The Bidwell House was built c. 1760 by the Rev. Adonijah
Bidwell (1716-1784) the first minister of Township No. 1 (today’s
Monterey and Tyringham). The house and property stayed in the Bidwell family
through three generations, and the architecture reflects all three: the ell on
the north side was built by Rev. Bidwell’s son Adonijah Jr. in the 1820’s, and
the wing to the east was built by his grandson John Devotion Bidwell in 1836.
The house was sold out of the family in 1853.
Today the museum owns 192 acres, which includes the original 60
acre house lot given to Reverend Bidwell when he arrived. Although it now
appears isolated, in 1760 the home was in the center of town, built on the
Royal Hemlock Road, the main road connecting the two settlements of Township
No. 1, close to the intersection with the Boston-Albany Post Road. The original
meeting house was located just south of The Bidwell House.
The museum opened in 1990 thanks to the generosity of two men,
Jack Hargis and David Brush. They bought the house in 1960, restored it to its
original appearance, and furnished it with 18th and early 19th century
decorative arts. Mr. Hargis and Mr. Brush used Rev. Bidwell’s 1784 death
inventory as a guide for furnishing the home.
The Dining Room. Photo by David Dashiell
Located off the Keeping Room is the room that served as a formal
entertaining space, as well as a Dining Room. There is a second
bake oven to the right of the fireplace and a large closet to the left. The
corner cupboard is original to the house, as are the hearts carved in the
hallway door. Most of the china displayed in the corner cupboard is 18th
century Delft from The Netherlands. From Rev. Bidwell’s inventory we know he
had no carpets or window treatments, both extravagant luxuries for the time.
These were added by Hargis and Brush.
The Entrance Hall. Photo by David Dashiell
The home’s Entrance Hall is spacious compared
to most 18th century center-chimney saltbox homes. The wall colors throughout
the house were chosen to match the original colors which were discovered under
layers of modern paint that were stripped off during the restoration. Green was
an expensive color in the 18th century and therefore was reserved for entrance
halls and parlors to impress visitors.
The Parlor was the most elegant room in the
house and was reserved for only the best company. The paneling is the most
elaborate and the fireplace has a marble hearth.The original brick of the
fireplace was preserved from smoke damage by a smaller marble insert in the
19th century. This insert was removed during the restoration since it was known
not to be original. The tour continues upstairs.
The Best Bedchamber is comparable to today’s
master bedroom. We think that it may have been used as an office and study for
Rev. Bidwell. It is located upstairs away from all the commotion of the public
rooms on the first floor and it has a fireplace for heat. There is also a small
crane in the fireplace to heat water for coffee or tea. The crewel work bed
hangings (reproduction of an 18th century pattern) and the original 18th
century lindsey-woolsey quilt are examples of the few artistic expressions for
women of the time period.
The much simpler second bed chamber, we call it the Children’s
Room, has the original wood wall paneling, which was never painted.
There is no fireplace in this room – possibly for safety reasons. The period
quilts represent part of the museum’s excellent textile collection.
To the rear of the house, off both bed chambers, is the Garrett.
This rough, attic-like space would have been used for storage and as sleeping
space for farm hands or other help. Today it contains displays of antique
baskets and the historic chair collection.
The downstairs room located off the Keeping Room is part of an
addition built in the 1830s by Rev. Bidwell’s grandson, John Devotion Bidwell,
the third and last Bidwell to own the house. Today used for exhibits or as a
sitting room, this room once contained a front and back door. We speculate that
this room served John Devotion Bidwell as an office, since he was the town’s
Justice of the Peace, a surveyor, tanner, and farmer. In addition to this room,
the 1830 wing contains a side entrance porch, carriage barn, and attic space