Historic Clark-Chapman House reopening with flair this weekend

  • Tammy Walunas, president of the Southampton Historical Society, talks about the effort to renovate and reopen the historic Clark-Chapman House. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Historic household items are on display at the Clark-Chapman House. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

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    Items on display at the Clark-Chapman House. "We don't let adults touch things but we let children. Our Motto is our museum is owned by the future generation, they are who we are doing this for," explained curator, Heidi Corbett. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Items on display at the Clark-Chapman House. “We don’t let adults touch things but we let children. Our Motto is our museum is owned by the future generation, they are who we are doing this for,” explained curator, Heidi Corbett. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Items on display at the Clark-Chapman House include a selection of girls’ dresses, at top, and children’s toys, above. “We don’t let adults touch things, but we let children. ... they are who we are doing this for,” explained curator Heidi Corbett. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The Clark-Chapman House in Southampton, built in 1827, is having a reopening on June 4 after renovations.

  • Tammy Walunas, president of the Southampton Historical Society, talks about the renovations and grand reopening of the Clark-Chapman House. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 5/31/2022 8:20:14 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — After being closed for nearly two years, the Clark-Chapman House is reopening this weekend to the public with a celebration.

From 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 4, patrons will be able to step through time into the historic fully furnished farmhouse and barn at 234 College Highway in Southampton. Volunteers from the Historical Society will lead a number of tours through the house throughout the day. The band Ravenwood will also be performing and light refreshments will be served.

“You can come in and look at things and you can actually sit down and take in the time,” said Tammy Walunas, president of the Southampton Historical Society. “You can be comfortable in the house again.”

Volunteers from the Southampton Historical Society have been busy reorganizing rooms in the house — so named for two families important to the history of the town — as the reopening date nears.

The house was closed shortly after the town’s annual Parade of Trees event was held in December 2019 in anticipation of the building undergoing some historic restorations the following spring, Walunas said. Many items were boxed or safely stored to prepare for the work.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, however, it disrupted the museum’s plans, delaying a key Town Meeting vote until August on $53,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to repair and replace the house’s roof and stabilize the foundation.

“It was a project that we thought was going to be done in the spring,” Walunas said. “But the companies that we had initially spoken to had taken on jobs (after we were delayed) and that pushed the work on the house out.”

The roof on the house, which was built in 1827, has since been replaced and the foundation has been stabilized. The floor in the barn has also been replaced. Barry Searle milled all of the oak floorboards and the locust rafters for the floor at his sawmill, she said.

“When people find out you need something, they’ve stepped up. We’d put out a call for help on Facebook and people would just show up or bring us what we need,” she said, commending all of the volunteers that have helped bring the house back to life. “We’re really grateful for people stepping up like that.”

In addition to the restorations, the house has also received a number of new donations, including a substantial bequest from late resident David “Red” Parsons, who died May 17, 2021, at the age of 86. The Clark-Chapman House now has a dedicated room representing the Parsons family and various pieces of their history.

It took the Historical Society roughly two weeks to evaluate and remove the house’s historic items, including an extensive collection of bells, silver spoons, military regalia, clothing and 4-H mementos, she said.

Having grown up in Southampton, Select Board Chairperson Chris Fowles said preserving this history is huge.

“I grew up here and went to school here. After I went away to college and work, I came back and retired here. There’s a lot of history in town that my family and I have always appreciated,” she said. “It’s nice to see it all coming together.”

While many items in the house are preserved behind glass, there are many pieces of furniture that patrons are allowed to sit in and take in the historically furnished rooms.

The historic house also includes a number of toys from different decades, including blocks, trains and baby dolls. And children are encouraged to play with those toys that aren’t behind glass, said Heidi Corbett, curator of the Clark-Chapman House for the past five years.

“We believe that we don’t own this place, the future generation does, so we let the kids touch everything,” Corbett said. “We try to let kids have a more personal experience as they’re learning about history.”

In the future, the Historical Society hopes to get families in the town more involved with the house and to bring school tours back through the house on field trips. Walunas said she’d like to show children firsthand how things were done in the past like washing clothes with some of the historic appliances that the house maintains.

“This is our town history. If we don’t start bringing younger families and kids knowing the knowledge of our town, we’ll lose that,” she said.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.
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