East Hartland >> There is a sense of peace that pervades the interior and surrounding property of what is known as “The Nelson House”, located on quiet Mill Street in East Hartland. The historic home, which has been completely renovated and restored by master builder Neil Gilpin and various talented helping hands and minds, sits on some three acres of open meadows and woods that conspire to create a relaxed atmosphere anywhere you wander.
“Hartland is really still an undiscovered gem,” says Realtor David Taylor, as he takes a visitor on a tour of the house and property. “You are so close to Winsted and other towns, but there is a feel that you are could be in Vermont because of the peace and quiet and natural surroundings. This home would make a lovely weekend retreat.”
The home was restored and expanded in what amounts to new construction inside the rock solid bones of an 1800s era farmhouse. The finished product is a blending of the old, with a kitchen/family room addition designed for today’s family. There are four fireplaces, a granite stove hearth, cathedral ceiling, and a first floor bedroom suite that includes a sitting room with fireplace. Also, the home boasts original flooring and new random-width pine, soapstone counters, an English elm kitchen island, a restored slate bar sink in the family room, and original, as well as reproduction hardware and fixtures. Housed within original cut granite foundation walls and chestnut post-and-beam framing, the basement and mechanicals have all been completely updated.
It is believed the Nelson House was most likely built between 1845 and 1860. The foundations of the house are unique because they are made entirely out of granite, which is not typical of a simple farmhouse of that time frame. Usually, the walls would be rubble field stone. When the house was built it was sited to the south to take advantage of the sun for light and heat. The house received an extensive makeover in the 1950s, with a new kitchen and bath installed, new windows, some new wiring, new strip oak flooring, some insulation, an oil-fired hot air furnace, and a garage extension attached to the original shed off the kitchen. Unfortunately, when the owner at the time later passed away the house fell into a state of some disrepair under the subsequent owner.
It was in 2013 when Gilpin, with his wife Deborah, purchased the Nelson House. Gilpin, a noted and respected builder specializing in restoration of old homes, had done much of the earlier improvements to the home and sadly watched as it deteriorated (he and his wife live just a bit away from the Nelson House). Gilpin has been in the restoration business for some 40 years and he and his wife’s goal was “to save an historic house and the character of times past, while embracing today’s demands for function and efficiency.” Consider their goals met.
“It does make me feel a sense of pride in what we were able to do with the house,” says Gilpin, as he stood in the spacious kitchen area that was added to the original dwelling. “I remember what it had been and wanted to bring back that feel of an early American homestead and retain the simple elegance that the house and property once had.”
Gilpin enjoyed his task, which took two and a half years to complete. “I worked weekends and nights when not on my other jobs,” he says. “We completely gutted the interior and added the new wing on. We used the original doors and hinges on the first floor, refurbishing them to look like they did originally. It was a time consuming task but worth it.”
The detailed workmanship of Gilpin and others is evident everywhere in the home. Although much of the interior is new, it all blends seamlessly with such original touches as doors and several fireplaces that are located in various rooms in the 2,538 square foot dwelling. An open and airy feel was created trough the used of native white pine flooring throughout the first floor and white painted walls that allow ambient light to radiate throughout the rooms, both on the lower and upper floors.
The second floor features gorgeous, original floors that are made of wide-beamed hemlock, which Gilpin noted was somewhat unique for homes of the era. The bedrooms, while not large in size, are nonetheless fairly ample, cozy, and have walk-in closets and windows that offer views to meadows and woods.
One of the biggest projects Gilpin had to undertake was the removal of all the mechanicals from the basement, a time consuming task, which included removal of duct work, oil tanks, an electrical panel, wiring, plumbing, and the furnace. The dirt floor was graded and leveled, excavated, and a perimeter footing drain was installed that went to daylight. A poly vapor barrier was put over the dirt and a concrete slab was poured. “I spent a lot of time down here,” Gilpin says with a smile as he stands in the new, clean cellar.
Other work included repairing sills, rebuilding chimneys from the roof line up, stripping old and applying new roofing, and replacing windows with energy efficient six-over-six double-hung units that mimic the old windows. The entire front entry was redesigned and rebuilt with the addition of an attractive copper overhang. A laundry room, half-bath, mudroom, and closet were installed where a former small kitchen once was, with the new addition now serving as kitchen and family area. Salvaged beams were incorporated into the new space, and an antique slate sink was plumbed for a wet bar area or panting station.
The house now has a master bedroom suite with walk-in closet, a bath, bedroom, and dressing room, living room, dining room, a half-bath, and kitchen and family room on the first floor. The second floor has three bedrooms and a full bath. As mentioned, the house has all new mechanicals, with three zones of heat. The insulation is a combination of closed cell foam, open cell foam, and fiberglass bats. A new well was even drilled and new water pump added as the existing well was inadequate for a four-bedroom home.
Taylor is a listing agent for the home, which is on the market for the quite modest price of $410,000. Visit www.harneyre.com, or call 860-738-1200.