Since 2007, the Chesterfield Historical Society has had its eye on the Stone House Tavern - a historic building that stands at junction of Routes 9 and 63 that was built in 1831.
With fortunate timing within a fluctuating economy, CHS is en route to purchasing the Tavern, but it needs community support - and quickly, by March 31.
“Our big crunch is right now because we really only have days remaining to meet our first [financial] milestone in order to save the Stone House Tavern,” said Naomi Davis Lee, CHS Interim Executive Director and Campaign Chair. “It's a treasure trove of beautiful details and it's absolutely worth restoring. So that's our primary goal - to preserve and restore it to its previous glory.”
Some unique features of the Tavern are its ballroom and inverted hull-shaped ceiling.
“The Ballroom has a combination of interesting features because it has the amazing acoustics from that ceiling, and a fiddlers stand,” Lee said. “One of the board members found this to be a very unusual combination of features that's pretty rare [on a national level].”
Endorsements and donations
The asking price for the Tavern in 2007 was $600,000. Now, it is down to $250,000. CHS has raised $200,000 of the $250,000 needed, and in just days, the town will need to raise the remaining $50,000 to finalize the purchase.
Of the $200,000 raised, most of it has come from donations by community members.
“We have been focusing quite heavily on individual support at this phase, and like most capital campaigns we will move into even broader public support in weeks to come,” Lee explained.
There have also been endorsements from prominent community members, such as Chesterfield Selectman Clifford Emery, CHS founder Vanetta C. Emery, former state Rep. Smokey Smith, and Alan Rumrill, director of the Historical Society of Cheshire County.
Also promoting the project is documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, of nearby Walpole.
“Every time we're given the opportunity to save something of historical significance - like the Stone House Tavern - we should take it,” Burns told CHS, “because it's a chance to preserve a piece of our American Story. Wishing you all success with this project.”
“We developed a business plan that sets long term objectives to create an endowment to help ensure sustainability and to establish a governing structure that will oversee its future programming and its maintenance,” Lee said. “And [we will] open the building to the public as a museum offering educational and interpretive programming along with the historical collection from Chesterfield.”
Lee added that many community members have donated various artifacts and ephemera to the Society and CHS didn't have enough space for those things.
“So we're excited at the prospect of having more space for larger displays,” said Lee.
“We've had a couple of inspections of the buildings, structural and home inspections, and the Tavern has been deemed structurally sound.”
If the $250,000 goal is met by March 31, “the second milestone for the project is for restoration funds, and the third phase will continue to raise funds for the endowment which will help us to sustain the building and provide programming to the public.”
While renovations will be occurring over the next two years, CHS plans to offer tours of the Stone House Tavern this summer.
How the community can help
“Community support is critical and much appreciated,” said Lee. “We are hopeful that with sufficient backing from individuals and local businesses in the days and weeks ahead, we will save the Stone House Tavern, restore it to its former glory and sustain it as a community resource.”
Lee said she believes that, by this time next year, “we will be talking about the Stone House Tavern museum as a restoration success story, thanks to the community members who made it possible.”
Things she said the community can do include supporting the project financially or with donated time and talent, helping to spread the word about the project, and volunteering to help with the campaign.
To learn more, community members can contact Lee at 603-903-8516.