Norwell business honored for historical preservation

By Audrey Cooney


NORWELL — A recently opened business on Washington Street is highlighting a renovated home from the 1700s, blending the town’s history with a modern update.

“I just love the feel it has,” said Marlene MacDonald Ketchen, a Norwell resident and owner of kitchen and bathroom design company The Cabinetry. “It really goes with what we do, which is transforming homes.”

In September of last year, MacDonald Ketchen moved her business into 25 Washington St., a building that the Norwell Historical Society determined was built in 1799.

She has had the building renovated in a way that maintains and preserves many of its historic components, including the original pine floors, the old, single-pane windows, five fireplaces and the exposed wooden beams that frame the entire house.

The house was built in the “post and beam” style, a construction style using heavy log beams that was popular hundreds of years ago. In some places, there is still horsehair plaster, which is no longer used. In one of the rooms, charring from a long-ago fire still marks some of the original wood.

Now, the rooms are lined with samples of wood for cabinets and glossy stone for counters, rows of cabinet handles and stainless steel sinks. They contrast with the dark, untreated wood of the exposed beams from the original construction. The original fireplaces have been given fresh coats of paint, and the ones downstairs have been dresses up with newly-installed marble hearths.

MacDonald Ketchen said the historic building is the perfect spot for someone like her, whose business centers on home design.

“The architecture and the structure here is really fascinating,” she said. “I just think it’s fascinating to have evidence of how things used to be done.”

Next month, MacDonald Ketchen will be honored by the Norwell Historical Commission with its 2020 preservation award, which will be presented at the March 11 board of selectmen meeting.

She said it was important to her to preserve as much of the home’s historic features as she could.

“I’ve been all over the country, and New England is just so unique with the architecture here, the antique homes. You don’t see them anywhere else,” she said.


Wendy Bawabe, president of the Norwell Historical Society, and Pam Basso, also a member of the society, used deeds from the Plymouth County Registry and maps from the 1800s to determine that the house was built around 1799 by David Prouty Jr. Prouty’s mother was part of the Whiting, sometimes spelled Whiton, family, which at one point owned much of the land around Queen Anne’s Corner and the building that now houses the Scarlet Oak Tavern on Main Street in Hingham.

And along with the historical records, the housing’s style and construction methods helped them narrow down its construction date, Bawabe said.

“There’s definitely evidence that this was a 1700s, very early 1800s house,” she said.

Historic maps show that, at the time Prouty would have been living there, the area was mostly a commercial district, Bawabe said. There was a blacksmith across the street, a wheelwright up the street and a hotel at the corner of Washington and Grove Streets, where the Mobil gas station is now.

“So Marlene is only continuing what the area has always been,” she said.

Purple no longer: Norwell’s ‘Purple House’ turns from gallery to showroom

By Kate Walsh

Norwell’s historic “Purple House” certainly stands out on Route 53, but it will remain purple no longer.

The former home of the Hartstone Gallery will soon be painted white and become The Cabinetry, a kitchen and bath design boutique.

The design company currently resides in Hingham.

Norwell resident Marlene Ketchen, the owner of the business and, now owner of the “Purple House,” said she has been looking for a permanent home for her company for two years and is excited to move in.

“I loved the old style and the charm of the building,” Ketchen said. “It’s such a beautiful building. I plan to keep everything I can and restore it.”



The “Purple House,” at 25 Washington St., is also known as the “Z. Cushing House. “It was built sometime in the late 18th and early 19th century and includes the main house and a two-storied barn on two acres of land.

Ketchen purchased the site in mid-April for $800,000 and is using Jonathan Detwiler, owner of Buttonwood Renovations, and Mike Lievi, owner of Lievi Electric Inc., as her contractor and electrician respectively. Both are residents of Norwell.

The main building will house The Cabinetry on both floors, with showrooms and meeting rooms on the first and staff offices on the second.

The second floor now consists of two apartments, with a kitchen in each. Ketchen plans to convert one of them into a staff kitchen.

The Cabinetry has been in business for 25 years, but Ketchen purchased it from her uncle 15 years ago.

“It’s a beautiful old home,” she said of the Washington Street property. “It has so much history, which I think is perfect for what we do in our business because we remodel and make homes beautiful.”

There is a significant amount of work to be done inside the home, needed to make this old building a modern home for The Cabinetry, according to Ketchen. That includes updating the bathrooms, having the floors refinished and adding a fresh coat of paint.

Ketchen hopes to have The Cabinetry up and running in its new Norwell home by September.