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Broadway's Robert Hartwell buys old house, vowing to "fill it with love"

Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove a claim that the house had been built by slaves. The house is located in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a state that abolished slavery in 1783, almost 40 years before the house was built. 

Robert Hartwell, who has appeared in Broadway shows including "Hello, Dolly!" and "Motown the Musical," wrote a post on Instagram about a house he found three weeks ago. Hartwell said after seeing the house, he knew he wanted to buy it. 

Hartwell said the agent told him they were only accepting cash offers, and they assumed that "took him off the table" as a potential buyer. "Don't you ever underestimate a hard working black man," he wrote in the Instagram post. "I saw the house last week and when I walked in I knew I was home."

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3 weeks ago I found this house online. I said “this is my house”. I called the seller and was told it was a cash only offer and that “I’m sure that takes you off the table”. Don’t you ever underestimate a hard working black man. I saw the house last week and when I walked in I knew I was home. The house was built in 1820 for the Russell family who owned the cotton mill in town. Slavery was still legal. When the agent asked me why I wanted such a large house I said it was “a generational move”. I know this house is bigger than me. I wish I could’ve told my ancestors when they were breaking their backs in 1820 to build this house that 200 years later a free gay black man was going to own it and fill it with love and find a way to say their name even when 200 years later they still thought I would be “off the table”. We are building our own tables. I’ve never been prouder to be a black man. Come to my White House any time. I can’t wait to have you! Glory to God in the highest. I’m a homeowner.

A post shared by robert hartwell (@sirroberttakespics) on

Real estate listings said the house was built in 1820. "When the agent asked me why I wanted such a large house I said it was 'a generational move,'" Hartwell wrote. 

The actor said he wished he could have told his "ancestors when they were breaking their backs in 1820 to build this house that 200 years later a free gay black man was going to own it and fill it with love and find a way to say their name even when 200 years later they still thought I would be 'off the table.'" 

"We are building our own tables," he wrote. "I've never been prouder to be a black man. Come to my White House any time. I can't wait to have you! Glory to God in the highest. I'm a homeowner." 

Hartwell, who founded The Broadway Collective, a training academy for young actors, did not disclose the location of the property in the Instagram post.

He set up a website called "Black Man/White House" proposing the idea of a TV show to chronicle his journey renovating the home "while simultaneously uncovering my lineage/ history as well as the home's history."

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