Years ago, if it was a handful of Swedish fish, Bit-O-Honeys, or Atomic Fireballs you desired, or a hand-knitted cardigan with buttons shaped like sheep, the place to find them was the Country Store in Concord.
Built in 1780 as a wing of Elnathan Jones home at 140 Main St. for use as his store, the structure was moved in 1793 to 25 Monument St., where John Thoreau, Henry’s father, ran a shop downstairs and lived upstairs with his family until 1850. It moved again that year, to 15 Monument St., the original site of the Town House. In 1941 it became the F.H. Trumbull Country Store and later the Trumbull-Locke Country Store, when Trumbull’s daughter and her husband became involved, operating until about 1982.
In 1987 the Nature Company moved into the space and in 1996 it became The Cottage, a furniture and design shop. Now the building has found new life as a gallery and event space called the 1780 House.
The gallery is the dreamchild of Concord residents Maeve McWhinney, a photographer, and her husband, Patrick, who is the co-founder and CEO of Insight Partners, a leadership advisory consulting firm focused on conflict management. They were looking for a space to serve as Maeve’s studio and gallery and fell in love with the structure. Soon they realized that “it could be so much more” than a place for her art, Patrick said.
“We knew there was a deep connection between the town and the old store and felt that it should be made public again,” said Patrick. “It was the building that changed our vision.”
What followed was a three-year renovation project that addressed just about every inch of the place. They took it down to the studs, salvaging everything they could.
That effort included creating fireplaces using the building’s old chimney bricks and restoring the windows, some of which had been covered over, and preserving most of their wavy glass. The centuries-old 15-inch yellow pine boards that now cover the floors came from a Massachusetts factory that was one of the first investments the British made in the area.
The McWhinneys partnered with Frank Shirley Architects in Cambridge and custom builders Adams + Beasley in Carlisle, who did “meticulous and thoughtful work,” said Patrick. The renovation incorporated Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.
A fully equipped chef’s kitchen at the back of the gallery can be used for catered events. Upstairs there is a smaller kitchen, an inviting sitting room with a wood stove, and a handsome board/dining room with a table that can seat 12 and windows on three sides that provide expansive views of the village green.
Whimsical touches include personalized kitchen cubbies for the couple’s four children, ages 4 to 14, and for the two children of Patrick’s business partner. The stairway walls are papered in original and colorful WWII posters.
The result is spare and light, but warm and welcoming, and is a blend of “Colonial, modern, and industrial” design, said Maeve. “We want people to feel as if they are visiting an old home, with fires going and music playing.” The 1800-square-foot gallery can accommodate up to 48 for a private party or meeting. That area and the boardroom are equipped with advanced technology for presentations. “We wanted it to be a space where creative exchanges can occur,” Patrick said.
The gallery features Maeve’s portraiture, landscape and still life photography, and work by other artists. There are Concord-themed items for sale, even bags of individually wrapped penny candy. Inside, above the front door, hangs the original F.H. Trumbull sign.
Maeve did not anticipate the couple would end up embarking on such an ambitious project. A graduate of Wellesley who earned a master’s of education degree in Human Development and Psychology at Harvard, she met her future husband while working in the field of conflict management.
Patrick is a native of Toronto who studied at McGill and Harvard, where he earned a master’s degree in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution. He has worked with leading international organizations and served as the special advisor on negotiation to the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The McWhinneys said the 1780 House was borne of a desire to “respect history in a modern way” and that it is an expression of their mutual passion for architecture and design and their enjoyment of transforming spaces.
The venture is not something they expect to profit from, noted Patrick. “We did this to invest in the town, which has been so supportive, and we hope it inspires other preservation and restoration projects in Concord.”
Winter hours at the 1780 House are Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m, Saturday from noon to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.