House & Home: The Oliver Whiting Homestead is full of historical significance

  • The Roedel family home on Old County Farm Road in Wilton is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Oliver Whiting Homestead. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Roedel family home on Old County Farm Road in Wilton is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Oliver Whiting Homestead. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Roedel family home on Old County Farm Road in Wilton is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Oliver Whiting Homestead. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Roedel family home on Old County Farm Road in Wilton is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Oliver Whiting Homestead. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Roedel family home on Old County Farm Road in Wilton is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Oliver Whiting Homestead. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Roedel family home on Old County Farm Road in Wilton is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Oliver Whiting Homestead. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Roedel family home on Old County Farm Road in Wilton is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Oliver Whiting Homestead. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Roedel family home on Old County Farm Road in Wilton is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Oliver Whiting Homestead. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Roedel family home on Old County Farm Road in Wilton is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Oliver Whiting Homestead. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Roedel family home on Old County Farm Road in Wilton is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Oliver Whiting Homestead. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/22/2020 10:50:53 AM

It was a little over five years after Fred and Katharine Roedel purchased their Wilton home on Old County Road that they began thinking about the best way to honor the rich history of the property that dates back to 1800.

The Roedels were well aware of the backstory of what is known as the Oliver Whiting Homestead and what had transpired on the land well before they made it their family home in 1976. So they applied for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places and it was clear that the Roedels weren’t the only ones who thought the longstanding history was of significance, getting approval for the honor in March of 1982. It was the same year the Wilton Public and Gregg Free Library was added to the list.

Whiting built the large brick home in 1800 that Roedel describes as a “very picturesque colonial.” It was where Whiting began his successful dairy operation that in the 1850s was the largest one in Wilton, sending milk by train to Boston, and eventually taken over by his son David.

“Oliver Whiting was a very successful farmer,” Roedel said.

But in 1867, the homestead was sold to Hillsborough County to serve as the new county Poor Farm. For almost 30 years, the property was used in that capacity with Roedel saying at one point there were upwards of 300 people living on the property. A number of buildings were added to the property during that time, but have been removed over time and are simply a memory now.

“A lot of people lived there for a long time,” Roedel said. “The old county farm has a lot of history to it.”

Then the property was turned into a summer estate and remained that way until Roedel, his wife and their four children moved to what is now almost 400 acres of land.

Roedel said there was quite a bit to do to get it into a place where the family could live year round, including transitioning the whole house to radiant heat, improving the electrical work and what Roedel described as a total renovation of the five bedroom, four bathroom home.

“We had to do a lot of work and did it right away,” Roedel. “We had four kids, we had to get it done. And we filled it right up.” But since then, Roedel said there hasn’t been any significant upgrades outside of a sun porch in back. There has been no reason to do so.

Roedel said one interesting feature of the home is the total of eight fire places, including two in the living room. He can only guess it was designed that way for essential heating purposes and not just a design to give many of the rooms more character.

The main house, with all five bedrooms on the second floor, was added on to in 1820, and along the way a guest house and large 150-foot by 50-foot barn were constructed on the homestead.

The guest house, which was in better shape when they moved in, played a role in the county poor farm, but is now used as a place where family and friends can stay when visiting. It also acts a bit of a man cave with a pool table and bar.

The Roedels added a 120-foot by 75-foot swimming pond that is connected to a nearby river. It allows for the pond to be drained in the spring and keeps it as clean as can be and as Roedel puts it “I’m in it every day it’s warm enough.” There was an existing trout pond and the family added another. They also planted a number of peach and apple trees and had horses for a number of years when the kids were growing up.

Living on a property that dates back over 200 years, as well as a place where so many people lived, Roedel said they have found many interesting things – from horse shoes buried in the ground to a stash of very old liquor bottles in the barn.

After Roedel started his hotel business, Roedel Companies, which now owns properties in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Florida, he and Katharine were looking for a new way of life.

“I really wanted to get out of Nashua and into the country,” Roedel said, who grew up on a farm in New Jersey. So Katharine began looking for properties and found the homestead.

“She said I found a house you’ll absolutely love, but we can’t afford,” Roedel said. “Somehow I figured out how to buy it.”

Being on what equates to a private road, portions of it classified as Class VI, Roedel said you’ve got to like the country to live where he has for almost 45 years.

Roedel describes the 220 year old house as having a terrific structure, a testament to the detail placed on new construction at the turn of the 19th century.

“It’s just a wonderful house,” Roedel said.

Some people claim there are ghosts “but I don’t think so,” he said.

The history of the Oliver Whiting Homestead is something that Roedel truly appreciates. But to him, it’s been a place where his kids grew up and where the family has been able to gather for more than four decades – something that is near and dear to his heart.


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