This summer, the Kent Historical Society is offering tours of its Seven Hearths Museum by appointment.
Our award-winning exhibit, The Founders of Kent, is still available for viewing. The exhibit, which received an Award of Merit from the Connecticut League of History Organizations, showcases the families that began the town.
In addition, our ongoing restoration of the museum continues. It is something that has been underway since our 1978 inheritance of “Seven Hearths,” a large pre-Revolutionary house in the Flanders Historic District of Kent. The structure dates back to 1751, when it was constructed by the Beebe family.
Seven Hearths was bequeathed to the Society by its long-time owner, noted New York artist, George Laurence Nelson. He had bought the house in 1919, and invested a great deal of time in “fixing it up.” Fortunately for posterity, Nelson respected the ancient bones of the house and documented his process in an essay entitled New Life for Old Timber. He noted where he had removed walls, converted rooms, and even where he had covered up the names of fur pelts chalked on some beams upstairs.
Anyone wishing to visit is asked to make an appointment by phoning the office, 860-927-4587 or by emailing.
Over 40 people visited Seven Hearths April 21 for the Seven Hearths Revealed Party to help support our ongoing efforts to highlight the history of Kent. The cocktail party drew a supportive crowd, with a great mix of people who had visited previously along with some who’d never been inside our historic house museum.
Trustees Jeffrey Morgan and Roger Gonzales led a group of people through the museum on a tour, highlighting recent additions as well as the conservation work underway on the building.
We would also like to recognize the organizing committee for the party that was chaired by Trustees Deb Chabrian and Jeffrey Morgan. Others volunteered their time to make it a success, including Austi Brown and Trustees Lynn Worthington and Kent Freeman, as well as volunteers Adriana Martinez and Ed Martinez . Acting Director Patrice Galterio and Curator Marge Smith also spent considerable time planning and welcomed guests to the event.
KHS thanks the following for their help with the party: TEPOZ Tequila,
Kent Wine & Spirit.
One of the highlights of the evening was viewing the artwork offered through a silent auction to support the George Laurence Nelson Scholarship. Six artists contributed paintings and prints they created during a Paint Out on April 12-13 in George Laurence Nelson’s former studio in the Seven Hearths Museum. Proceeds from the auction will fund the scholarship that will aid college students studying art and art history.
We are especially grateful to those who supported this event and the Society with their generous contributions.
The Kent Historical Society invites all to Seven Hearths Revealed, an evening celebrating our beloved 18th century home and museum, April 21, 2018. We are grateful to our Underwriters, Sponsors and Friends who’ve helped support this fundraiser.
Attendees will tour Seven Hearths, view George Laurence Nelson’s artwork and and enjoy wine, and hors d’oeuvres, as well as celebrate spring with fellow KHS supporters, history buffs and friends.
Deborah Chabrian, KHS Trustee and well-known watercolorist, is again organizing a “Paint Out” with a group of local artists to create beautiful artwork that will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the George Laurence Nelson Scholarship Fund. This is the second year for the painting fundraiser, and Chabrian said that the artists all enjoyed the camaraderie of painting together in the historic Seven Hearths. Invited artists are creating paintings this year inspired by the interior rooms of the unique house museum. The resulting works of art will be offered in a silent auction during the party.
“We want to draw attention to GLN’s light-filled studio here at Seven Heaths, to bring life and art back into the house,” she said.
The party will provide an opportunity to discover more about the house’s rich legacy. Trustee Jeffrey Morgan continues to remove paint layers, particularly in the South Parlor, adding to the Society’s knowledge of what the interiors looked like through the years. The stairs (c. 1940), which previously gave access from the Fur Trading Post to the attic, have been removed to allow for better appreciation and understanding of this recently discovered historical gem. A new stair has been reconstructed in the original location from period materials and hand wrought nails. It is located at the top of the stairs from what was originally the general store and was later used by George Laurence Nelson as his painting studio. Several wonderful examples of Nelson’s interior watercolors will be on display throughout the house.
The fundraising party will provide needed operating funds for the Society. Attendees will have the opportunity to see the ongoing changes that have been happening at the 1751 house museum and celebrate the fascinating history of the building.
The Society celebrated the arrival of spring with a fundraiser, “Seven Hearths in Bloom,” Saturday, April 29 and this was a terrific opportunity to show supporters how great our house museum can look.
Floral displays were featured in each of the rooms and each was created and donated by Kent Greenhouse and Gardens. Our thanks also to TEPOZ Tequila donation for our specialty cocktail “Tequila Thyme Lemon-Lime Spritzer,” Kent Wine & Spirit and J.P. Gifford’s for their assistance with the party.
Trustee Jeffrey Morgan led a group of people through the museum on a tour, where he elaborated on the conservation work underway on the building. He noted how he has carefully removed the layers of paint to reveal the original colors at the bottom.
Curator Marge Smith said that the process of discovery has been interesting as the house reveals itself and its story of past residents.
“One of the fun things is to try to figure out why they chose the paint colors they did,” Smith said in the family parlor, that has also been called the dining room over the years. “We don’t know why they liked orange black,” she said, referring to the orange patches in the corner that have been uncovered.
Morgan said that there was a lot of change in the way the rooms were set up.
“Furniture was a very movable thing,” he explained, noting that many items are worn down on the front legs because they’ve been dragged around.
Smith also noted that the Beebe family was clearly very wealthy and wanted others to know that.
“By the time they built this house, they wanted to show they had money,” she said. The high ceilings and the color on the walls all indicate this to historians.
Smith encouraged all those attending to return to Seven Hearths this summer to view the exhibit on The Founders of Kent.
“It’s a fascinating story and you’ve got to come back,” she told the guests.
Almost 70 came and helped support our ongoing efforts to highlight the history of Kent.
The cocktail party drew a supportive crowd, with a great mix of old and young. When KHS President Mike Everett listed some of our recently completed capital projects, the new siding on Seven Hearths drew spontaneous applause. He highlighted several accomplishments of the Society.
“One of the most important things was we found a way to store all of Mr. Nelson’s paintings,” he said. An Art and Archives Storage area has been created in the lowest level of Tallman House, where the office is located.
Everett also recognizes the organizing committee for the party that was chaired by Trustees Deb Chabrian and Jeffrey Morgan. Other valuable members included Trustee Kate Vick, along with Bruce Whipple, Melissa Cherniske and Lynn Worthington.
One of the highlights of the evening was the silent auction to support the George Laurence Nelson Scholarship.
Seven artists contributed paintings and prints they created during a Paint Out on April 18 and 19 in George Laurence Nelson’s former studio in the Seven Hearths Museum. Proceeds from the auction will fund the scholarship that will aid college students studying art and art history.
We are especially grateful to those who supported this event and the Society with their generous contributions.
Reading an Old House: Tours of Seven Hearths Offered
The challenge – a person acquires an ancient house and wants to really get to know it underneath its modern layers. A title search in the land records will reveal who owned the house when, but that’s about it. What else can a curious homeowner do?
This summer, the Kent Historical Society will illustrate how a careful historical examination of a house can be done. They will be showcasing the long journey they’ve been on since the 1978 inheritance of “Seven Hearths,” a large pre-Revolutionary house in the Flanders Historic District of Kent. Seven Hearths was bequeathed to the Society by its long-time owner, noted New York artist, George Laurence Nelson. He had bought the house in 1919, and invested a great deal of time in “fixing it up.” Fortunately for posterity, Nelson respected the ancient bones of the house and documented his process in an essay entitled New Life for Old Timber. He noted where he had removed walls, converted rooms, and even where he had covered up the names of fur pelts chalked on some beams upstairs.
Kent Historical Society board member Jeffrey Morgan is an expert whose passion and profession is restoring ancient houses. He is currently juggling several aspects of discovery in Seven Hearths. He is carefully removing layers of paint in each room, documenting the age of the paint and the stories that each layer can tell him. With help of fellow board member Roger Gonzales and another old house expert Mark Peterson, Morgan has uncovered the original kitchen floor, found the location of the original attic stair, determined the configuration of the original windows and door on the west wall, and more. Mysterious marks on the old walls upstairs, initials carved in the ancient wood, a curious board by the fireplace in the studio – there are clues throughout the house that can answer questions about previous inhabitants, and even clues that leave us scratching our collective educated heads.
In the meantime, he and Curator Marge Smith have been researching the house’s occupants. Going through census and probate records, reading old diaries, tracking down descendants and talking to town old timers, they are uncovering a trove of information about the lives lived in Seven Hearths Museum. The quest to tell the whole story continues, and you will be a part of it when you take the tour. Perhaps YOU will have an answer to one of the mysteries!
Tours of Seven Hearths, led by Morgan and Smith, will illustrate this process in depth. The tours will be held at 10AM on July 16 (TOUR FULL), August 20, September 17 (TOUR FULL), and October 15, or by appointment. Please register using the form BELOW.
The Kent Historical Society recently installed a new sign in front of its Seven Hearths museum and several new lights with a $1,500 matching grant from the Connecticut Humanities (CTH).
To qualify for the grant, the historical society had to be part of a museum development program known as StEPs-CT, sponsored by CTH and the CT League of History Organizations (CLHO), and developed by the American Association for State and Local History. StEPs is an acronym for Standards and Excellence Program for history organizations.
The sign was designed to look similar to 18th century signage. Roger Gonzales, a Kent resident and member of the Board of Trustees, helped design and install the wooden sign atop a wooden post. It is like those that would have been common in the Flanders section of town, which was where the town of Kent began in the 1700s.
“We have received many compliments on our new sign,” said KHS Executive Director Marge Smith. “The museum will be much easier to find for visitors, with such an eye-catching sign.”
Two post lights were installed to help provide more light outside of the Seven Hearths museum to help guide visitors to parking areas. Three additional lights were added to the outside of the museum and the Art Barn, which is located in the rear.
Signs and lighting were two areas of improvement that were highlighted in the 2013 strategic plan completed by the Kent Historical Society. A $1,500 CTH grant was also awarded to KHS for that project as well, to fund a consultant. Nationally-recognized museum consultant Anne Ackerson, who has extensive experience in strategic planning and best practices development, was hired to lead a committee of board members in creating a dynamic strategic plan that is helping the society to move forward in the completion of many mission-driven initiatives.
The planning process involved input from KHS members and townspeople, as well as a great deal of internal examination by the KHS board and planning committee. A variety of strategic goals focus attention on restoring and preserving Seven Hearths, the society’s 1751 house museum; on increasing the community outreach programs and community collaboration; on developing more sophisticated use of technology and on making the KHS resources better available to the public. It is a road map for the society and its board, whose members have been working hard to make the Kent Historical Society a major player in the town of Kent.
Both of these grants are the most recent of 12 grants awarded to the Kent Historical Society by CTH. A total of $31,900 has been given since 2005 to support wide-ranging Kent Historical Society initiatives. The society would not be where it is today without the support of CTH.
Connecticut Humanities (CTH) is a non-profit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities that funds, creates and collaborates on hundreds of cultural programs across Connecticut each year. Connecticut Humanities brings together people of all ages and backgrounds to express, share and explore ideas in thoughtful and productive ways. From local discussion groups to major exhibitions on important historical events, CTH programs engage, enlighten and educate. Learn more by visiting www.cthumanities.org.
The Connecticut League of History Organizations (CLHO) builds connections among those who preserve and share the stories and objects of our past. The CLHO encourages and supports the activities of historical organizations throughout the state, promotes professional standards, serves as a network for the exchange of information, and advances historical interests at the state level. For more information, go to www.clho.org
The Flanders Historic District lies about two miles north of the center of Kent on Rte 7. Seven Hearths is the large gray house on the eastern side of Rte 7 at the base of Studio Hill. Owned by the Kent Historical Society, and open to the public as a house museum, it is on the National Register of Historic Houses.
What began as the repair of the crumbling north chimney has now expanded to an exciting re-creation of a more accurate 18th-century version of the house. Built by John Beebe, Jr., in 1751, this colonial house stands in contrast to the earlier houses of the Flanders District because of its large scale. Constructed as one unit measuring 32 feet by 52 feet, with rooms and a cellar that is nine feet high, its architectural features are of interest to restoration buffs.
"We had a small bulldozer, air compressor and dump trucks," said Bigelow, 92 who now lives in Enfield. "I helped load the trucks with rocks we gathered in the woods. To this day I still have back problems that I attribute to that hard work.
"On the job, we had to use a lot of dynamite. One guy, Joe Gories from New Britain, was in charge. He got paid a little extra for his work. Just before they lit the charge I had to go to a safe area. Then they'd yell "fire in the hole."
The house's furnishings and other interior accessories reflect phases of Kent history that were
part of the occupants' lives. Seven Hearths was willed to the Society by famed artist George Laurence Nelson, who bought the dilapidated structure in 1919, restored it and lived in it until his death in 1978. Mr. Nelson wrote an enchanting account of his love affair with Seven Hearths, entitled New Life for Old Timber, which is available from the Historical Society Bookstore.
Seven Hearths is closed during the winter but can be visited at any time by appointment. We enjoy giving private tours! If you are unable to visit us in person, we invite you to take a virtual tour of the house with us.
Kent Historical Society | PO Box 651 | Kent, CT 06757 | 860.927.4587