A fresh look at an old Acton home

June 21, 2024
A man wearing a green polo shirt stands in front of a screen at the Acton Memorial Library. The screen shows a picture of the Edwards house from many years ago.
Dave Hardt describing the history of the Edwards House on Pope Road. Photo: Jody Harris

Monday evening, June 9th brought MIT Professor and Acton resident, David Hardt, to the Acton 250 Committee with a highly detailed and engrossing look into the ownership, construction, and history of one of Acton’s oldest homes.

The Edwards house, located at 328 Pope Road on the Concord border, has been carefully preserved by Hardt and his wife, Susan Mitchell-Hardt, for 43 years. In this time, Hardt has made a thorough study of his home and surrounding neighborhood.

In 1745, Nathaniel Edwards, a resident of Concord, purchased two pieces of property in Acton that were still closely connected to Concord. (At one point, Acton’s name was Concord Village.) The purchased property totaled more than sixty acres and sits on what is now Pope Road, though most of Pope Road itself did not exist that time.

1750 brought the construction of the Edwards home in the classic Saltbox style. Professor Hardt explained that most homes at the time were built with four rooms surrounding a central fireplace, two on the first floor and two on the second. Additions on the first floor resulted in the classic Saltbox shape. The Edwards house, in contrast, seems to have been built as a Saltbox originally, with the first floor rooms at the back being part of the original construction.

Professor Hardt explained that through his research he discovered unmarried-at-the-time Nathaniel Edwards listed in town records as a “housewright”, which today translates roughly as a contractor or home builder. Hardt hypothesized that Edwards may have built a larger house – 1302 square feet, compared to the many smaller homes in Acton averaging less than 1000 square feet – not only because he had the skills and the desire for a larger home, but also perhaps as a kind of model of his abilities for potential customers.

Remaining in the home to this day are original elaborate Georgian paneling and wide plank floors, carefully crafted windows, higher than average ceilings (for that time), and dentil and crown molding.

Addressing the history of the Edwards family itself, Hardt told the audience that Edwards married a woman named Susanah and they had a number of children in the home. Edwards, his wife, and his oldest son, Nathaniel Jr. are buried in Acton Center’s Woodlawn cemetery.

Edwards’ various town positions are also listed in local records, showing that he served as Constable; Tything man, responsible for keeping order in the Meeting House; Surveyor of Highways; Selectman; and also as a member of a committee to build three new schoolhouses in town. Importantly, Edwards was a Minuteman in Captain Isaac Davis’ company.

Nathaniel Jr. was a clockmaker by trade and focused much of his work on tall clocks. Before his early death, he was known to have constructed ten of these clocks. Hardt has been able to track down five of them. Notably, two are currently installed in the Concord Museum, one is in the Carlisle library, and one is privately owned by an Acton family.

A series of beautiful handmade grandfather clocks.
Nathaniel Edwards clocks held in various collections. Photo: Composite image: David Hardt

In later years, the house changed hands: first it was sold to Nathaniel’s son John for £300, with a mortgage of £150, and on that was placed a condition in which John was required to care and provide for his parents in their old age.

The house was subsequently sold to the Tuttle, Barett, Robbins, and Lapham families, respectively, and finally in 1899 to the Mekkelson family, who had immigrated to the area from Norway. They maintained ownership of the house and property for sixty-five years. The Mekkelsons named the property Spring Hill Farm. This name remains for the conservation land that was set aside from within the original property. After the Mekkelsons, the home was purchased by a developer from Lincoln, who later sold the house and a smaller portion of the acreage to the Mott family, who then sold it to the Hardt/Mitchell-Hardt family.

Since purchasing the house over thirty years ago, the Hardts have worked diligently to restore much of the historic exterior of the home, while similarly maintaining much of the historic interior. Fervent conservationists and preservationists – Susan Mitchell-Hardt is the President of the ActonConservation Trust – the couple are in the process of placing much of their property under a conservation restriction and hope to find a way to designate the home as a historic property to ensure future preservation.


A contemporary view of the Edwards house, now painted yellow.
A current view of the Edwards house. Photo: David Hardt

Kimberly Hurwitz is the Acton Exchange beat reporter for Acton250 events.

CORRECTION (July 13, 2024): David Hardt and Susan Mitchell-Hardt have owned their Pope Road home for 43 years, considerably more than the “more than 30 years” originally posted. The article has been corrected.


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