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.
There is a limit of 10 people per tour.