By Thomas D’Agostino
The Makens Bemont House, also known as the Huguenot House, is nestled among two other historic buildings owned by the Historical Society of East Hartford in Martin Park. It is bounded on one side by the Burnham Blacksmith Shop (c. 1850) and flanked on the other side by the one room Goodwin Schoolhouse (c. 1820). Of the three structures, the Bemont dwelling is the one of particular interest.
Edmond Bemont purchased property in 1761and built the home. Oddly, he sold the property a few months later, bought it back then turned it over to his son, Makens, the same day. Makens (1743 to March 5, 1826) was a prosperous saddle maker, owning one of the very few chaise carriages in the hamlet. The Bemonts were descendants of the Huguenots, French Protestants who came to the colonies to avoid persecution during the 17th century. When Makens died the home was passed on to his wife who in turn left it to later family members.
The home stayed in the Bemont family well into the 19th century. Little is written about it between the periods that the Bemonts owned it until the Rosenthal family acquired it in the 20th century. Adolph Rosenthal donated the house to the historical society in 1968. The society then moved it in 1971 from Tolland Street, one-half mile down the road to Martin Park at 307 Burnside Ave. The move seemed to wake the dormant spirits of the past.
Renovations began like any normal project but then the other side took interest in the work being done. A restoration consultant locked the door and called the security company to activate the alarms within the vacant structure. The company informed him that they could not initiate the system, as there was still someone in the house working. Mr. Marshall could hear a hammer over the phone that came through a microphone set up in the house. He went back to the building but found it completely empty. Even the operator on the other side was baffled as to how the noises abruptly ended.
One day Marshall heard three distinct knocks on the floor coming from the basement. Thinking it was a co-worker needing his attention, he went down into the cellar but found no one there. Other workers heard what sounded like hammers banging away in the structure, even after they had locked up for the evening. Whatever it was seemed to sound like it was helping out so the society named the “ghost” Benjamin, after the biblical translation, “son of the right hand.” Benjamin made a lot of noise but did not move things much.
In 1982, a young girl witnessed a blue dress floating across the lawn near the house. When she looked up to see who it was, she was immediately terrified to see that there was no physical body in the garb that seemed to be floating on its own.
Mary Dowden of the Historical Society of East Hartford is not afraid to share her experiences at the house. One day she was closing up for the season with her mother, Doris. The cool overcast day poured forth a dismal rain the moment they went out to retrieve the signs. Both of them suddenly heard a noise from upstairs that sounded exactly like one of the old wooden windows being pulled closed. Neither of them had opened any of the windows, as it was a cold, damp day.
Mary was giving a tour when the spinning wheel in front of the fireplace began to slowly turn. The wheel made several rotations then reversed itself a few turns before ceasing its revolutions. Witnesses have seen a woman in the second floor window looking out upon the grounds. Some feel it might be the spirit of Abigail Bemont, wife of Edmond Bemont still tied to her charming abode. The home is a beautifully restored example of 18th century life in New England. Tours are available from June to August.
Thomas D'Agostino and his wife, Arlene Nicholson are seasoned paranormal investigators, authors, and co-organizers of Paranormal United Research Society. You can find out more about them by visiting www.tomdagostino.com. They live in Putnam, Connecticut.