Twenty miles northwest of Boston lies a small town with no chain stores, no fast food, and no traffic lights. But starting this fall, it will have a television show starring one of its senior citizens. Carlisle, Massachusetts, population 5,300, is the town that sprawl forgot, and it’s in this old-fashioned setting that This Old House will look to the future as we begin celebrating our 25th anniversary season. Our plan: to purchase, renovate, and sell a house in town. And with the proceeds, we’ll fund a new scholarship for the building arts, to encourage young people to enter the field so that there will be Norms, Toms, Richards, and Rogers for homeowners of the future to call upon.
The star of the show will be a rambling Greek Revival farmstead known locally as the Bradford Heald House. When a young man named Jonathan Bradford Heald built it, back in 1849, sprawl was what one did at the end of a hard day’s work in the barn, and fast food meant a handful of blueberries picked in the field. Still, if he were to come back for a visit today, he’d have no trouble recognizing his old place and the town around it. Carlisle retains its rural character thanks to land conservation — a full 25 percent of the town is protected — and loving regard for its older buildings.
All of which is good news for our new old house. It has survived 150 years of progress more or less intact, and while the 75 acres it once serviced have dwindled to less than 2, it is still a classic New England form worthy of restoration. Our hope is to bring it forward to today, converting the barn to dramatic living space, modernizing the old ell, and returning some of the Greek Revival essence to the tired main house. His cows may be gone, but when we’re done, we hope Jonathan Heald would feel right at home — after he figured out the clicker for the plasma TV.