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.