The Bruce Museum was originally built as a private home in 1853 for lawyer, clergyman and historian Francis Lister Hawks.
Robert Moffat Bruce (1822-1909), a wealthy textile merchant and member of the New York Cotton Exchange, bought the house and property in 1858. In 1908, Robert Moffat Bruce deeded his property to the Town of Greenwich, stipulating that it be used as “a natural history, historical, and art museum for the use and benefit of the public." The first exhibition ever at the Bruce Museum took place in 1912 and featured works by local artists known as the Greenwich Society of Artists, several of whom were members of the Cos Cob Art Colony.
The Museum served as home base for the Greenwich Society of Artists hosting its Annual Exhibition from 1912 through 1926. The Cos Cob School is now well established as an important part of the history of American painting, and it forms the nucleus of the Museum's holdings of painting, watercolors, sketchbooks, and notebooks by such artists as Leonard and Mina Ochtman, George Wharton Edwards, and Hobart Jacobs.
Over the years, the community, through its generosity, has built the Museum collection to nearly 15,000 objects representing the arts and sciences. Paralleling an interest in Connecticut painters and their paintings, early directors of the Bruce Museum, such as Ray Owens, Paul Howes, and Jack Clark, pursued the development of the natural sciences, building particular strengths in the mineral and avian collections.
In 1992, the Bruce Museum undertook a complete renovation of its 139-year-old building. Reopened in September 1993, the redesigned Bruce is an architectural model of museum quality.
In 1998 the Bruce Museum received accreditation from the American Association of Museums (now the American Alliance of Museums), an honor granted to fewer than 5% of all museums.
Sitting high on a hill overlooking Greenwich Harbor, the Bruce Museum offers a changing array of
exhibitions and educational programs that promote the understanding and appreciation of art and science.