The House, Virtual Tour
From 1738 to 1862, Flanders was the center of town before the railroad came in. Seven Hearths differs from other houses in the Flanders Historic District in several ways. First of all is its size. All the houses built in 1738, ’39 and ’40 at the settling of the town, started with a 16×16-foot unit, a minimum required to be built within three years in order to retain the land bought at auction. These houses expanded as time and success permitted. Seven Hearths, on the other hand, is a second generation house – large houses that were built by the second generation of settlers.
In 1751, John Beebe, Sr., who built the red house just north of Seven Hearths, gave John Jr. three acres at the southwest corner of his land at the time of his marriage.
John Jr. laid out a foundation for the house 32′ x ’52, with a 9′- deep cellar. He built it three stories high with 9-foot high rooms on the two main floors and an equally high attic above.
This was a very large building for the period. There are three fireplaces on the first floor of the north chimney, as well as a small one in the upstairs ballroom. The south chimney has three fireplaces as well, hence the name given by the Nelsons – Seven Hearths.
John Beebe, Sr. had an interest in a saw mill on a farm two lots south of his property (Cobble Brook Farm). Two other sons were also builders and all four probably worked together on the construction of the house.
They began with the store, office and kitchen as living space, and we believe it took three years to finish the basics of the house, since 1754 was the date found on the south chimney. However, several of the interior features of the upstairs bedrooms, such as moldings and door types, suggest that the entire structure was not finished until the 1780s or ’90s.
One of the features of Seven Hearths, as well as of John Beebe, Sr.’s house next door, is beautiful paneling throughout. The attic of Seven Hearths is huge and has no ridge pole. It is cross-braced in a very interesting way, which is a source of fascination to architectural researchers. The cellar has a brick partition, which enabled the storage of meats, so the north end of the house has not settled as much as the south.
However, the entire house is sound.
Some of the furniture in Seven Hearths is of Kent origin. The little black Windsor chairs in the kitchen came from the Morgan Tavern, across the street, as did the dresser in the upstairs back bedroom.
A small rocker is from the South Kent Peet family. The melodeon in the parlor belonged to Vesta Benedict of Ore Hill. As our tour proceeds through the house we will note other pieces of Kent origin.
We are always on the look-out for other Kent pieces.
This room was originally a general store with the door on the west being the main entrance. In the northwest corner of the cellar below, a door led to a room where carcasses of meat were hung. On the east end of the (now) studio, there was a door to the cellar and a door to the outside, both since removed. The door to the outside opened to the stairs leading to a fur trading post upstairs. The names of the furs and the prices to be used were written on the beams, but have since been covered over.
Noted New York artist George Laurence Nelson bought the house in 1919. It was owned at the time by the Northrop family, whose farm was the next one south. It had been used by tenant farmers and had been vacant for some time. Luckily, it had not been hurt structurally, but needed a lot of cleaning and painting.
Laurence Nelson wrote a booklet about the restoration of the house, entitled New Life for Old Timber, which is available for purchase from the Kent Historical Society. Mr. Nelson made this room his studio, putting in the large north window. He was noted for his portraits, painting over 800 of them in his lifetime. We have many of his original works, as well as photographs of others. They are frequently on display throughout the house.