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At Home With History

The Timothy Hale Jr. House On Main Street is One of the Town's Oldest Structures

When the colonist Timothy Hale Jr., built his house here, Main Street was just a dirt path near his front door, the town was called Glassenbury and the United States didn’t even exist yet. 

The sprawling center-chimney Colonial was built in 1740. In the years since it’s seen a lot of changes outside its large, double front doors, including the Revolutionary War that Hale fought in. Inside, there have been modern improvements as well, including a kitchen addition in the 1970s.

It’s current owners, Marshall and Stacie Berdan purchased the property in 2007 and have undertaken loving improvements to keep it as true to its historic roots as possible. 

During a recent tour of the home Stacie says she and her husband have always bought old homes because they are drawn to the architecture and uniqueness of such properties. They only make improvements that enhance the historic charm and character of their homes. In fact, they often undue modern improvements in the older homes they buy. 

“We’ve always approached it as a labor of love and preservation,” Stacie says. “We always keep the original character when we make changes, we don’t knock anything down and we’re not happy when we see homes where that’s happened.” 

While the Hale house isn’t as flashy as some of the other grand historic homes that line Main Street, it exudes a deep sense of history and old-world charm, from its locally quarried brownstone foundation to the peak of its three-story roof.

“This classic ... center-chimney Connecticut River Valley ‘mansion’ was built by … the grandson of one of Glastonbury’s first settlers. Timothy (Hale) Jr., went on to become one of Glastonbury’s wealthiest citizens and served as a captain in the Revolutionary War,” a local history of the home states. “Upon his death in 1801 the house passed to his sole surviving child, Benjamin.” 

Knott pine and chestnut floors, some as wide as two feet, make up most of the home’s flooring. The cavernous stone fireplace on the first floor is flanked by wide chestnut panelling and includes an adjacent baking oven. 

This was originally the home’s “keeping room” where all the meals were cooked, Stacie says. That’s why the wood floors here were left unfinished because of the spills and messes that would have resulted from cooking over an open fire. Previous owners left the floors in this room, and much of the home in general, in their original state.  

“That’s what drew us to this house,” Stacie said.

The home’s center chimney supports five working fireplaces throughout the house, including ones in upstairs bedrooms and the first floor parlors.

The home’s double front doors feature what may be the original iron hardware and “We’ve been told by the historical society that these are the oldest doors in Glastonbury,” Stacie says. “We just can’t confirm they’re the original doors.” 

With nearly 4,000-square feet of living space, including a walk-up third floor, the home has two staircases, “12 over 12” paned windows and a fireplace in the kitchen.

Other historical aspects of the house include a “dying room,” where people in the 18th century would tend a dying loved one, but it’s also where births would be handled.  Visitors could enter an outside door without disturbing the rest of the household. It’s also how the local undertaker would remove the deceased in a casket. 

The basement features a “winter grave” where those who died in the winter would be buried when the outside ground was frozen. 

Stacie shrugs off a query from a recent visitor about whether the home, with so much history over more than two centuries, harbors any spirits. 

“I haven’t sensed any,” she says. “But we’ve had them in other homes.”

 

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