‘Christmas in the Village’ ~ Suzanne & Company Holiday House Tour: Sunday, December 13

The headquarters of Suzanne & Company on The Great Road will be among the buildings featured in the walkable "Christmas in the Village" 2015 house tour - Courtesy image (c) 2015
The headquarters of Suzanne & Company  in the Hartwell-Hamblen house at 90 The Great Road will be among the buildings featured in the walkable “Christmas in the Village” 2015 house tour – Courtesy image (c) 2015

Submitted by the Bedford Chamber of Commerce

Now in its 18th year, we’re pleased and excited to announce the 2015 Christmas in the Village Holiday House Tour. On Sunday, Dec 13 from 1 to 4pm, bundle up and get your jingle on while visiting a variety of delightfully decorated homes in Bedford — all within walking distance of Bedford center. With our picturesque historic town center, wandering carolers and mulled cider, it will be a stroll back in time!

While all of this year’s featured homes are within walking distance of Bedford Center, guests are still welcome to drive. The tour includes one of Bedford Center’s landmark buildings — Suzanne & Company’s office in the historic home at 90 Great Road. The exterior facelift is almost complete and they are busy decorating and applying the finishes touches. Be sure to stop by and refuel at the warming station with hot chocolate and mulled cider. As always, all of the homes highlight the heritage and architectural variety found in Bedford, with many hostesses offering refreshments along with live performers sharing sounds of the season. And to keep visitors sharp, an identical holiday item will be placed in each home — the first three people to correctly identify it win tickets to next year’s house tour.

In the course of visiting the homes, guests are invited to gather at the Congregational Church on Great Road for refreshments and holiday cheer, including the opportunity to shop for those special people on your gift list at the holiday bazaar. Proceeds support the activities of the Chamber of Commerce, including The Charles Hume Scholarship, awarded to local students.

Tickets are $20 in advance ($15 for seniors, $10 for children 16 and under), and $25 day of the event — available at the New England Nursery at 216 Concord Road, Great Road Gallery & Framing at 363 Great Road, Prince Street Cafe & Bakery at 200 Great Road, and online at bedfordchamber.org.

More on 90 Great Road — the Hartwell-Hamblen House

As the plans to create the Christmas in the Village theme came together, with all of the Holiday House Tour homes located within walking distance of Bedford Center, Suzanne Koller, broker/partner of Suzanne & Company and sponsor of the Holiday House Tour 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 we’ll 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!

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.

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