The Westford Eagle
Historic House Thriving
As Modern Convenience
December 20, 2001
SAMUEL FITCH BED AND BREAKFAST OFFERS
QUIET, COLONIAL COMFORT
By Jackie Young
Perhaps it is the warmth of the welcome, perhaps the thought of fresh blueberry muffins for breakfast or maybe the expectation of crackling wood fires once the weather turns cold. Whatever the cause, the 290-year-old Samuel Fitch House, sturdy and visually beautiful, seems to beckon each visitor to pass through the red door and consider themselves a treasured guest.
"We try to treat people as if they're our old friends, and they end up that way," said Lynne Smithwood, innkeeper of this establishment which has offered bed and breakfast since January of this year.
Recently, through the Westford Historical Commission, Smithwood applied for the dwelling's nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. The Nation Register is the official listing of buildings, districts, sites, and structures and objects that retain integrity and demonstrate some aspect of local, state or national history.
The old saltbox, painted a colonial blue with a red barn close by, sits back on the left side of Nashoba Hill on Powers Road. The original road, still visible b the markings of the land, was of course, much closer to the street to allow easier access in inclement weather. The farmhouse was built in the central chimney style, with the stairway from the front entry following the chimney to two upstairs bedrooms. The original structure still stands in the main building, restored by Smithwood's parents, Richard and Mary Romac who bought the house in 1968.
They preserved the historic flavor magnificently.
"It's really cozy. It offers all the comfort of the 1700s plus the amenities of the 21st century," says Jane Hinckley, a vice president of the Westford Historical Commission.
Those who come in search of Colonial New England will not be disappointed. With wide floorboards beneath and hand-hewn beams above, exploring leads to one discovery after another. There are six original working fireplaces, a beehive oven, a parson's cabinet and a smoke room. Word has it that the parson's cabinet, built into the dining room wall, was a place to hide babies during raids by hostile natives.
One room in particular, the Samuel Fitch room, with a queen-sized canopy bed and a crewel embroidery cover, catches the eye. Here a framed document on the wall proclaims the original last will and testament of Samuel Fitch, who, on June 6, 1772, symbolized the gravity of the occasion with a thumb print in blood.
In addition to the Fitch room with an adjoining sitting room, there are two other options for guests. One is the garden suite, a large twin-bedded room in the original house where flowers bloom year round and the other is the carriage house with a sitting room, queen size bedroom and outdoor deck. In all the bedrooms sheets have crocheted edges and are ironed with linen water.
For animal lovers, the Carriage House comes wit the loan of a kitty for company. Known as Caty, the Carriage House cat, she will take up residence on request. "I like to speak to everyone personally - like, for instance to see if they like dogs and cats," Smithwood said.
Colby, a big black lab is an excellent tour guide, quiet, gentle and of remarkable intelligence.
He was his tail in all the right places.
Long before the place opened in January 2001, a small army of people, family, neighbors and friends, who remain faithful to this day, pitched in to help. While it's true that those who visit might be handed a paintbrush, or conscripted to mow the lawn or tend the gardens, everyone seems to have a good time.
The Smithwood children are all involved. Kelsey, 14, and Elizabeth, 10, acted as historical tour guides during open house, Jennifer 23, does graphic design work for the bed and breakfast,
and the Smithwood's son, Brandon, a senior in high school, has ordered fruit trees to put in
Fortunately, Smithwood loves to garden and her guests often enjoy fresh vegetables. This year, the tomato crop was abundant, enough for the angel hair pasta she likes to make. Berries from the raspberry and blueberry patches go down well at the breakfast table. While breakfast may be eaten in the gracious dining room, a screened porch and patio set amidst the flower gardens, is a great alternative in warm weather.
Guests may opt to have breakfast served in their rooms.
Most old houses have a story to tell, and the Fitch House is no exception. It was built by Walter Powers in 1711, and is a place where, over a period of almost 300 years, children were raised and nurtured. Samuel and his wife Joanne had three children - Samuel, Joanna and Lydia who were born after the parents bought the house in 1732. Others whose names were Leighton, Murphy, Wright, Bellinger or Caldwell took up residence over the years.
With parents Richard and Mary Romac, Lynne Smithwood together with five brothers, also grew up in this house. When her father passed away two years ago, Smithwood decided to keep the place going.
"I wanted to use the house in a nice way. It's a family home. A bed and breakfast is a nice way to do it," she said.
This summer, in Maine, she and the younger children studied the Indians and next year plan to put in the Fitch House garden, as the Indians would have in the 1700s. They also read the book 'Westford Days' by Marilyn Day, which chronicles everyday life in the 1800s.
The Lowell Sun
Sunday, February 10, 2008
INDIANS? HIDDEN BABIES? SAMUEL FITCH HOUSE HAS LEGENDS BY THE ROOMFUL
By Bridget Scrimenti
Westford - The basement has a secret tunnel.
A blood stain marks the bottom of a will, while a removable shelf leads to a hiding space.
Tucked off Powers Road, the Samuel Fitch House has a colorful past.
Now a cozy bed and breakfast, the blue saltbox Colonial borders Nashoba Valley Ski Area, once known as Nashoba Hill, where the Nashoba Indian tribe lived.
The home, built in 1711, is believed to have been a target for Indian attacks.
"The legend is that babies were hidden in the parson's cabinet," said owner Lynne Smithwood.
While there is a white cabinet over the fireplace in the dining room, it was probably used to keep liquor, and children were hidden in the eves of the roof, Smithwood said.
Upstairs, a small wooden rack of shelves leads to a hiding space, while Smithwood said other historic homes in town have found small chairs and beds in these spaces, possibly used to hide children from attacks.
It's unclear if the upstairs space was actually used to hide children.
Penny LaCroix, director of the Westford Museum, doesn't have documentation about children being hidden during attacks, but said another Westford home has a secret staircase.
The Capt. Pelatiah Fletcher House on Lowell Road has a "witch's staircase," leading from the second floor to the attic. Legend has it that people traveled up the narrow staircase to hide during Indian attacks, LaCroix said.
The Rev. Wilkes Allen's History of Chelmsford, published in 1820, which says a party of Indians came to the house of a settler, making "noises like swine."
"The man went out but did not return," Allen wrote. "His wife barred the doors and remained with her children until morning and on going out she found the head of her husband, stuck upon a pole."
Now, guests of the Samuel Fitch House can embrace the flavor of life in the 18th century with tea etiquette and re-enactments. In the living room, once called the "keeping room," a fire crackles next to a beehive oven once used to bake bread.
Smithwood is currently working to verify that the home was used during the Underground Railroad. While the basement has a tunnel leading to where the road once was, the upstairs bedroom has a space between the wall and chimney, where someone could hide and keep warm, she said.
The home was built by the Rev. Walter Powers, and was later occupied by Samuel Fitch in 1732.
Fitch's will, marked with his blood, is framed and on display in the downstairs bedroom. Descendants of the Fitch family still visit the house.
Later, the Murphy, Bellinger and Caldwell families lived there before Smithwood's family, the Romacs, bought the home in 1968.
Smithwood's memories are fond and intimate. She said her father Richard was notorious for bringing home stray animals, even a goat. The goat, Timothy, later had two babies, and Smithwood's grandmother, Josephine, would knit them purple sweaters with a zipper up the back, "They weren't easy to put on," Smithwood said. One night, family friends were visiting and woke up to find the goats in their bedroom. They didn't understand why the "llamas" in the bedroom were wearing clothing, Smithwood said.
The house now has a cat named Charlotte and a chocolate Lab, Malcolm.
"I had wonderful childhood memories and now we have wonderful memories of the guests who come," Smithwood said. "Everyone that comes to visit is an extension of our family."
91 Powers Road, Westford MA 01886
Hosts: The Romac Family
2013 Samuel FitchHouse.com