As the plans to create the Christmas in the Village theme for the 2015 Holiday House Tour came together, with all the homes located within walking distance of Bedford Center, I realized it was the perfect time to include my office at 90 Great Road. We're decorating the office spaces on the first floor for the tour and will have a hot chocolate and mulled cider station set up to keep our guests warm as they walk from home to home. We plan to use a lot of whites and metallics with mercury glass and snow flakes in the conference room. And then we'll turn traditional in the offices with a Christmas tree, assorted ornaments and fir and holly greens. I love it all, so there will be lots to look at. This is one of the coolest events in Bedford, and I'm just so proud to be a part of it, as a sponsor and as a host!
The house at 90 Great Road, built in 1842, is registered with both the National Register Old Bedford Center Historic District and the local Bedford Center Historic District under the historic name Hartwell-Hamblen House. This example of Greek Revival architecture is notable for its handsomely carved front door enhanced by a brass knocker (now lost), the line of which echoed the tendrils and gothic arch of the door carvings.
Besides the wonderful architectural details, historic homes always have stories to tell. In the era before I bought the property around 2001, it was referred to as the Sheldon House and was part of the Sheldon Block (now the Blake Block). Edward Hamblen and his wife owned the Sheldon house for 19 years. As the town doctor, Edward Hamblen maintained an office on the property, where town residents would visit him. They were followed in the home by Walter and Mary Sheldon and their twin daughters, who owned 90 Great Road for more than 40 years. Walter was the town's druggist and his office was only a few steps away at 68 Great Road.
The house was vacant and boarded up for some time before we bought it, and it turned out to be a much larger project than we expected. The horsehair plaster was falling off the walls and what we thought would be mostly cosmetic repairs, ended up with us gutting at least half the building. As we cleaned and renovated, we found a lot of old bottles from the pharmacy, as well as many pairs of shoes in the walls, which I've heard was a Victorian tradition to bring good luck. So when we closed the final wall, Ryan tucked a pair of his running shoes in there!
Initially zoned for commercial use, we applied for a variance to create a residential space on the second floor, which was approved. As we renovated, we made every effort to retain the home's historic roots, taking care to keep the bullseye mouldings, period woodwork, and even the claw foot tub (though we did move it from the kitchen to the bathroom!). After we moved in, we lived on the second floor above my office for five years and created a lot of great memories.
A couple years ago, I had the privilege of welcoming one of the former residents when she stopped by and shared the spot in the house where she was married over 60 years ago, which is now my office! They were so excited to see much of the structure unchanged that they asked if they could come back with some family members to take an anniversary photograph, resulting in over 15 people returning for some heart-warming multi-generational portraits.
At first, I worked upstairs in a home office and leased the office space to two tenants. I set goals for my business and when I reached them, I moved downstairs into one of the office spaces, set new goals, and now Suzanne & Company occupies the entire first floor with my office on the second!
The Greek Revival style of architecture was prevalent in the US from 1825-1860, reflecting the desire to embody the democratic ideals of ancient Greece while distancing ourselves from British influences. To learn more about the Greek Revival style and view more examples, visit the web site of Historic New England at historicnewengland.org. Portions of the history of 90 Great Road are taken from the January 22, 1987 edition of the Bedford Minuteman.
Come and see 90 Great Road in its holiday finery this Sunday, December 13 between 1 and 4pm, along with many others surrounding Bedford Center at the Christmas in the Village Holiday House Tour. Tickets are $20 in advance ($15 for seniors, $10 for children 16 and under), and $25 the day of the event and are available at the New England Nursery (216 Concord Road), Great Road Gallery & Framing (363 Great Road), Prince Street Cafe & Bakery (200 Great Road), and online at bedfordchamber.org. Hope to see you there!