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.