History and Tour
Completed in 1926, this magnificent neo-classical three-story mansion represents the culmination of years of painstaking construction. Designed by Boston architects Blackhall, Clapp, and Whittemore, the steel-beam construction residence was built for Harding Allen, owner of the Chas. G. Allen Co., a drilling and tapping machine company and iron foundry. The company was founded during the Civil War to build Yankee hay rakes. During its peak, the company employed approximately 742 people. The company is considerably smaller today, but still in existence.
Harding's widow, Carrie C. Allen, passed away in 1946, the property was auctioned and Dr. and Mrs. Richard Fowler purchased a portion of the estate including the mansion. The property remained in the Fowler family until it was repurchased in 1972 by the great-nephew of Harding Allen, Steve Goldsmith. He and his wife Ina owned the property until February of 1995, when it was acquired by Alain Beret and James Fairbanks. In February of 2004, they passed it on to the present owners, Carmine & Grace Gugliotti.
The mansion is distinguished by an imposing two-story portico and elegant balustraded porches. Inside, the fine interior plaster molding, carved millwork and marble detail executed by expert Italian craftsmen has all been preserved intact. Original lighting fixtures are featured throughout.
Upon entering the mansion, most visitors are first struck by the glorious crystal chandelier. It is one of many lighting fixtures original with the house, though certainly the grandest, and it is believed to be either early Wedgewood or Baccarat crystal. All of the painted wood in the foyer is of solid mahogany. The wood was painted at the request of Harding Allen when he decided that the mahogany was too dark and austere for the entryway. The marble is of the highest quality, imported from Italy.
There are a number of features in the mansion that were very advanced for their time. For example, the foyer has a heated closet in which, as in all closets in the Estate, the light is triggered when the door is opened. Also off the foyer is an original bathroom and a ladies' powder room (now used as a storage closet). The doors to both, were it not for their handles, could be mistaken for ordinary wall panels, as there are no apparent hinges inside or out.
The living room was, upon completion, sealed for eighteen months so that the oak-paneled walls could be aged (by what is called the "fumed oak" process) without need of an artificial finish. The ceiling is covered with canvas, embellished with plaster moldings, and then painted, as are all the ceilings and most of the walls throughout the Estate
All of the wood sculpting above the fireplace was hand-carved; you can tell by the deliberate omission in the pattern, left by the anonymous artisan to distinguish his work from the mass-produced. The floors here and in the dining room are made of black walnut.
The living room also has its clever features. The wall sconces, made to resemble candelabra, have hand-painted screens and hidden switches (the bases of the "candles" twist on and off). Hanging by the fireplace is a sash which, when pulled, rang a bell in the pantry to summon the servants.
The music room, also known as the reception room, is richly ornamented, with gilded details on the walls, a herringbone pattern on the floor, and a French cut-crystal lighting fixture. The staircase is nearly as ornate as the one in the foyer; the mahogany banister had originally been covered in velvet. Some of the ceiling moldings are actually made not of plaster, but of glue, heated and shaped.
The dining room fireplace is made with two types of marble. A painting of an urn, filled with flowers and resting on marble that matches the fireplace, is embedded in the wall above. The ceiling fixture is one of the first Wedgewood fixtures to be wired for electricity; it may be older than the house.
A short hallway paneled with mirrors, modeled after the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, leads into the morning room. The floor is Italian marble, with a marble fountain embedded in a corner. Inlaid in the walls are canvas panels with oil paintings, credited to G. Remidas from 1918- years before the house was built. Another fine crystal chandelier, either French or Italian, completes the room.
The windows look out upon the walled English gardens.
To see more pictures, see the Gallery
Upstairs is the Spanish room, which, with its concrete base and massive fireplace, could only be supported by the Estate's steel-beam construction. The elements of the room, such as the wood-carved figurines or the stained-glass windows, all of which have been imported, relate to the story of Don Quixote. The ceiling is meant to suggest the overturned hull of a ship; the floor is covered with imported terracotta tiles.
The free-standing fireplace is decorated with stone-carved figures above the hearth, a coat of arms on the hood, and imported Andalusian tiles on the base.
Wrought-iron grates on either side of the fireplace hide radiators. The iron lighting fixtures replicate the medieval Spanish style, even down to the spiked ball hanging on the bottom of each, which could be hurled at an intruder in an emergency. A short hall contains two nooks designed for lighted statues, which were very much in vogue in the 1920s.
An inscription in Castilian Spanish is wound around the walls, which, roughly translated, reads;
"O very valiant gentlemen, whether you come from near or far away, from the north or from the south, this house welcomes you always. We are pleased to receive you; may your soul find peace during your stay. Then remember this place with joy, then go with God."