Chesterfield NH Historical Society
Chesterfield NH Historical Society

The Stone House Project

Chesterfield Historical Society wishes to maintain the historical integrity of the 1831 Stone House.  Below is the story of why this building is of major historical value.  The building is located at the corner of Route 9 and Route 63 in Chesterfield.

 

In order to preserve this Chesterfield ion, in December The CHS has placed a purchase and sell agreement on it for $250,000.  The board is very excited about this rare opportunity to acquire such a unique property.  We are looking forward to support from the community in this endeavor.  We wish to create a vibrant show place for Chesterfield History that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.   

 

The Stone House story begins with John Pierce (1743 – 1812) who came to Chesterfield sometime between 1770 and 1776.  According to tradition, he was a veteran of the French and Indian Wars.  Upon arrival in Chesterfield, he opened up a store in Center Village and started acquiring land.  An ardent Patriot, he donated a large tract of land to “The Cause” and participated in the Battle of Bennington in 1777.   In 1782 he purchased lot No. 12 on the western half of Lake Spafford, where he built a wooden home in 1790.  Over the years, he enlarged it to accommodate his growing family.

 

Upon John’s death in 1812, his 4th son Ezekiel P. Pierce (1788 – 1865) inherited the family homestead.  At the time, E.P. was running a store and tavern in the Village Center.  In about 1820, he became involved in the manufacturing of “patent accelerating wheel-heads” for spinning wool in both Factory Village (now Spofford) and in Londonderry, VT.  He was one of the first to do this.  Also, he was involved with the manufacturing of bits and augers.   Always interested in town affairs, he became a Selectman and was elected to the NH House of Representative.  He used his standing in the community to promote temperance and abolition.  It was said, he was eternally grateful that he lived to see the defeat of the Southern States.

 

In 1831, E.P. Pierce built a 2 ½ story stone house onto the original Pierce family homestead as an ell. Taking advantage of its location being at the intersection of two main roads, he ran it as a tavern and stagecoach stop.  He named the tavern “The Temperance Lake House”.  Because of the Pierce family’s stand on abolition, it has been rumored that it was a stop on the Underground Railroad with space behind the old fireplace used to hide runaway slaves. Facts do show that it was a popular place for locals to gather, get news, and hold social events.

 

The Ballroom

The unusual stone portion was constructed from locally quarried stone.  It was built to impress in the then popular Federal style.  There are delicate details in the soapstone around its doorways and in the Palladian windows in its gables.  The first floor had a center hall dividing four rooms of equal proportion.  Opposite the main entranceway was a stairway leading to the second floor.  Upstairs there were two rooms off a hall and a ballroom which ran the entire length of the front of the house.  The ballroom was designed with a fiddler’s stage, built-in benches along the outer walls, fireplaces on either end, a plastered low vaulted ceiling for its aesthetic and acoustical effects, and a spring floor to make dancing easier and less noisy for the downstairs folks.  The chandelier pulley system is still hidden in the walls.  Above the ballroom was the gabled attic which contained a series of cubicles with box-like platforms containing boot holds (probably for chamber pots).  Upon the platforms, straw mattresses would be laid to accommodate the teamsters and drovers, who were regarded only to require Spartan accommodations.  The cubicles were designed with openings for cross ventilation from the gables windows.  The kitchen was two feet lower than the first floor of the stone portion.  It contained a large fireplace which connected to a “bee-hive” hot-water heating oven.  Hot water was heated in large kettles that fit into big openings in the oven’s top.  All of these features survive to this day except the ballroom’s spring floor that was removed in the 1920s. 

 

Upon E.P. Pierce’s death in 1865, two of his daughters, Augusta “Gusty” (1830 – 1917) and Theresa Jane (1812 – 1890) Pierce inherited the property.  Both were unmarried school teachers who taught in various locations around Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.  They both retired to their ancestral home.  Gusty is remembered as an outspoken participant in town and school meetings and was the first woman to speak at a town meeting.  She too was an ardent supporter of abolition and temperance. 

 

During this time, their younger brother Benjamin ran the tavern which now was called “The Lake House”.  Besides being a standard stagecoach stop, it started catering to tourists who came to enjoy the activities on Spafford Lake (later called Spofford lake).  At the time, their property extended all the way to the lakefront.

 

The Stone House Antiques Tearoom & Inn

Gusty died in 1917, the last of the ten Pierce siblings.  After her death, the Pierce homestead passed out of the family. Eventually it changed hands again and in 1923, was purchased in 1923 by Morris Friedsam, a prominent Chesterfield resident. Friedsam added dormers to the original structure,  and fixed the porch and chimneys. He operated it as a tea room, restaurant, and inn.  In a portion of it, he ran an antique and reproduction shop. He renamed it "The Stone House Antiques".   On the first floor, next to what is thought to be the stagecoach entrance, Friedsam added a “Barkeeper’s Cage”, an enclosed wooden cage-like structure with a wooden lattice top.  A section of the lattice work can be raised or lowered to permit the serving of beverages.  Spirits were kept on shelves that line the lower insides.  The cash drawer is still workable.  The era of Pierce family temperance had come to an end.

 

After Friedsam’s death, Gordon Chamberlain purchased the property and used it from 1953 to his death in the late 1980s as a residence, antique shop and inn. In 1990, the building was purchased via auction and rented as an antique shop.  Unfortunately, it was periodically vacant.  With the downturn of the economy, the owners found it difficult to resell.  They even reverted to creative selling techniques.  It was offered it as a prize in a failed essay contest and also to CHS, but the price was too high.  Eventually, Constantine “Deeko” Broutsas purchased it in 1995.  He renovated it, with care taken to its original features, and used it as a shop to sell antiques, rare books, and fine art.  Deeko, who has since retired from his business, is the one generously offering the complex to the Chesterfield Historical Society.

 

During the later part of the 20C, much of the original lot size was reduced through expansion of the intersection and other property transfers.  Now, it is just .95 acres.  The original wooden portion of the Pierce homestead was converted into two apartments.  The old kitchen bee-hive stove still remains in one.  Through the diligent of its past and present owners, the 1831 stone addition has survived the past 186 years with much of its original features.  It was electrified and modern plumbing, heating, and cooling systems were added.  But, the original delicate woodworking details, fireplaces, plaster walls, ballroom, and attic accommodations have been retained, giving it significant historical value.  This is what the Chesterfield Historical Society is striving to preserve.

 

The CHS first move will be to place it on the State and National Historical Register.  Eventually, it would be used to display CHS enormous collections.  Presently we have had to turn away collectables, mostly large objects, because our present facility has reached capacity.  Our final goal is to open it as a museum and provide educational programs focusing on Chesterfield’s agricultural, manufacturing, and lake resort past and the people who made it all happen.   To know one’s past is to have a firm grip on one’s future.  Once the past is forgotten, one is doomed to continue to repeat it, mistakes and all.    

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