On June 1, members of the Berlin Historical Society and invited guests strolled the serene grounds of the organization’s new property. The occasion was the dedication and naming of the restored Woodruff house and recently-planted gardens at 725 Worthington Ridge.
The property will now be known as 1771 House and the Esther Woodruff Gardens.
Intimate tables with vintage table cloths and flowers dotted the lawn. Visitors were treated to strawberry shortcake, beverages, live music and the park-like setting.
The event was a window to the kind of experiences the site can provide for the greater public. The house and grounds are in the shadow of the 1774 Worthington Meeting House, a town-owned building and one with great potential to be a mecca for history, arts, culture and heritage tourism for all ages once the interior restoration is complete.
It was always Esther Woodruff’s vision that her property “belonged” with the meeting house and that the 1.4-acre grounds could provide additional parking and expansive green space that would enhance the meeting house project.
After her death, the historical society’s board carefully studied the implications of buying the property. Had it not been for a generous bequest from Myrna M. Pauloz in honor of her mother, Ruby Nye Morse, a founding member of the historical society, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity would have been lost.
In late 2017, the Berlin Historical Society bought the property, ending a 147-year period of ownership by the Woodruff family.
Eben Coe Woodruff purchased the property in 1870. Research is underway in an attempt to document the original owners and the property’s use. There are stories of the house having been moved from “up the street,” but little is known beyond that.
Restoration has shown very early architectural features dating to the 1700’s. The front room was restored down to its original wide chestnut boards by members Pam Pethigal and Ken Ayers. The newer addition to the house, built in 1956, holds the Berlin Historical Society Research Center. Bookshelves, custom built by Ryk Nelson, contain the historical society’s book collection and maps, which are available for research, by appointment.
Another highlight of the property are the gardens created in Esther Woodruff’s memory. A second grade teacher, Esther loved raising monarch butterflies with her students and grandchildren.
Under Heidi Kropf’s direction, a butterfly garden took shape a year ago. A shade garden followed this spring. All work done on the house and gardens was accomplished through donations of materials and volunteer hours. Future attractions and programs are planned.
The meeting house restoration campaign is the focus of Friends of the Worthington Meeting House. More information on the plans to reopen it as a community cultural center and history museum is available at worthingtonmeetinghouse.org.
-- From the Berlin Historical Society.
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