Sun Chronicle

‘In Wrentham, cheers over plans for this old house’

By Stephen Peterson / Sun Chronicle Staff Sat. March 8, 2008

One of the older and more distinctive homes in town is slated to be restored and turned into a country inn and restaurant that its new owners hope will attract visitors from around the globe.

The Civil War-era Proctor Mansion, which sits across from the town common, could rent its first rooms as soon as June, the owners say.

Sharon residents Brian and Dawn Fitzgerald hope to initially open three rooms to the public and, within a few years, have up to 12 rooms available. The home, built in 1861, is considered the finest example in town of Victorian architecture.

About four years down the line, a small restaurant seating about 30 people would either be located in the house or the carriage house, which in recent years was stabilized to keep it from falling down and needs more work than the home, Brian Fitzgerald said.

“It would be a very upscale restaurant for both guests and the public,” Fitzgerald told selectmen this week. “It will be kept reasonably small.” Three rooms on the first floor are in relatively good shape and would be the first to open, Fitzgerald said. Up to seven rooms would be opened by the second phase of the restoration, with the third floor, which had been the servants quarters and needs the most work, later turned into another five bedrooms.

Two full-time employees and from six to eight part-timers will be hired, Fitzgerald said.

“It will be an elegant, Victorian inn, peaceful and quiet … a place to enjoy a touch of yesterday,” Fitzgerald said.

Plans also call for the restoration of the English-style gardens on the grounds and the construction of a walking path to the common, landscape architect Jeffrey Richards of Meridian Associates of Westboro said. The property has some old trees, granite steps and walls, and ornate cast iron railings.

“The building is magnificent,” Richards said.

The Fitzgeralds intend to call the inn the Proctor Mansion Inn.

The home was built by Thomas Proctor, an industrialist who developed the process to manufacture the first pointed screws. Proctor only lived in the grand home a few years before he died in 1865.

“We would like to honor the person who built this wonderful property,” Fitzgerald said. “We look at ourselves as caretakers.”

The property is also known as the Hope Hall Estate after Hope Hall, whose grandfather, Daniel Brown, lived in the home after Proctor. Hall’s father, Ernest, was the town’s longtime librarian. Hope Hall lived in the house all her 73 years until her death in 1991. She willed the house to the Original Congregational Church downtown and other entities.

An auction sold off many of the house’s original antique and art furnishings, and the Fitzgeralds say they would love to acquire some of the items back. They are learning all they can about the house’s history to restore the property as completely as possible. Paul Minkin bought the home from the church and lived there for about 10 years before selling it to the Fitzgeralds last May.