House Museum


Dr. Moses Mason House Tour Schedule and Fees
Guided tours, July & August, Thursday through Saturday, 1:00 to 4:00 P.M.
September through June, by appointment (207-824-2908)
$3.00 adults / $1.50 children 6-12 / Family special, $9.00 / BHS members free

One of the finest Federal style residences in its region, the Dr. Moses Mason House was constructed in 1813 on a spacious lot facing onto the Common at Bethel Hill village.  According to Dr. Nathaniel Tuckerman True, Bethel's eminent nineteenth century historian, this house was the first on the Common to be painted white, the first on a high foundation of granite slabs, and the first to make use of exterior shutters.  The house and grounds were renovated and restored in 1972-73 by the Bingham Trust, which presented the property to the Bethel Historical Society in memory of William Bingham 2nd, the town's great twentieth century philanthropist.

Nine rooms in the front portion of the Mason House now appear much as they did during the occupancy of Dr. Moses Mason (1789-1866) and his wife Agnes M. Straw (1793-1869).  These rooms contain a wide variety of eighteenth and nineteenth century examples of the decorative arts, many of which are original to the house.  Other furnishings from the Society's permanent collection are also on display throughout the various rooms.  The most captivating feature of the Mason House is located in the front hallway, which contains Rufus Porter School wall murals—on the upper and lower floors—painted during the mid-1830s and attributed to Jonathan D. Poor, nephew of Rufus Porter.  Depicting distant seascapes and engaging landscapes with lush foliage, these intriguing examples of American folk art have been painstakingly cleaned so that modern-day visitors can view them much as they looked during the Masons' era.

Dr. Moses Mason, a physician and businessman, was one of Bethel's most prominent citizens, serving in many offices of public trust, including two terms as United States Representative to Congress from Maine (1833-1837).  His wife, Agnes Straw Mason, was, among other things, a leader in the temperance movement in Oxford County.  Fine portraits of the Masons by Chester Harding grace the walls of their front parlor.  Among the Masons' personal effects in the Society's collection are autograph books kept by the Doctor and his wife during their stay in Washington, D.C., in the mid-1830s.  These contain the signatures of Presidents John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Martin Van Buren, plus those of Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Daniel Webster.

The Mason House is one of the few period house museums in northern New England available to the public year-round (appointments necessary from September through June).  One of the most popular annual events here is the Bethel Historical Society's "Christmas at the Mason House," which is usually held during the first week of December.  For this special occasion, the Mason House period rooms are decorated as they might have been for a nineteenth century Christmas.  The smells, tastes, and sounds of an old-fashioned holiday surround visitors, who may wander through the candle-lit rooms just as the Masons' guests did a century and a half ago.

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