Preservationist Dates Building at Fire Station Site to Circa 1916

November 17, 2022
This is a side view of the home at 139 The Great Road. The building dates back to around 1916. Bedford Citizen Staff photo/Wayne Braverman

Patterns on wood from a saw. Spacing of wall studs. Types of nails.

Clues such as these help Ryan Hayward identify the age of a building. So do maps, documents, and photographs.

Hayward, president of the Preservation Collaborative, was engaged by the town to research the building at 139 The Great Road. That wooden structure will be demolished to make room for a fire station, if the Historic District Commission approves the demolition and the firehouse design.

That won’t be on the agenda for many months, but Hayward met with the commission recently to share the results of his research so far.

One of his most significant determinations is that the building is a 20th-century residence, constructed around 1916 from two recycled building frames. 

According to the Bedford Historical Society, the professional genealogist Kathleen Kelly Broomer said the building was part of Jonathan Bacon’s estate, built in 1836. The society reported that the building was remodeled in the early 1900s.   

There may have been a carriage house on the site at one time, Hayward acknowledged, but he said he is “confident” that the current building never had that purpose.

“Oral traditions” often end up defining a structure with a “different history,” Hayward said. But “deeds don’t lie, and technology tells me the date of the building.”

Hayward said he looks for construction patterns that are identifiable by dating. For example, as sawmill technologies changed, the patterns on wood reflect the timing.

Hayward also found evidence that the front of the building faced Bacon Road to the east until 1927, when it was turned 90 degrees to its current position. That may have been in response to the relocation of the current building at the corner of The Great and Bacon roads, which Hayward said was moved down the hill from the corner of South Road. 

He also noted that the stone wall at the front of the property probably was built in the 1920s or ‘30s. A photo from 1860 of the site shows a granite slab wall; in 1891 the wall was made of river stone, according to another photo he found.

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