Woodbury estate barns – 1900 through 2015

This column continues the building of the barns owned by the Woodbury family through to the present day.

After the raising of the main frame by 50 town volunteers in 1899, the project continued to the completion of the carriage shed and the milk barn.

The Woodburys ran a commercial dairy business in the largest barn complex north of Boston for many years. The business ceased operation in the 1920s.

The barns remained vacant until the 1970s, when, thanks to the courage and foresight of William "Bill" Smith, an auctioneer and antiques dealer, and the Manchester Management Corp., a division of a local bank, the complex was purchased from Peter Woodbury.

According to the National Antiques Review, this vast historical complex of barns was saved from the wrecking ball in 1970 instead of becoming a part of the creeping asphalt jungle.

I was fortunate to know Bill Smith as a friend and took part in the grand opening of The Barns of Bedford as a selectman representing the town in 1973.

This was considered a major development event for Bedford.

According to the National Antiques Review magazine of October 1973, "This became a meca for the N.E. antiques marketplace."

The plan was for over 100 individual shops for antique lovers and collectors. Unfortunately, the idea of an antiques marketplace of this huge proportion was just not supported and didn’t catch on. After a short existence, it was forced to close.

What happened next? You guessed it: a pizza joint known as Foodie’s opened up. It prospered many years, but later closed and moved to Milford.

A short time later, it was evident that the demise of The Barns of Bedford was in the cards. This was now a quality parcel of real estate prime for development. A Boston developer purchased the property and immediately submitted a plan to the town Planning Board for an office complex and demolition of the barns. This was the beginning of the large office complex that exists today.

With much negotiation, the Planning Board approved buildings 1 and 3 as they are today, with condition that the main barn be preserved and used as office space. Now known as Building 3, the carriage house, milk barn and a residence on the site were scheduled for demolition. "The Soper place," as the residence was called, was built in 1850 and named after Capt. Samuel T. Soper. The captain was a retired whaler from Provincetown, Mass. This style of home was very different to the area, as it was copied from Southern mansions with its long windows for ventilation (no air conditioning back then). Thanks to the local contractor’s foresight, the Soper place was rescued and moved about 300 yards north to be used as the contractor’s residence. After 155 years, the property is still in use as the contractor’s residence.

The milk barn was purchased by the same contractor and moved about 100 yards up Kilton Road, where it has been used for many years as office space. Currently, it houses Triolo’s Bakery, all dressed out in its original barn-red hue.

The carriage shed was the only victim of the wrecker’s ball.

Today, Building 1, of concrete and glass, has replaced the Soper place. Building 3 is the orginal main barn with a modern entrance standing strong after 115 years. Buildings number 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 were built on open land. Will they last 115 years?

There is a separate parcel of open land west of the barn that was a Diamond Lumber retail store, then became C.R. Sparks restaurant, an upscale eatery. After years of sucess, Sparks was bought out and the building now houses a Lexus auto dealership.

All in the name of progress. Who knows what the future will bring?

(Source: "Bedford History 1737-1971.")