The Kent Historical Society (KHS) was founded in 1954 with 28 charter members to “discover, preserve and restore wherever possible all material relating to Kent.” Regular meetings were held at the Kent Memorial Library and the members set about collecting everything they could acquire relating to Kent. The Library Association provided small storage space for the growing collections.
In 1960, George Laurence Nelson, on behalf of the Kent Art Association, offered the KHS the use of 2 upstairs rooms at the KAA, and a 5 member “Committee on Permanent Quarters” was formed. The Society eventually moved into this space, using it primarily for exhibits. Meetings continued to be held at the Library or at the homes of members. Meanwhile, the Society remained active in such important ventures as the preservation of both the old Kent Iron Furnace grounds (an effort which would eventually lead to the establishment of the Sloane Stanley Museum) and the covered Bulls Bridge. By 1966, membership had risen to 100. A motion was passed on April 28, 1968, to incorporate. In 1969, Miss Emily Hopson was elected President, a position which she held continually until 2001. The minutes of the November 1969 minutes read: “Miss Hopson's plans are vast and varied and represent a challenge and a source of valuable history for generations to come”.
In 1970, the KHS accepted the gift of the Skiff Mountain Schoolhouse from Pauline Skiff Gunn. The Society plunged into repairs and restoration of the schoolhouse, which was then opened to the public in 1973. The Society began to hold meetings at the Kent Art Association rooms and to focus on the creation of the Flanders Historic District. In 1972, the Town of Kent had purchased the Templeton farm on Maple Street, and KHS began to consider using the old farmhouse on the property as their new headquarters. Miss Hopson spearheaded the movement to restore the old building, and the first meeting was held in the now designated “Swift House” on May 24, 1976. Upon George Laurence Nelson’s death in 1978, the Society received his home and studio, “Seven Hearths”, expanding KHS operations over three historic properties and the Library.
KHS created and funded the position of Executive Director, in order that the heavy workload of the president does not fall on the shoulders of one volunteer. The archives were moved from the Library to the Swift House. Emily Hopson’s death on January 1, 2002, brought an end to a special era of the KHS. However, her foresight and financial endowment, coupled with the foundation laid by the Charter members, left the Kent Historical Society on very solid ground.
KHS’s current membership has grown to more than 400. It continues to own two historic buildings – the pre-revolutionary one-room schoolhouse on Skiff Mountain, and the 1751 house museum, “Seven Hearths,” in the Flanders Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It also owns a small cottage next to Seven Hearths, which is used as an office and archives/collections storage.
In addition to maintaining the Seven Hearths Museum for public viewing, KHS provides education and outreach programming, including annual classes with five of the eight grammar school grades, a lecture series, annual historical exhibits, historical publications, and hands-on activities for children and families. The KHS owns and maintains extensive archives of historical material, as well as an object collection of items of historical importance. The organization publishes a print newsletter four times per year. It also maintains a web site and Facebook page, shares electronic communication via email with its members on a regular basis, and will continue to focus on developing social media communication.