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New Ipswich

Portraits of our past

A SLICE OF HISTORY: The historic Barrett House property is undergoing renovations to restore it to the fine home it once was — and it’s open to the public for tours every other Saturday

  • Portraits of George Barrett III and Frances Barrett hang over a sideboard gifted to the original homeowners, and on the right, George III brother, Edward Barrett, who is known teasingly as the "Best-Looking Barrett."

    Portraits of George Barrett III and Frances Barrett hang over a sideboard gifted to the original homeowners, and on the right, George III brother, Edward Barrett, who is known teasingly as the "Best-Looking Barrett."

  • Rooms for family members were often simply decorated, with small cost saving measures such as exposed corner beams or four panel doors on the interior, with six panels on the exterior, to save a little on cost.

    Rooms for family members were often simply decorated, with small cost saving measures such as exposed corner beams or four panel doors on the interior, with six panels on the exterior, to save a little on cost.

  • Master bedrooms such as this one, were given up for guests who would stay at the manor.

    Master bedrooms such as this one, were given up for guests who would stay at the manor.

  • A children's nursery and bedroom occupies the top floor of the house, along with a nursemaids quarters.

    A children's nursery and bedroom occupies the top floor of the house, along with a nursemaids quarters.

  • Period toys still occupy the Barrett House in the children's room.

    Period toys still occupy the Barrett House in the children's room.

  • A rosewood piano owned by Frances Barrett occupies what once was the Barrett House ballroom.

    A rosewood piano owned by Frances Barrett occupies what once was the Barrett House ballroom.

  • A rosewood piano owned by Frances Barrett occupies what once was the Barrett House ballroom.

    A rosewood piano owned by Frances Barrett occupies what once was the Barrett House ballroom.

  • A harmonicon owned by George Barrett, is played by running wet fingers over a set of glasses of varying thicknesses.

    A harmonicon owned by George Barrett, is played by running wet fingers over a set of glasses of varying thicknesses.

  • Linens for this bed were created for a film which used the Barrett House as a shooting location. They were made in the 19th Century, but created to appear period for the 18th.

    Linens for this bed were created for a film which used the Barrett House as a shooting location. They were made in the 19th Century, but created to appear period for the 18th.

  • Wrapped furnishings are left untouched from unfinished renovations undertaken by George Robert Barrett and Elizabeth Wade Barrett.

    Wrapped furnishings are left untouched from unfinished renovations undertaken by George Robert Barrett and Elizabeth Wade Barrett.

  • Wrapped furnishings are left untouched from unfinished renovations undertaken by George Robert Barrett and Elizabeth Wade Barrett.

    Wrapped furnishings are left untouched from unfinished renovations undertaken by George Robert Barrett and Elizabeth Wade Barrett.

  • A parlor on the first floor of the Barrett House was only used for entertaining guests, and was shut up otherwise.

    A parlor on the first floor of the Barrett House was only used for entertaining guests, and was shut up otherwise.

  • Carolyn Barr Wade, the stepdaughter of George Robert Barrett, gifted the Barrett House to Historic New England several decades after the death of her stepfather in 1916.

    Carolyn Barr Wade, the stepdaughter of George Robert Barrett, gifted the Barrett House to Historic New England several decades after the death of her stepfather in 1916.

  • The outside of the Barrett House in New Ipswich is undergoing window restoration and painting, to bring the mansion back to its former pristine glory.

    The outside of the Barrett House in New Ipswich is undergoing window restoration and painting, to bring the mansion back to its former pristine glory.

  • The outside of the Barrett House in New Ipswich is undergoing window restoration and painting, to bring the mansion back to its former pristine glory.

    The outside of the Barrett House in New Ipswich is undergoing window restoration and painting, to bring the mansion back to its former pristine glory.

  • Portraits of Charles Barrett Junior and Martha Barrett, for whom the Barrett House was built in 1800, hang over the fireplace in the parlor of the home.

    Portraits of Charles Barrett Junior and Martha Barrett, for whom the Barrett House was built in 1800, hang over the fireplace in the parlor of the home.

  • A dining room with period wood-block print wallpaper, would have only been used for special occasions.

    A dining room with period wood-block print wallpaper, would have only been used for special occasions.

  • A dining room with period wood-block print wallpaper, would have only been used for special occasions.

    A dining room with period wood-block print wallpaper, would have only been used for special occasions.

  • The kitchen of the Barrett House, which had been updated over the years, was restored to a 1800-style kitchen when Historic New England took charge of the property in the 1950s.

    The kitchen of the Barrett House, which had been updated over the years, was restored to a 1800-style kitchen when Historic New England took charge of the property in the 1950s.

  • Glass made at Temple Glassworks, which George Barrett was a proprietor of, is displayed in the Barrett House kitchen.

    Glass made at Temple Glassworks, which George Barrett was a proprietor of, is displayed in the Barrett House kitchen.

  • Tiles depicting scenes from Aesop's Fables surround the fireplace in the library, a Victorian touch added by George Barrett III and Frances Barrett during an update of the house.

    Tiles depicting scenes from Aesop's Fables surround the fireplace in the library, a Victorian touch added by George Barrett III and Frances Barrett during an update of the house.

  • Portraits of George Barrett III and Frances Barrett hang over a sideboard gifted to the original homeowners, and on the right, George III brother, Edward Barrett, who is known teasingly as the "Best-Looking Barrett."
  • Rooms for family members were often simply decorated, with small cost saving measures such as exposed corner beams or four panel doors on the interior, with six panels on the exterior, to save a little on cost.
  • Master bedrooms such as this one, were given up for guests who would stay at the manor.
  • A children's nursery and bedroom occupies the top floor of the house, along with a nursemaids quarters.
  • Period toys still occupy the Barrett House in the children's room.
  • A rosewood piano owned by Frances Barrett occupies what once was the Barrett House ballroom.
  • A rosewood piano owned by Frances Barrett occupies what once was the Barrett House ballroom.
  • A harmonicon owned by George Barrett, is played by running wet fingers over a set of glasses of varying thicknesses.
  • Linens for this bed were created for a film which used the Barrett House as a shooting location. They were made in the 19th Century, but created to appear period for the 18th.
  • Wrapped furnishings are left untouched from unfinished renovations undertaken by George Robert Barrett and Elizabeth Wade Barrett.
  • Wrapped furnishings are left untouched from unfinished renovations undertaken by George Robert Barrett and Elizabeth Wade Barrett.
  • A parlor on the first floor of the Barrett House was only used for entertaining guests, and was shut up otherwise.
  • Carolyn Barr Wade, the stepdaughter of George Robert Barrett, gifted the Barrett House to Historic New England several decades after the death of her stepfather in 1916.
  • The outside of the Barrett House in New Ipswich is undergoing window restoration and painting, to bring the mansion back to its former pristine glory.
  • The outside of the Barrett House in New Ipswich is undergoing window restoration and painting, to bring the mansion back to its former pristine glory.
  • Portraits of Charles Barrett Junior and Martha Barrett, for whom the Barrett House was built in 1800, hang over the fireplace in the parlor of the home.
  • A dining room with period wood-block print wallpaper, would have only been used for special occasions.
  • A dining room with period wood-block print wallpaper, would have only been used for special occasions.
  • The kitchen of the Barrett House, which had been updated over the years, was restored to a 1800-style kitchen when Historic New England took charge of the property in the 1950s.
  • Glass made at Temple Glassworks, which George Barrett was a proprietor of, is displayed in the Barrett House kitchen.
  • Tiles depicting scenes from Aesop's Fables surround the fireplace in the library, a Victorian touch added by George Barrett III and Frances Barrett during an update of the house.

Since the early 1800s, the Barrett House has been a landmark of the New Ipswich landscape. New life is being breathed into the building, as it gets a new coat of paint and the shutters on the building have been restored. But the aesthetics of the outside are only a portion of the historic home’s charm. What it’s most known for is the interior, which has been left mostly its last residents left it in 1916.

When walking though the Barrett House, which is permitted during tours given every other Saturday, the first impression of the stately manor is its massive size, surely more than any one family could use. Well, explained Daniel Ziarnik, a guide for the Barrett House during a recent tour of the property, the family in fact didn’t use all of the manor, except when entertaining.

Though a Barrett has not lived in the home for more than 100 years, the house is universally known by the name due to its origins. The Barrett House was built in 1800, when it was called Forest Hall, as a wedding gift from Charles Barrett Sr. for his son, Charles Barrett Jr., and his bride, Martha Minot. The respective fathers of the latter, Charles Sr. and Jonas Minot, had agreed that Minot would furnish the house as grandly as Barrett could build it.

The sheer scale of the building meant that certain rooms, such as the front parlor and, what was a new concept in 1800, the formal dining room were kept almost exclusively for entertaining guests, as was a ballroom built on the top floor. Some of the furniture still occupying the house, particularly in those entertaining rooms to be in best view for the guests, is believed to have been part of Minot’s original wedding gifts, including a clock, writing desk and a sideboard situated in the hallway.

In its early days, the home was full of Barretts, with Charles Jr. and Martha raising five children. They were also known for entertaining guests in their lavish home, making good use of the ballroom and adding to their fine furniture collection. It remained their home until their deaths, Charles Jr. in 1836 and Martha in 1842.

The second generation

After the death of Martha Barrett, the home passed on to the next generation, Charles Jr.’s second eldest son, Charles Barrett III, who lived there with his family for several years before moving to Cambridge, Mass. Then his older brother, George Barrett, and his wife took up residence and raised their family there. During his tenure there, George began the first update of the house, to reflect Victorian times as well his and his wife’s own tastes, replacing the floors with new woodwork, and adding intricate tiles depicting various scenes, such as depictions of Aesops’ Fables, around the home’s many fireplaces. He and his wife, Frances, also converted the ballroom into a music room, featuring Frances’ Rosewood piano, and George’s harmonicon, an instrument that is played by running wet fingers over glasses of different thicknesses to generate various tones.

Though after George’s death Frances would convert the ballroom into two bedrooms, it was later restored by her son, George Robert, and is on display today as Frances and George’s music room. After George’s death in 1862, Frances, inherited the house and built an adjoining ell for her son, Edward, and his family. Edward, whose portrait hangs in the front hallway, is often cheekily referred to by the women who visit the Barrett House as the “best-looking Barrett,” said Ziarnik. But his life was cut tragically short, when he died of scarlet fever at the age of 21. Frances stayed on in the main portion of the house along with her younger son, George Robert Barrett. But by the mid-19th century, the economy began to decline, with local mills closing, and many moved away seeking greener pastures, including George Robert Barrett. But he returned after the death of his older brother and mother to take possession of the home.

Summer house years

George Robert Barrett and his wife, Elizabeth Barr Barrett, were living in Boston when he gained ownership of the Barrett House and decided to undertake several renovations to make it a summer retreat. The couple not only wanted to update the furnishings and linens, but convert the old carriage house into a sprawling entertainment space, including a billiards room for George Robert. But most of those dreams were never realized. The renovation took several years and was never fully completed. In 1911, Elizabeth Barr Barrett died, and George Robert never again returned to his family’s long-held Barrett House.

Today, rugs and linens in their original wrapping, as well as new bedposts bundled for safe handling, are stored in various rooms that will never see those updates George Robert and Elizabeth had planned. In 1916, George Robert passed away, and the renovation and redecoration of the home was left unfinished.

For the first time, the Barrett House passed to a non-Barrett, George Robert’s stepdaughter, Caroline Barr Wade, who never lived there, but simply boarded it up and let it sit unoccupied for more than 40 years, untouched by the passing decades. Then in 1948, she donated the Barrett House along with an endowment to Historic New England, as a memorial to her stepfather’s family. Historic New England undertook a significant restoration project at the Barrett House, replacing plaster and hanging period wall paper, and restoring the kitchen to its 1800 state. In 1950, the Barrett House opened as a museum.

About the tour

Those who would like to tour the manor are welcomed on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, from June 1 through Oct. 15, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours run on the hour, with the last tour beginning at 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $2.50 for students, and is free for New Ipswich residents or Historic New England members. The Barrett House is located at 79 Main St., New Ipswich.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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