The last time The Commons spoke to the Chesterfield Historical Society, the organization had reached crunch-time, with just a few days before a March 31 deadline to raise $250,000 to purchase the town's historic Stone House Tavern.
They are now happy to report that, with the help of community members and local organizations, the fundraising was a success.
“We closed on the property on April 24, thanks to the numerous donations received,” said Board President Cornelia Jenness. “We are extremely appreciative of those individuals, businesses, and foundations that recognize the importance of saving this historic structure.”
The Stone House Tavern is located at the junction of Routes 9 and 63.
Securing ownership of the building was the first milestone for the Stone House Tavern project, and the Society has a few more agenda items to achieve their vision of opening the building as the Stone House Tavern Museum.
“The second milestone for the project is for restoration funds,” said Naomi Davis Lee, the society's 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.”
“Community support has been quick and amazing, but we have far to go before opening the Stone House Tavern as a museum to the community,” Jenness noted.
In addition to restoration funds, “our next step is to also create an endowment that will support program development and ongoing preservation of the structure.”
The organization plans to develop new educational programs and work with other local historic sites to establish cooperative programming.
A variety of historic displays will be available to visitors. Guided tours will demonstrate how some families lived in 1831, when the stone front portion of the building was built. Visitors will also learn how important the tavern was to people traveling this route between New Hampshire and Vermont.
While renovations will occur over the next two years, the Society plans to offer tours of the Stone House Tavern this summer.
The Tavern is a unique building with a deep history. The back wooden ell of the Tavern was built in 1791, and the front stone portion in 1831. In addition to its inverted hull-shaped ceiling, the building contains a second floor ballroom, original kitchen, and other features unique to the time period and region.
“The ballroom has a combination of interesting features because it has the amazing acoustics from that ceiling, and a fiddler's stand,” said Lee, who added that one Society board member evaluated the unusual combination of features as rare on a national level.
The importance of this project has been emphasized by many in the region, including noted documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who wrote, “Every time we're given the opportunity to save something of historical significance - like the Stone House Tavern - we should take it, because it's a chance to preserve a piece of our American Story. Wishing you all success with this project.”