Each year, many of Hingham’s historical homes open their doors for the Hingham Historical Society's annual Tour of Historic Homes and Buildings.
The horses are long gone, but their stalls in the Barnes Estate Carriage House now are home to butter molds, copper teakettles and other antique collections of owners Debbie and Arthur Stellar.
Along with the collections in the stalls, the living room above them is a highlight of the Hingham Historical Society’s 84th annual Tour of Historic Homes and Buildings on June 8.
Once home to carriages, it’s a grand room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Hingham Harbor and a soaring cathedral ceiling with barn beams.
“Our house is just filled with stories,” said Debbie Stellar, principal of Foster Elementary School, who bought the house about two years ago with her husband, Arthur, superintendent of schools in Taunton. In addition to their collections, there’s antique furniture such as a dry sink, jelly cabinet and bucket stand, and eclectic artwork from around the world.
The 1900 home is one of six Cape, Victorian and Colonial houses dating from 1752 to 1900 whose owners have preserved the distinctive beams, floorboards and other details while renovating for contemporary life.
“These are historic homes you can imagine living in,” said Nancy Stimson, tour publicity coordinator for the historical society, which funds building preservation with proceeds from the tour.
Each year, it’s fun to see which of Hingham’s many historical homes open their doors, in a town distinguished by two National Register Historic Districts. And it’s inspirational to see the care and effort owners have made to protect and enhance the heritage they own.
As owners of the tour’s oldest home, Sharon and John Delmonico built a kitchen, family room and master suite addition that blends seamlessly onto the Cape-style 1752 Benjamin King House.
“We worked hard to make it look like it did then,” said Sharon, who grew up in a Cape-style home in Hingham. “I love the homey antique feel. I can just smell the old.”
In the new kitchen, the antique feeling is preserved by the soapstone sink, distressed white wooden cabinets, wide floorboards and ceiling beams. The couple kept the original narrow staircase and added a wraparound porch with bead board ceiling and white posts, overlooking the landscaped pool.
“These are the stairs I fell in love with,” said Sharon, as she climbed them to the second-floor bedrooms of her four children, ages 3 to 14. “It reminds me of a tree house.”
While the 1822 Jacob Groce House originally was a two-room Cape, it was converted into a Greek Revival Victorian in 1888, a style that won the hearts of owners Keefer and Pat Welch, who keep a notebook detailing how the previous 11 owners adapted the home.
The beams, fireplace bread oven, and wide floorboards are remnants of the Cape style, while the stained glass windows, china cabinet, scalloped shingles, five fireplaces and portico are Victorian details.
Since 1990, the Welches have renovated the kitchen, created a master bedroom, and built a large cedar deck, as well as turned the backyard into a park-like oasis, with beds of perennials and annuals surrounding the in-ground pool. On the grounds, the original springhouse remains, where butter and eggs once were kept cool.
For painter Page Railsback, the 1811 Edmund Howard House appealed because of its Colonial charm, backyard studio and location.
“I always had a dream that we would live in a village so we could walk places, but it had to be an old house,” said Railsback, who moved with her husband in 2004 from eight acres in Norwell.
Inside, there are wide floorboards, beams, red doors and wall displays of her paintings as well as those of other South Shore artists.
The tour also features the 1832 Morris Fearing House, which retains its wavy glass windows, and the 1900 William Ripley House, whose handsome exterior features a two-story, white-columned front porch; five-sided dormers; and bay windows. Owners Kristen and John Maxwell have completely renovated the home and all four floors will be open for the tour.
IF YOU GO...
WHEN: 1 to 7 p.m. June 8.
WHAT: The tour features six private homes built from 1752 to 1900, and three public buildings: the 1680 Old Ordinary House Museum, 1818 Old Derby Academy, and the 1681 Old Ship Church.
PROHIBITED: High heels and photography
TICKETS: $20 in advance by mail or at Hingham Public Library, The Glass House in Queen Anne’s Corner, and Noble’s Camera Shops in Hingham Square, Lincoln Plaza and Cohasset, A.Z. Studios in Hingham Square and Derby Street Shoppes, Buttonwood Books in Cohasset.
To order by mail: Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope and check to Hingham Historical Society, P.O. Box 434, Hingham, 02403.
On tour day, tickets are $25 and can be purchased after 10 a.m. at the Old Ordinary, 21 Lincoln St.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call 781-749-1851 or go to www.hinghamhistorical.org.
The Patriot Ledger