Thanks to the quick and outstanding support from the greater Chesterfield community, in 2018 the Chesterfield Historical Society purchased the 1831 Stone House. Now, we wish to preserve its historical integrity, and eventually make it into a vibrant show place of Chesterfield History, that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. 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.
To repair, sustain, and create educational programming, we continue to need community support.
WMUR's The New Hampshire Chronicle featured Lake Spofford and how Ezekiel Pierce, builder of the Stone House Tavern, was first in making it into a
popular tourist destination.
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 (Lake Spofford), 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. Being at the intersection of two main roads, he took advantage of its location and 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.
Being the closest lake to the Brattleboro railway station, the Temperance Lake Tavern became a popular spot for tourist traveling up from New York. The property lakeside location allowed for Pierce to provide amusements in the form of a sailboat and four rowboats. In 1860, he refitted the sloop-rigged sailboat with a zinc bottom making it watertight. He engaged the services of the experienced Capt. Romeo Bowen to sail it for "Pic-nic and Fishing Parties". The boat held 50 passengers and sailed everyday except Sundays. After the Civil War, the lake became more popular and eventually hosted a steamboat.
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. All this survives today except the spring floor that was replaced with a wooden floor in the 1920s.
Above the ballroom was the gabled attic which contained a series of five cubicles with box-like platforms containing boot holds (probably for chamber pots). Upon the platforms, straw mattresses would be laid to accommodate the stage drivers and drovers, who were regarded only to require Spartan accommodations. The cubicles were designed with openings for cross ventilation from the gables windows. These openings still have their blown glass features.
Located two feet below the first level in the original building, the kitchen area still retains the large, open-hearth brick fireplace with a pivoting pot hanger for cooking, the original bake oven, and wooden storage bin. The fireplace is connected to a "beehive" hot-water heating stove. Large kettles would rest in the oversize openings on the stove's top. Water would be heated in the kettles for use in all the tavern's operations. (The recent remodeling has enabled to oven to become part of the future museum.)
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. According to records, she 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, unmarried brother Benjamin F. (1833 - 1913) ran the tavern, which now was called “The Lake House” or the "Lake View 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. Ironically, the Lake House had a liquor licenses beginning in 1884.
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 by Morris Friedsam, a prominent Chesterfield resident. Friedsam updated it with central heating and partial electricity. He also added dormers to the original wooden 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.
After Friedsam’s death, Gordon Chamberlain purchased the property and used it as a residence, antique shop and inn from 1953 to his death in the late 1980s. 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 much too high. Eventually, Constantine “Deeko” Broutsas purchased it in 1995. With care taken to its original features, he renovated it, and used it as a shop to sell antiques, rare books, and fine art. Deeko, who has since passed, generously offered 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 189 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.
CHS has be able to place it on the State Historical Register. The next step is to put it on the National Historical Register. Eventually, it would be used to display CHS enormous collections. In the past, 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. In it, CHS will 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.