Brattleboro's Bradley House: Historic home gets historic name


BRATTLEBORO -- Amy Wilson used to visit the house at what is now 53 Harris Avenue when she was a little girl.

Wilson lived in Boston when she was growing up and she used to come up to the house, which was built by her grandfather Richards Merry Bradley, during the summer and on holidays.

It had been a long time since she visited and as she sat in what she called the summer parlor room on July 27 she looked across the room and talked about what it used to look like.

"There were portraits on the wall, and a piano, but the wallpaper was different," she said. "And there was straw on the floor. We called it ‘The Bradley Home Place,' and that is what we knew it as."

The historic home was built in 1868, and it has had a number of owners who used it for different reasons ranging from a World War II veterans home, to apartments, to a senior living facility.

In 2003 it was renamed Hilltop House when it became a non-denominational non-profit senior care facility.

On Sunday, Wilson joined her relatives representing four generations of the Bradley family as Hilltop House was formally renamed The Bradley House.

The Bradley House is now a senior care facility with 27 residents.

Board Chairwoman Enid Yates said the board has talked about changing the name back to The Bradley House for a number of years.

"We have felt for a long time that we wanted to honor the Bradley family and the history here," she said Sunday during a lawn celebration which included a visit by 10 of the Bradley relatives. "It is a beautiful building and we wanted to recognize the people who built it."

The renaming, Yates said, comes as the board also recently authorized changes to the management structure at the residential care living facility. The board named Lisa Holabird as the new residential care administrator, overseeing all nursing and resident care activities. Enid Wainwright is the new business administrator after serving as business manager for several years. She originally volunteered at the Bradley House, later joined the board, and was eventually hired part-time to help with the finances. She will lead all financial and day-to-day operational duties.

The board also named Edward Kowalski as facilities director, Tim Cavanaugh as activities director and Heather Corey the senior licensed nursing assistant.

The management changes and renaming both had to be approved by the Vermont Department of Aging and Independent living.

Wainwright said The Bradley House represents an important part of Brattleboro's history, and renaming the property and restructuring the management team gives the senior care facility a more stable future while recognizing its past.

Stephen Rowe Bradley became Vermont's first U.S. Senator in 1791 and his son William Bradley was elected to the Vermont Legislature, and later the U.S. Congress.

Stephen Rowe Bradley's great-grandson, Richards Bradley, built the Bradley House.

The Bradley family sold the estate in 1940 and the house remained a private residence or apartment building until the 1960s, when it was acquired by the Vermont State Baptist Convention, which established a retirement home in the building.

In 2003 it became Hilltop House when a non-denominational, non-profit organization was formed to acquire it from the Vermont State Baptist Convention.

Sally Epstein, another one of the grandchildren of Richards Merry Bradley, attended Sunday's event.

She remembers siting at the top of a silo that used to be near the barn down near the Connecticut River and betting her cousins how many train cars were attached to the steam engine as it passed through Brattleboro.

"This house is too big for a modern family. But now every room is being used," she said. "It's a perfect solution for a beautiful house. It was always sad that they took my grandfather's name away, and it is wonderful that it is back."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.


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