law School. The attraction had a lot of promise and mostly delivered.

I say mostly because, right off the bat, it was difficult to find the entrance to the law school. There was no clear marking. The front door was locked with no clear demarcation where the interior of the exhibit began.

My wife and I first found the one room school itself. It was quite quaint with small desks and quill pens and nothing much more. For a time, I thought that was the extent of the exhibit. But, we wandered around the back of the school house and around the attached residence and saw a guy barreling around the building. He looked disdainful, patronizing and didn't bother to return my greeting, let alone permit me to ask where the rest of the exhibit was, if there was anything more. But, seeing him, I knew with his manner and appearance, he MUST be a lawyer and he scurried out of an unmarked door so I thought on was on the right track.

We entered the door and entered a very un prepossessing small room with a receptionist there who was friendly enough. She said there was an introductory film in the next room so we went in there and sat down on a bench and saw what appeared to be a "jury rigged" (pun intended) film set up which seemed to portend disappointment. But, I was wrong (as my wife suggests that I usually am). The film was a fascinating introduction to the law school and followed the fictional approach to the school of several students from all parts of the country.

Next, the receptionist showed us the way to the rest of the house and gently reminded us that we had about 45 minutes to finish our visit. Well, that's where the fascination of the place unfolds.

Visitors can choose an entry packet of a real student and learn about his daily routine in each succeeding room. First, the packet contains information about where the student came from, his political affiliations if any and other personal information. The next room shows us how our students traveled to the school which of course varied from their point of origin. The next rooms tell of different courses the students would take. And, yet another room showcases artifacts from the original school itself. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

Also, throughout the exhibit are educational excerpts about different topics from newspapers of the time. Examples were different articles about dueling in the era when Burr killed Hamilton.

So, by the end of the tour, we had quite an understanding about the school and its students. My favorite room had letters from home which proved to me that some things never change. In many of the letters, students beseached their parents for, you guessed it, MORE MONEY. "I know love is grand, but please send CASH," pled one student. Yep, some things never change. The parent's response was classic. "I don't know if law school is an extravagant place or you, merely, are an extravagant person."
(Pardon the paraphrasing.)

Some improvements are necessary. First of all, there is inadequate markings for where the exhibit begins, obviously. And, I wanted some souvenirs but there was not a gift shop but a gift CLOSET. Not good. There has to be more souvenirs available. This school is quite an attraction for attorneys and students of history like my wife and I.

I would highly recommend this museum and hope that funds and creative input will lead to improvements on a place that has great potential.
Written 4 January 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Jocelyn N
Litchfield, CT187 contributions
Historical Home and Law School
Sep 2017 • Couples
Good place to see how the Founding Fathers lived plus learn about the many men who passed through the Law School. Plus, the admission has been FREE the past few years which is great too.
Written 9 November 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Nancy K
Southbury, CT335 contributions
It's More About the Experience that the Students Had, than Just a Law School
Sep 2017 • Friends
I came to the House and Law School with a group so our experience might be different than individuals visiting. Our guide, Kate, was amazingly one of my former students! This is not an historic house where you go from room to room seeing period furniture. In fact, there is only one piece of furniture from the original house! Instead, it is an interactive experience where visitors are given a bio of a male student of the law school or a woman who attended the nearby Litchfield Female Academy. The short, introductory video gives visitors insight into how students from various parts of young America interacted with each other. From there, visitors move from room to room viewing the very well done and interesting displays and also learning more about their student. The actual law school building is a reproduction but you can see some of the original beams of the house. Our visit concluded with a tour of the planned gardens, meadows, and orchard in the back of the house. This is a major undertaking but upon completion will not just be a beautiful addition to the house and law school, but serve the town of Litchfield!
Written 16 September 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
We are so glad you enjoyed your tour!
Written 17 September 2017
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

London, UK2,638 contributions
Sep 2017 • Friends
Knew of it from guide books and stopped when passing to take a mini tour. This was well worthwhile as the Litchfield Historical Society representative gave us an overview before we toured the well laid out exhibit rooms.
Written 9 September 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

CT272 contributions
Interesting for early Federal period social and political history
Nov 2016 • Solo
Free admission. I spent 2.5 hours here. The Schoolhouse building is almost all reproduction and not much of interest there. Probably good site for reenactcments. The Tapping Reeve House had 3 main interpretive areas plus an excellent 15 minute video. The interpretive areas are a nice mix of primary source writings and artifacts, with contemporary themes to intrerpret them. There was a strange use of scrims (semi-transparent material) that prevented good viewing of the displays that were behind the cloth. Maybe they backlight it for some visitors to allow better viewing?
The Historical Society which owns this building has an excellent online archive to further explore information about the Tapping Reeve Law School and Litchfield Female Academy.
Written 17 November 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Glad you had a nice visit!
Written 18 November 2016
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Tapping Reeve House and Law School

Tapping Reeve House and Law School is open:
  • Sun - Sun 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
  • Tue - Sat 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM