Walking The Halls of Historic Homes

By Wendy Bawabe, President of the Norwell Historical Society

Photography by Tom Sheehan

When a historic home has impeccable interior design that respects the architecture of the residence, it is the perfect candidate for a historic house tour. When such a house also has an interesting story, it’s a home run. 

Several distinctive residences will open their doors to visitors on April 30 for the Norwell Historic House Tour. A distinctive Norwell home known as “Kenfields” will serve as the centerpiece of the tour. The event is a benefit for the James Library and Center for the Arts, a stately and iconic Victorian building in Norwell Center that features a concert hall, art gallery and a free lending library.


The History of Kenfields 

Shipbuilding was a vital industry in Norwell until the mid-1800s, and the history of  Kenfields begins there—with the North River and the Magoun family of shipbuilders who worked at the Brick Kiln Yard, the last shipyard in Pembroke.

Elias Magoun (b. 1673) was one of Pembroke’s founding fathers. Around 1892, Elias’ great (X4) grandson, Henry Magoun, built two Queen Anne/Craftsman style homes on the North River—one for himself in Pembroke overlooking the North River bridge and the former site of the Brick Kiln Yard, and one for his sister, Harriott, in Norwell overlooking the former site of the Fox Hill Shipyard. Long before today’s pine trees grew tall along the banks of the North River, the two houses may have been able to see each other in the distance.

Harriott Magoun, known as “Hattie,” was born in 1866. At age 24, she married Frederick Kendall of Boston. The wedding took place in Pembroke, and the couple lived on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston with Kendall’s parents. Fred was a broker in hides and skins—in particular, imported goat skins used for “kid gloves” which were expensive and in demand at the time. An article in Boston and Bostonians from 1894 noted that Fred Kendall’s house “is in every respect thoroughly representative of this branch of American commerce.” One can only imagine the hides that were on display in the Kendall’s home.

Around 1892, Hattie and Fred purchased land on the North River in Norwell to build a summer home away from the Boston heat. The Kendalls not only bought acreage for their new house, but they also purchased two 18th century homes adjacent to the property.

The Kendalls named their new home “Kenfields” and built a long driveway that connected the three houses and a large stone gatehouse (still standing today as its own residence). The Kenfields estate was the summer home for the Kendall family until 1944.

Built for summer living, all the home’s exterior doors are Dutch doors where the top half opens to allow the summer breezes in, while keeping small children inside and animals outside. There are two screened porches, numerous sleeping porches, and floor-to-ceiling windows to let in the summer air.


Restoring the Glory

The moment they stepped into the house in 2012, Mark and Leigh McGlinchey knew how special Kenfields was. The couple has maintained this home’s historic details, while updating it for a modern family.

A professional kitchen designer who works at Topnotch Design Studio in Hanover, Leigh was able to completely renovate the existing 1980s-era kitchen while respecting the home’s history. Leaded glass cabinets incorporate the Craftsman style and the kitchen latches look like those on an old ice box. There are three pantries—reflecting the era in which the house was built.

“One of my favorite details in this home is the servant calling box—reminiscent of the Downtown Abbey bells.” Manufactured in Rockland and made with movable arrows and bells to indicate which exterior door or room was in need of assistance, the box is still visible in the downstairs hallway today.

“We feel very lucky to now be a part of Kenfields’ history,” says Leigh McGlinchey, admiring the waves in the large panes of glass. “What a pleasure it was to brighten this home with a historically-minded facelift.”


For more information or to purchase tickets to the house tour, visit The James Library and Center for the Arts, 24 West Street, Norwell, or visit jameslibrary.org.