The Westwood House
The crew renovated and restored of the 1785 Weatherbee farm in Westwood, Massachusetts, adding a new 16' x 40' kitchen and family room.
Kicking off its ninth season, This Old House tackled the restoration of Weatherbee Farm, a 200-year-old rambling farmhouse in Westwood, Massachusetts, 13 miles southwest of Boston. The new owners of Weatherbee Farm could thank Weatherbee Yankee spirit—"use it up, wear it out, make do or do without"— for a property full of architectural momentos: Federal-style windows, a Greek-Revival doorway and the Colonial Revival mantelpiece in the sitting room off the old kitchen. The challenge was how much of the old to save, and how much of the new to construct to suit the needs of 20th century homeowners with a growing family.
Owners Bill and Cynthia Dromgoole, who purchased the home in the spring of 1987, explained that Weatherbee Farm was passed down through generations of the Weatherbee family since its construction in 1785. The original Weatherbee homestead was sturdy, with thick hand-hewn log rafters, hefty corner posts and clapboards with beveled ends. Remodeled in the mid-1800s in the popular Greek Revival style, the two-and-one half story clapboard home features a full-length front porch with delicate columns; a slate roof; original six-over-six windows; a granite foundation; an unfinished ell; a parlor, living room, dining room and kitchen downstairs, and four bedrooms and a bath upstairs.
The restoration entailed the dismantling of the ell and the construction of a new kitchen wing in its place, using architectural details reminiscent of the original structure. New cast acrylic countertops and sink and handcrafted cabinets made the kitchen functional for modern family living. Upstairs, two bedrooms were combined into a master bedroom suite with a full bath, and the heating, plumbing and electrical systems were updated. Outside, the team repaired the main house's original clapboards and six-over-six windows, built a deck off the new kitchen wing and landscaped the grounds. Paint and restoration specialist Sam Perry supervised preparation of the house for painting. The house's period look was completed with reproduction shutters crafted using 19th century equipment and historically appropriate wooden gutters.
The house's systems got an upgrade too. Electricians rewired the structure. In the cellar, the old furnace and pipes—freed of their asbestos insulation—were removed in favor of a more modern boiler system. While the new system went in, a special European technique was used to line the aged chimney and make it safe for modern use. To keep all this heat in, cellulose insulation was blown in to the existing structure. Finally, the new kitchen wing received its own modern heating system—radiant heat installed under the new Southern yellow pine floor.
Throughout the project, the crew worked with an eye toward maintaining the house's enduring early American charm. In the end, the crew and the Dromgooles succeeded in preserving the house's integrity as a piece of American history, while sensitively rebuilding a modern, functional space to suit a 20th century family.