A Survival Story

A Plymouth landmark preserves the past while taking heed of the present.

By Ann Luongo | Photography by Tom Sheehan

The Maybury home in Plymouth was in a sad state of disrepair when Carla and Ritchie Garrison first laid eyes on it. The front porch was nearing collapse, the aluminum siding was 40 years old and there was a tree growing in one of the gutters.

“It seemed forlorn,” Ritchie says. However, thanks in part to his training as an architectural historian, he could see beyond the obvious to the beauty of what this home had once been, and could be yet again. “I chose to see it as a remarkable survival that was worth preserving because so much of the past was still there,” Garrison explains.

Protecting the past

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Before: The front of the house before the restoration project began.

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After: The front porch was preserved, bringing the whole project together, says builder Eric Thorson of his favorite part of the renovation.

Built in 1838 by Joseph and Betsy Maybury, the home contained a parlor with an Egyptian marble chimney piece, wall-to-wall carpeting, and decorative trim and wallpaper, as well as its original laundry washer in the basement, the remnants of the original masonry ice refrigerator, and its cooking hearth and bake oven. All but the refrigerator are now functional once more.

The couple knew renovating the historic home would be no small task. But they were up for the challenge and hired the talents of local architect Bill Forniciari of BF Architects and Eric Thorson and his team at Thorson Restoration to help them realize their vision of preserving and updating the home’s unique interior while also incorporating a new addition.

“I’ve known this house my entire life,” Forniciari says. “It’s a great home in downtown Plymouth.” It was six months of planning, he says, before the real work even began. In regard to the exterior of the home, he says a small outbuilding (“more of a workshed”) was remodeled and extended to look like a full-size barn. “[The Garrisons] were so easy to work with,” says Forniciari. “They bought into our concept right away.”

 

Historical accuracy prevails

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Before: The formal dining room as a work in progress.

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After: A circa 1840 portrait of the house hangs above the original Egyptian marble mantel in the dining room.

Accurately restoring the older, front part of the home was of the utmost importance to Ritchie, says Carla, who points out that the project was more of a restoration than a remodel. “The English woven carpets, restored woodwork, inconspicuous heating and air conditioning, restored working fireplaces and period antiques help achieve that,” she explains. The windows, heating and air conditioning, electrical and plumbing are completely new, while the mid-century galley kitchen, a later addition, was removed. Working with restoration experts Michael Burrey from MLB Restorations and Penelope Austin, the dropped, plaster ceilings in the parlor and dining room were torn out and replicated and the wall plaster in the old house was repaired and remains mostly intact.

Thorson recounts, “Our focus was on restoring the main house, the front porch, adding new windows and trim, and matching the original details of the house. But Thorson’s favorite part of the restoration is the front porch. “I think the front porch really brings it all together,” he says.

Additional living space

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Instead of applying wallpaper, the new kitchen was painted gray and the family room light blue for a conspicuously modern look that separates the new addition from the original portion of the house.

When it came time to plan the addition, however, the homeowners adopted a more contemporary look and layout for modern-day living that purposely signals where the new was added onto the old. “In the addition, we wanted a large modern kitchen, a large, open family room to gather in, and a comfortable and modern first-floor master suite,” says Carla. An indoor therapy pool was also installed in the basement. “The grandkids and Gramma adore the pool and our time together in it,” says Carla. “I also use the pool and its swim current [to] exercise.”

About the new addition, Ritchie says, “We’ll mix and match the antique and modern because that’s the essence of being human and it’s encoded into our DNA.” The family room embraces this belief with the mixing of a modern and efficient gas fireplace with a surrounding marble chimney piece (as they were known in the 18th and 19th centuries) that was copied from a design published by Asher Benjamin around 1842. It looks modern because of its simplicity and most visitors to the house think the design is contemporary. Across the room is the kitchen island in an eye-popping red against a backdrop of subtle grays.

Ritchie quips: “The Maybury House is now 177 years old or 2 years old, depending on how you look at it.” Because of the historic building’s solid bones, it could be preserved along with its past. “A team of remarkable people rehabilitated it in its old age,” says Ritchie. “And its stories – their stories – are worth hearing if you can slow down enough to listen to them in the long arc of history.”

Build: Thorson Restoration
Architect: Bill Fornaciari from BF Architects

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After: Loop pile Brussels carpet with historically accurate acorn pattern was custom made by JR Burrows & Company; the custom wallpaper was based on a patterns found in other, nearby historic homes.

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Before: The front stairs before custom, reproduction wallpaper and carpeting were installed.

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