They Took to the Woods: Life and Leisure in Northern Oxford County

Opening on Thursday, June 29, our major summer/fall exhibition will explore how nineteenth century communities and wild-land townships in the northern part of Oxford County along the Maine/New Hampshire border developed their unique character through the efforts of loggers, farmers, speculators, hunters, fishermen, and other outdoor enthusiasts. On view Thursday – Saturday from 1:00 to 4:00 pm through mid-October at the Dr. Moses Mason House.

Members: FREE Non-members: Donation

Dr. Moses Mason House Period Rooms

July & August, Thursday through Saturday, 1:00 to 4:00 PM; other times by appointmentDr. Moses Mason House (1813), parlor showing Chester Harding portrait of Dr. Mason

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, a nephew of Rufus Porter. Depicting distant seascapes and colorful 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.