Owner reflects on 50 years in New Bedford home built in 1904


NEW BEDFORD – At the corner of Country and Pearl Streets, overlooking the southwest corner of Clasky Commons, is a house over 110 years old. Inside, owner Sandra Hathaway has witnessed the transformation of the city over the past 50 years, and while she has many great accomplishments, maintaining the home’s authentic condition is one of its greatest.

“I wish the people who lived here, who were born here and whose parents were born here, would have more understanding of the history of the city and more respect for it,” said Hathaway, 82.

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When Hathaway had the opportunity to move to New Bedford, she jumped at the chance. She has had an interesting history with the Whaling Town since the age of 8 and grew up in Hudson, New York in the late 1940s.

Sandra Hathaway shows the windows which have been the same since moving into the house in the 1960s.

Hathaway would visit Hudson American Revolutionary Daughters’ Chapter Hall Library and Museum, which had a giant photo of a whaling boat above the door. She remembers looking through an octagonal photo box to see three-dimensional photos of whaling ships and active fishing harbors.

“I was fascinated,” she said, adding that Nantucket Whalers dragged some of their whales along the Hudson River to the same area they had been raised. “And all the photos were from New Bedford.”

After graduating from Hobart and William Smith College with an English degree, she met her first husband, Charles White. They moved to New Bedford in 1968, when he got a job at UMasse Dartmouth. (White would go on to become the longest-serving full professor in Massachusetts history.)

Sandra Hathaway's home in Acushnet Heights, across from Clasky Common, is filled with a rich history.

Move into a historic house

Soon after, Hathaway and White divorced and she moved into the historic home in Acushnet Heights. “I come from an Irish Catholic background and moved to an Irish Catholic neighborhood. It was a little weird, ”Hathaway joked.

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Hathaway, 24, raised her three children at home. One of her daughters graduated in electrical engineering from UMasse Dartmouth and his other daughter, Jennifer Smith, run the National Park in downtown New Bedford. Her son died at the age of 17.

Hathaway worked as Associate Dean at UMass Dartmouth, managing the evening and summer school program for almost 30 years. “My other biggest achievement has been helping women get their degrees,” she said. Hathaway said she helped women feel empowered to succeed and welcomed anyone late with paying school fees.

Hathaway shows off some of her favorite photos as she walks up the stairs to the second floor of her home in New Bedford.

“You would be amazed at how many men are threatened by their wives or girlfriends who go to college… that was a common pattern.” Hathaway also obtained his MBA from UMass Dartmouth and then later obtained his law degree.

“I’ve always lived my life like they’re telling me I can’t do something that is a fucking thing I’m going to do,” she said with a laugh. “If women didn’t get a bachelor’s degree, I was going to get one. If women didn’t get an MBA, I got one.

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In 1986, Hathaway married her second husband. One of his fondest memories is when he took her for a boat ride in New Bedford Harbor where Melville has been before.

“I started to cry. I was so overwhelmed by it.

Visit of the house

Before the house was built in 1904, the property contained the Parkers Mansion which was considered one of the most captivating structures in the whole city, according to an old newspaper clipping on the back of a photo provided by Hathaway.

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The estate was demolished and subdivided to build smaller houses. Walter S. Gordon built the house in the front yard of the estate. Hathaway said when she first moved in an elderly neighbor told her he saw the house under construction and it was beautifully built, remaining in the same condition ever since.

A photo of the Jon Avery Parker mansion, who once resided on the property that now houses Hathaway's home.

Hathaway says his home has been the subject of a historic home visit a few times. However, she said, she stopped a few years ago because it is difficult to put the house in perfect condition for tourists.

Inside the house there are elaborate moldings on the ceiling and in the hallway of the public rooms on the first floor. All windows are matched, including the front door. There is a spiral staircase to the cellar which has a small wine cellar and laundry chute.

“It’s kind of like being in a lighthouse,” Hathaway said, adding that you can see the water when the leaves aren’t on the trees. “The top of the hill, the top of the wall, the top of the foundation. You know, we are really very high up.

An original photo of the living room on the first floor of the house.

The kitchen has an original stone sink and some of the counters have remained the same. The wallpaper also remained the same, including in a room with painted whaling ships.

There is an old fashioned tub in the bathroom. Hathaway says the only addition to the house was a closet in the master bedroom which has been converted into a bathroom.

Unfortunately, when Hathaway moved into the house, the previous owners took everything, including the fixtures attached to the house.

“I had no idea they were supposed to stay years later,” Hathaway admitted.

To compensate, the house is full of vintage and retro items that seem to complement the ambiance of the space perfectly. Hathaway said she and her husband would go hunting, finding vintage items that went well with the New Bedford home and vibe.

A work of art on the second floor of the Hathaway house in New Bedford.

In the hallway on the second floor, there are long-standing books on UMass Dartmouth written by her colleagues whom she has gathered alongside a collection of ancient bull statues she inherited from a neighbor.

There are also creative works of art that Hathaway made herself or collected from local artists. In one room are old photos of New Bedford sites such as Clasky Common in the mid-1970s. Hathaway said her daughter was responsible for a grant ten years ago to restore the Common Trails of the park at their original location.

Sandra Hathaway points to old photos of Clasky Common.

Outside the house the large courtyard has a lightly overgrown garden with an ancient koi pond. There are unique statues camouflaged in the bushes, including a gargoyle. What’s most fascinating about the house, no matter how many times you walk through a room, there is apparently something new to notice.

As for spiritual connections? Hathaway, who has studied and taught astrology and the mystical elements, says she never felt any energy in the house. “I think if anyone’s going to haunt this house, it’s probably going to be me,” she said.

What the city means to Hathaway

Hathaway’s love for the town of New Bedford is clear. She knows a lot about her history and tries to tell anyone to visit her. She has always been confused as to why people have such a negative impression of the South Coast.

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“What I’ve learned over the years is that the people who were born here and live here have a vision of the city that I don’t find really accurate,” she added.

Hathaway says that in the first hallway in the center of the national park, there is an exhibit with several photos from the 1800s and the story of a man who escaped slavery by boat. When he arrived at New Bedford Pier, he saw a crowd and feared for his life at first.

Sandra Hathaway sits on her patio remembering living in New Bedford for the past 50 years.

“And then he said,” When I got off the boat in the crowd, they all greeted me. And I knew I was home, ”Hathaway said with tears in his eyes. “I think that’s kind of the change that the Whaling Museum and the National Park are trying to make for our city.”

Standard-Times writer Seth Chitwood can be contacted at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.

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