August 1991

 
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Hampstead

by

Gloria S. Tillman

The house named Hampstead was built in 1840 by my grandfather's uncle, Henry Rose, who was of the family which originally settled Rose Hill in Geneva, New York. The original insurance policy taken out in November, 1839, with the Hartford Insurance Company for $3000 allowed the carpenters and masons to work inside for the next six months.

Records were kept for the expenses of building Hampstead. Lumber for the house was "laid down" on the shore of Lake Keuka at a cost of $5.00 a thousand board feet. That was for the native pine and the oak and chestnut framing. The hardware in the house which included door knobs and locks cost $100.

The main part of the house is 30 feet wide and 40 feet long. Two wings, each 20 feet wide and 28 feet long overlap the central part at each end 8 feet, and increase the total length of the house to 80 feet. Along the south side of the house, fronting the wings and three sides of the main house, extends a porch supported by 15 columns. The porch roof covers 1200 square feet of floor area.

The front entrance is at the west end of the main house, next to the library wing. Screen doors here match the shutters on the windows. The side glass panes for this inset doorway are 12 by 18 inches with wood overlays that suggest small panes.

The doorway leads from the porch into the main hall that runs across the northwest side of the central house to a staircase at its far end. Doorways from this hall go into two front parlors. These two rooms can be opened to each other by sliding pocket doors back into the hollow partition wall between them. The doors still work smoothly, testimony to the sound construction of the house.

In each room, at opposite ends, is an ornate fireplace. The original mantels were replaced for a fancy wedding in the 1880s.

On the main floor there are only four rooms and an entrance hall, and on the second floor only two large and two small bedrooms. Hampstead was not considered a large house and it didn't have adequate space for a great many guests.

Six fireplaces originally heated the house. The first record of a heating stove is in the late 1850s when a parlor stove was purchased. Behind the east wing a 20 by 28 foot woodshed extends north. It has a partially bricked floor that covers a 2000 gallon brick-vaulted cistern. The woodshed combined storage of firewood for heating, and of water for firefighting. Chimney fires may have been frequent. In the attic is a door for ready access to the roof in case of a fire. The house originally had wood shingles. Around the perimeter of the attic, bricks filled in between structural members serve as fire stops. I suspect that their incorporation helped slow the fire which occurred in 1979.

The cellar is under the main part of the house only. The oak sills of the wings were laid on stone footers, "dry sill" construction. Because there was so little clearance, there was considerable decay damage to the sills and floors after time.

The south or library wing has its own stairway. There was a single room above fitted with shelves and hooks. This room was used to store flour and sugar and such household basics. The cellar had two areas for food storage which could be locked. I can remember that my grandmother wore a girdle with keys for the locks to the storerooms.

There was also a lock on the main stair side of the connecting door between the kitchen and the front rooms of the house. On one side this door has a brass knob, and on the other side, a porcelain knob. The public rooms have the most elaborate trim. The private rooms have simpler moldings, and the service areas have only plain woodwork.

Over the kitchen are two "eaves" rooms with a separate stairway. This is where the girls who worked here to keep house slept.

The main structure is still plumb, square, and true as indicated by the ease with which the pocket doors on the main floor are operated. The house is not sheathed beneath the siding. Plaster over split lath forms the inside of the walls.

The house has Greek-style detailing. The porch pillars are of solid wood, turned with gently swelled tapers. They have Doric capitals, but are not fluted. Neither these columns nor any of the plain boarding or trim show any knots. All of the lumber used in the house appears to have been absolutely clear. Originally there was a hewn pine eaves trough running along the edge of the porch roof.

The house has four blind windows to preserve the architectural balance. But architects or carpenters misfigured, even in those times. There are two small windows in upstairs rooms whose sills are two inches below floor level so that on the outside the windows conform to the exterior design.

The farm originally was 500 acres and carried 1000 sheep. There were four large barns, two tenant houses, and several outbuildings. All were of post and beam construction. At the top of the circular drive is a packing house and woodworking shop. Back of the oaks there was a shop with a forge. Near the house was a carriage house for the household horses, but there is no evidence that cows or chickens were kept in this barn.

For the convenience of the household there is a four-hole privy that has a ventilating flue. One of the holes is lower to accommodate a child. The first running water was installed in 1945. The first electricity came in 1928, but there were only three ceiling lights and five receptacles, all on the main floor only. The house was not adequately wired until 1970. When I was a girl the house was heated by seven stoves. One of them had a smoke pipe 34 feet long that ran to an upstairs fireplace. An oil furnace was added in 1961.

I was born here, as was my father, and I lived here until 1950. My husband and I returned in 1968 with grand ideas for restoration which were cut short by my husband's stroke in 1975. Then in 1979 a major fire destroyed most of the roofs and the entire south wall. Only three boards remained on the small south bedroom. All that has been replaced now.

1991, Gloria Sill Tillman
 
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