From the June 27, 1986 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

They had an old-fashioned hearth-warming party at Tom’s Neck farm on Chappaquiddick on Sunday afternoon. It was a gathering of relatives and old Island friends. They lit a fire.

It wasn’t the first time someone has kindled a fire in recent months on a wide brick hearth in the old farmhouse. Edgartown mason Dudley Levick did it, but as he says: “For me, lighting a fire is like when a mechanic starts a car.”

This was different: this was a fire to celebrate.

It was a fire to celebrate the restoration of the chimney that stretches up through the center of the eighteenth-century farmhouse and connects three fireplaces, one in the parlor, one in the bedroom and one in the old kitchen.

It was, said Ann Hoar Floyd, one of the farm’s owners, a fire to celebrate the chimney and the house.

“It’s such an integral part of the house. I get emotional about it when I walk in and see the progress,” she said.

No one knows when the old chimney was built. Tom’s Neck owners guess the shingled farmhouse was constructed in the 1740s. A man named Thomas Arey built it for his wife, they say, and they know he married in the 1740s. But experts do not think the bricks in the chimney were original to the house.

The old chimney was crumbling and water-stained. It had been years since it properly drew smoke up from the hearth, years since it was used. Mrs. Floyd wanted it restored. She went to an expert: Sara B. Chase, director of the conservation center at the Society for Preservation of New England Antiquities.

Sara Chase visited the house and made recommendations.

This winter Mr. Levick and his assistant Mike Ridgway, contractor Richard S. Knight Jr. and carpenter Edley Oliver measured the chimney carefully, photographed it and tore it down. They built it back up — “to the inch the original shape and function,” Dudley Levick said.

They used 4,200 bricks specially ordered from the Danville Restoration company in Maine, selected because they were hard and dense and smaller than modern bricks — closer to the original bricks. They used 2,000 additional Cape Cod bricks. They saved about 600 of the old bricks from the old fireplace and laid them into the hearth. They were soft bricks, apparently used before they were properly hardened years ago. They found fingerprints pressed in them, and the impression of a dog’s paw.

They laid the hearth bricks in sand they took from the beach at the foot of the farm. For the internal structure, they used lime and cement to seal the bricks and keep the chimney strong.

While they worked they found treasures.They found an octagonal mousetrap, pieces of pottery, an old net float. They found the skull of a rat. And a tiny wooden child’s dagger, smoothly whittled.

The most precious item they found was an invitation. The envelope was tattered, the paper soft and limp like cloth. Beneath the soil, precise cursive letters said in fine brown ink: Christine Pease.

A card, one corner ripped and gone, invited Miss Pease: “To Strictly Private Assemblies to be given at Town Hall, Cottage City, Mass. on Friday Evenings of Each Week Commencing the 23rd of October, 1891.“

Christine Pease was born in the Tom’s Neck farmhouse on Christmas Eve, Mrs. Floyd said.

Mr. Knight coordinated the project. He and Mr. Oliver did carpentry work, removing and then replacing the old wooden wall panel. Mr. Levick crafted the chimney. Often he worked in the farmhouse alone, in the deep of winter.

“The wind would be howling. It was quite desolate,” he said.

He remembers the wooden door between the kitchen and the pantry. “Every day I came it would be open. On leaving I would close it. When I’d arrive in the morning it would be open. I’d latch it before I left. In the morning it would be open again. I latched it and hooked it. I returned and it was open. Finally I hammered down the latch. It stayed shut.”

Several weeks ago they finished. The central fireplace covers nearly an entire wall of the former farmhouse kitchen, now a dining room. Iron pots and cookware hang from iron cranes. A square hatch opens into a dutch oven in the back. The fireplaces in the parlor and the bedroom are smaller. Rough bricks from some 200 years ago form the hearths in all three rooms, extending out to meet sloping green-painted floorboards. Inside the walls, the chimney curves and narrows, extending up through the ceiling to the second floor, where it rises tall and stark, covered in white plaster, into the roof. Above the roof, the brick chimney ends in a simple decorative board of three courses corbelled out one over the other.

Mr. Levick has done other chimney restoration work, but no project as extensive as this. He said simple: “It was a privilege for me to be able to do this job.”

And Mrs. Floyd said: “I really believe in preserving to the greatest extent possible the authenticity of what we have.”

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox