Stones’ House a Labor of Love for the Eighteenth Century
Tom and Myrna Stone live in Greenville, about 60 miles northwest of Dayton, in a house built in 1761 by Daniel Thornton in Johnston, Rhode Island. They bought the house from a builder in Maine who buys old houses, dismantles them (numbering the pieces), and sells them with rudimentary instructions and sketches to guide the new owner in putting them back together again. The house is a typical dwelling for a prosperous, but not wealthy, citizen of mid- eighteenth century New England. It has ten rooms, five upstairs and five down, with the unobtrusive addition of plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and electricity.
One can only begin to imagine the work and care that went into putting the house together so beautifully with such major modifications. Tom says that when he first saw the house it was in a field under a tarp, looking like a pile of debris ready for a bonfire. Among the original parts of the house are the bricks in the central chimney (Tom says he spent one summer chipping old mortar off 3500 bricks), the 8 x 8 inch oak posts that frame the house, the granite steps, the floorboards, five fireplaces, a good deal of the molding and some bookshelves, and some hardware, like hinges. The shingles, siding, and windows had to be replaced with modern materials. So faithful were the Stones to their period that they used replica nails, at 25 cents apiece, for the reconstruction.
The house is furnished entirely with eighteenth century antiques, and every room is beautifully arranged. Tom (I was on Tom’s tour, so I do not know what Myrna told her group) had many stories to tell about his acquisitions. He and Myrna go to sales, of course, and know most vendors around the country, but they also acquire many pieces on e-Bay. Tom has gathered two sets of matching chairs, one with eight and one with fourteen pieces, a few at a time, mostly over e-Bay. The walls are richly decorated with prints, needlework, and some paintings, one of which may well be the only painting of a Colonial governor of New Hampshire. The heavy mirror over the dining room mantle is particularly prized, the heavy glass having survived now over 250 years. The silver candlesticks and tableware are something to behold. Even all the glassware in the house is eighteenth century, and it is in daily use.
Our scheduled Reading Group was held in the parlor and accompanied by a fine tea. It was a lively discussion—we came almost to blows over the question whether Lady Russell really was