Located at the center of the unspoiled 19th-century crossroads hamlet of Kents’ Corner in Calais, the Kent Tavern is an outstanding architectural landmark displaying a Georgian plan with Greek Revival-style elements. It was constructed between 1833 and 1837 by Abdiel Kent as a hotel and tavern servicing travelers along the stage road between Canada and Montpelier. This notable building, rising two-and-a-half-stories in height on a granite foundation, is timber framed with double-layered brick walls laid in a common bond. It was erected on the south elevation to circa 1830 building that served as Abdiel Kent’s home. This single-story structure, with a Cape Cod form of wood frame, became a hyphen joining the hotel to the Kent General Store that was added in 1854. Reflecting the Greek Revival style, the Ira and Abdiel Kent General Store allowed these brothers to expand their shoe shop to include an assortment of farm-produced goods, tinware, tools, seeds, and patent medicines. Abdiel Kent (1805-1887) was a 19th-century entrepreneur who was involved in a mixture of industry, real estate, and farming. He was a highly successful farmer, merchant, and manufacturer, with a boot and shoe shop, starch-making factory, and harness and saddlery business.
With preservation of Kents’ Corner beginning in the early part of the 20th century, the former hotel/tavern with general store and circa 1830 house was purchased by Arthur Atwater Kent, Sr. (1873-1949). Kent was an inventor who had made his fortune establishing the Atwater Kent Manufacturing Works in Philadelphia in 1902. Beginning in 1923, his company made radios, and by 1930, was the leading firm in the radio industry. His part-time residency of the Kents’ Corner property enabled Louise Andrews Kent, a cousin-in-law, to use it as a guest house. Louise Andrews Kent (1886-1969) lived during the summers in the neighboring wood-frame house build for Leroy A. Kent in 1845. She was an accomplished author of adventure stories for children, New England cookbooks, and a history of village greens in New England. She assumed the persona of “Mrs. Appleyard” to write the novel, Mrs. Appleyard’s Year, in 1941 and her autobiography, Mrs. Appleyard and I, in 1968. Her greatest fame was the preservation and restoration of Kents’ Corner and, in particular, the Abdiel Kent Hotel.
Inspired by the living history museums like Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, and Shelburne Museum in Vermont, the trustees of the Vermont Historical Society began to focus on the interpretation of Kents’ Corner with the hotel/tavern as the centerpiece. The district would also include the Old West Church, Robinson sawmill, Calais Town Hall, and several 19th-century houses and agricultural buildings. In January 1944, the Atwater Kent Foundation donated $5,000 to the Vermont Historical Society for the purchase of and necessary repairs to the Abdiel Kent Hotel, which had become more commonly known as Kent Tavern. With an additional $5,000 from the Foundation, restoration of Kent Tavern began in 1947. In 1949, Atwater Kent, Sr. bequeathed an endowment of $30,000 for the property. Louise Andrews Kent stepped up to oversee the restoration efforts, serving as museum curator and chair to the Society’s Kent Tavern Committee. The Kent Tavern museum officially opened in July 1953. The Vermont Historical Society continued to operate the museum until 1988. The former tavern, along with 4.75 acres and the circa 1870 Ira Kent Barn (purchased by the society in 1978), was transferred to the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation in 1991. The tavern and barn, used for conservation studies, are not open to the public except for special engagements. This includes the spectacular annual art exhibits produced by Art at the Kent. http://www.kentscorner.org/art-at-the-kent.html