It was a rainy, though unseasonably warm, December day when we first traveled to Hardwick Winery to meet with John Samek and to pick up some Farm Fresh Stone. Blanketed by fog, the roads through the pastoral central Massachusetts countryside were peaceful and put us in the perfect mindset to appreciate the beauty and the history of the farm.
When we arrived we entered through the cellar looking for John. The walls of the foundation were line with fieldstone, some of it dry-stacked and some of it wet-stacked, but all beautifully laid. John heard our calls and came down to meet us and take us on a tour of the property, the timber-lined barn built with oak from the property by John and his family and the meticulously restored Federal-era mansion that was built in 1795.
The mansion has had only three other owners throughout its history with John and his family being the fourth. It has never had electricity or plumbing, but what it lacks in convenience, it more than makes up for in charm. John took us through each room, talking about the room’s purpose and design, and showing us some of the ‘technological’ wonders of the age. One such feature was a rotating arm that allowed the food to be removed from the hearth in order to season, taste, or serve. This innovation, while most people nowadays think is a minor improvement, was actually a life-saving technological advancement from that time period. Women cooking near the fire would wear very thick dresses with many layers that would protect them from the heat of cooking over an open hearth. While it made them more comfortable, it also prevented them from realizing they were afire, often for several minutes, usually resulting in severe injury or even death.
Next to the keeping room (a term used for the kitchen and winter living quarters) was a room John pointed out as one of the most important rooms in the house, the birthing room. When a child wasn’t being brought forth kicking and screaming into the world, this room was also used as a sick room, likely benefiting from it placement right next to the central hearth which kept its ill family members warm and hopefully allowed them to recover more quickly. Though the house was only abandoned in the 1970’s, John told us that each of the previous owners’ children were born right there in that room.
It was truly a joy to speak with John and take a tour of a living piece of history. Listening to his tales you could easily see that this house was a major passion of his and was lovingly restored to preserve a piece of rural, Federal-era, Americana.
We love working with farmers like John because we believe he is a kindred spirit. Not only does he believe history is worth preserving and sharing, but he also has made his living working with fieldstone for most of his life. He has gathered, moved, and sold stone for use in construction or for external aesthetic improvements to existing structures.
Hardwick Winery has a beautiful and very informative website that we hope you’ll check out. If you are in the area, please stop by for a visit and have a glass of wine or two. Though you can’t go wrong with any of them, we particularly loved the Massetts Cranbury for its uniqueness and its quintessentially New England flavor.
3305 Greenwich Rd
Hardwick, MA 01082