If you’ve ever enjoyed a delicious Concord grape, this property in Concord, Mass., is where the popular grape variety got its start, thanks to Ephraim Wales Bull.
It kind of sucks to tell you about grapes, which I hear are delicious, because I’m a dog and I can’t eat them. Hrumph!
Anyhow, early maps show Bull (1806-1895) living here in 1852, but town records show he rented the place even longer, before eventually buying it in 1859. A gold beater by trade, Bull moved to Concord around 1836-1838 either for his health, or for potential work associated with carriage building industry.
Bull was an amateur horticulturist, too, developing new breeds of roses and other plants. But his claim to fame came in 1849 with his development the Concord grape, which he achieved by experimenting with wild, native seedlings.
The grapes were introduced to the market in 1854, becoming wildly popular. Commonly used for juices, jams, candy, soft drinks and kosher wines, it is still the most widely cultivated grape in America.
“For many years a trellis grew against the cottage wall , (possibly that shown in an early postcard photograph), supported the original Concord grapevine,” according to the entry in the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System. “It was winterkilled some time in this century, however, and a present vine on the property is a shoot from the old root.”
For years, Bull was one of Concord’s most respected citizens, serving as head of the Board of Selectmen and later as a Representative to the state legislature.
Sadly, Bull died in poverty in an old folks home. The cottage fell into disrepair until it was purchased and rehabbed by its next door neighbor, Harriet Lothrop, a famous children’s author who wrote under the name of Margaret Sidney. (She lived at The Wayside: Home of Authors, which was also home to Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott. We detailed that house in an earlier post.)
Lothrop called it “Grapevine Cottage,” and rented it out for many years before it was purchased by Mrs. Mary C. Tobin, who opened a tea room in the house.
The house itself dates back to at least 1716 when it was owned by blacksmith Thomas Ball. But it is possible part of the house may have been constructed in the late 17th century.
Despite having different owners, it remained a blacksmith’s house for 100 years before Bull moved in.