After Friends of Hearthside was formally organized but before embarking on any projects, the group sought a grant to fund a Historic Structures Report, which would assess the condition of the house and outline a list of priority repairs. Through a grant awarded by the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor in 2002, a Historic Structures Report was completed by Roger Williams University Historic Preservation Class, under the supervision of Professor Myron Stachiw. This Historic Structures Report has proved invaluable in guiding Friends of Hearthside in not only the architectural aspects of the house, but also in learning more about the history of the families who lived at Hearthside over the years.
In addition to the following major projects, primarily funded through grants, Friends of Hearthside seeks donated (or loaned) items and services to help achieve its mission. Click here to view our Wish List.
In 2002, the first repair made to Hearthside with funds raised by Friends of Hearthside was a repair to the ogee curves on the roof in order to stop water penetration. The funds were awarded by The Champlin Foundations, and matching monies were provided by the Town of Lincoln.
In 2003, The Champlin Foundations awarded a $55,000 grant to restore roof rafters which were seriously affecting the soundness of the structure and causing water damage to some interior walls. The restoration work got underway early in 2004 and is now complete.
One of the most prominent architectural features of Hearthside is its curved ogee roofline, which is duplicated on the roofline of the portico on the south side of the house. Sadly, the portico has been in dire need of repair, with rotting columns and the decorative beadwork being very noticeable to anyone entering the house.
Thanks to a grant from The Champlin Foundations, the portico has now been fully restored to its original beauty. The beadwork was recreated by the skilled preservation carpenters of Heritage Restoration, Inc. We were very excited that instead of building new columns, the original columns were restored and are back in place, having been found in storage in Hearthside’s basement. The portico was last repaired by Andrew Mowbray some 40 years ago.
Hearthside has had many problems in recent years with water penetrating the exterior surfaces and causing damage to the interior walls. Through a grant from the RI Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission, Hearthside’s exterior masonry is scheduled to be repaired, as well as each of the four chimneys that have also deteriorated. An engineer was hired to study any other underlying cause of water penetration, and through his analysis, it was determined that the drainage system below the foundation at the south wall was faulty. Work to rebuild the system and the steps affected by the moving of soil took place during 2005. Additional funds were required as a result to continue with masonry repair and window repair and reglazing, and through another successful grant application to the RI Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission, the work is scheduled to be completed during 2006.
An antique buggy that has graced the front lawn of Hearthside for the past few years was sadly falling to pieces very quickly. It had become quite a popular part of the scene and was used as a prop in many family photos. Using funds raised during our events, Friends of Hearthside voted in the fall of 2005 to have the popular buggy restored. While the buggy has now been restored and brought back to its original beauty, it will not be seen on the front lawn until good weather arrives. The buggy is being kept in the barn and will only be brought out when it will not be subjected to the destructive nature of inclement weather. Hopefully, with good care, the buggy will be around for another 100 years.
Monies raised over the past few years through special events and raffle sales are now being used to help spruce up the interior of Hearthside. A fresh coat of paint was applied to woodwork, doors,window shutters and ceilings in various rooms throughout the house in 2004. Through the Historic Structures Report, a paint analysis identified the original paint color. A sage color, very similar to the original one used, was applied to bring back much of the house to its original state.
Other cosmetic improvements on schedule for the coming year is the application of new wall paintand wallpaper in several rooms.
One of the issues we have had since opening Hearthside up for events is a lack of shelving for storage. This is especially true in the kitchen, where old cabinets literally pulled out of the wall. Thanks for our volunteer carpenter, Bernie Plante, new wooden shelves have been custom built over the kitchen counter. Paint for the shelves was matched to the brick color of the fireplace and was custom mixed and donated by Ted’s Paint and Wallpaper. Following a damaging flood to the Ryco store in Lonsdale this fall, a number of steel and wire shelving units are now being donated to Hearthside. These will be fine for use in the attic and basement to organize and store items not used regularly.
Friends of Hearthside has been fortunate to have collected a number of photos and artifacts over the past few years that are helping to tell the history of the house. One problem has been not having a means of displaying them, while protecting these valuable pieces. Lucky for us, the Heritage Harbor Museum has donated professional display cases to put many of the items into. Many of these cases are slated to go into the neighboring Chase Farm House when that is ready to open as a dairy farming exhibit.
Hearthside has been fortunate to have received several pieces of furniture, both donated and on loan. Some pieces of furniture do need some minor repair before they can be used in the house. This is a great opportunity for a volunteer with the right skills to offer.
While there is plenty of work to keep us busy for years in order to restore Hearthside, there are some other “projects” that have captured our interest. These are the “mysteries” of Hearthside. The first one came about while the students of the Roger Williams University historic preservation class were conducting the Historic Structures Report. During their research process on the architecture of the house, they made a rare discovery. The Rumford oven, covered up since around 1840, was discovered inside a wall in the dining room. It was a significant discovery, as many preservationists have indicated that they believe it is the only one currently existing in the country in a house. The Rumford-style ovens, using a separate heat source and flue system from the fireplace, were typically built for institutions, rather than private homes. During the time it was built at Hearthside around 1820, it was considered to be as cutting edge as a microwave was when it was first built. The Rumford has been exposed but it remains as an unfinished hole in the wall. A grant will be sought to complete the display.
One mystery that ranks high on our list to be solved is identifying who Stephen Hopkins Smith’s fiancé was. Everyone who visits Hearthside hears of the legendary tale of how Smith built Hearthside for his lady, but then how she rejected it upon seeing that it was located so far out in the wilderness. Just who this lady was, no one seems to know. We have found no records of her in all the research done so far. We also have no photos of Stephen Smith. Right now, what he looked like and who his lady love was remain a mystery yet to be solved.
Another secret that has been buried at Hearthside that we now know is there, but don’t know what it was for, is an underground room. Located in the side yard next to the gazebo is a dip in the ground where the soil is quickly sinking in to a cavity below. That room was first discovered when the Town of Lincoln purchased Hearthside in 1997 and a crew came in to do some work with a backhoe. Upon driving across the lawn, the backhoe began to sink and when it did so, it opened up a view into an underground room. The backhoe quickly covered the room up again with dirt and so it has remained. Until now. Each year that passes, the dip in that spot gets deeper. A grant is being sought for an archaeological dig to explore what that mystery room might have been used for and if there just might be a Hearthside connection to the Underground Railroad.
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