In the early 20th century, the kitchen in the Dr. Daniel Kissam House had been converted from it’s 1840’s configuration to a modern working kitchen. Thanks to contributions from the Kissam Family Association and the membership of the Huntington Historical Society, and a great deal of “sweat equity” from our volunteers, the kitchen is being restored to its1840’s configuration. The kitchen will be true to its original configuration, with exceptions required to make it consistent with current town code so that it can be a working kitchen.
Dr. Daniel Kissam died in 1839 and the house was inherited by his daughter and her husband, also a physician, Dr. Charles Sturgis. At that time the kitchen was located in what is today the dining room, the one and a half story section of the house on the right side of the center hall.
In about 1840, as evidenced by the use of Egyptian Revival molding in the “new dining room”, as well as in the front parlor, Dr. Sturgis added a “modern” kitchen to the rear of the house. Evidence revealed that the 15 by 15 foot room had a large cooking hearth fireplace with an exterior bake oven that faced the rear door to the kitchen.
When the historical Society bought the house in 1967, the fireplace and chimney had already been removed to make room for a “more modern day” kitchen. The floor had also been removed and the floor joists had been replaced and raised, and an early 20th century narrow plank spruce floor installed. What remained was the horizontal wood planks below plaster walls, the rough sawn ceiling beams and the brick wall that was hidden behind interior wall boards and exterior shingles. It is the evidence contained in that wall that indicated the existence of the early fireplace, bake oven and chimney, and has allowed the ongoing restoration to take place.
The photographs below show the progression of the restoration and the evidence of the 1840’s hearth and oven.
All that remained of the 1840 fireplace was the exterior brick wall that had been covered inside and out. However, that wall and the eventual excavation for the new footing revealed enough evidence to determine what existed before, There was evidence visible on both sides of an exterior bake oven with a concave indentation on the exterior corresponding to convex curve on the interior. The evidence of the flue returning from the exterior oven to the main chimney on the inside right indicates the exterior oven door existed to the exterior left side.
There was more evidence after excavation. When the excavation was made for the footing for the chimney, outside the house wall was discovered evidence of two posts, at the outside edge of the bake oven, each with a rock footing. These were found in the clay strata of undisturbed soil, indicating that the exterior back oven was supported by wooden posts at a distance from the house, indicating the back oven door opened toward the back door of the kitchen. This corresponded with the evidence of the flue, which needed to originate from in front of the back oven.
On January 2 of 2006, volunteers, trustees and craftsmen descended on the Kissam property to start the restoration. All of the appliances, materials and fixtures were removed from the old kitchen, and the ceiling and walls were stripped back to their 1840’s surfaces.
A new working kitchen, with new modern appliances and cabinets was built into the end of the Museum shop. This was essential for running the various educational and outreach activities which the Society provides. In the process, the Museum shop was emptied out, new carpeting was installed and the shop was arranged more efficiently to support the activities of the staff, including extensive insulation to make the shop warmer and more comfortable..
Work began on the restoration almost immediately. The old brick wall was removed and the excavation for the new footing was dug. In the process the material removed from the excavation was examined and many interesting artifacts were discovered. The footing was then poured and the hearth, the oven and the chimney were laid by expert masons.