Building Business: The Meeting House at Redbrook
Plimoth Plantation, the second permanent English settlement in America, was also an early example of an intentional, planned community, though its needs and vision were both more severe than its modern descendents. For starters, its religious requirements were rigorous, and its gates—constructed of eight-foot poles, sharpened to deadly points—were more intimidating than any quaint rock wall or picket fence. Town planners, including William Bradford, whose journal provides the basis for much of our understanding of the village, chose an abandoned Wampanoag cornfield, built fortifications, and arranged houses along a “high way” that led uphill to a meeting house. In 1628, Isaack de Rasieres, chief Trading Agent for the Dutch West India Company, described this structure as “a large square house with a flat roof, built of thick sawn planks stayed with oak beams, upon the top of which they have six cannons, which shoot iron balls of four and five pounds, and command the surrounding country. The lower part they use for their church, where they preach on Sundays and the usual holidays…” Logic suggests that the meeting house may have played a role in the first Thanksgiving, too, if not to serve up the venison and cranberry sauce, at least to bless the gathered grateful.
Though the modern community of Plymouth has grown up over the foundations the Pilgrims laid in that fallow field, the re-creation of New England’s original community continues to draw nearly a million visitors every year. About 11 miles south of the Plimoth Plantation historical park, just on the edge of Myles Standish State Forest, a new, planned community named Redbrook has taken root in cranberry country, offering “the New England Village reimagined.” In 2015, its first residents moved in; today over 100 homes have been built, and a budding community has begun to thrive. As was the case in Plymouth’s original settlement, The Meeting House occupies the village’s heart. While it shares its predecessor’s quality of providing a variety of services, this modern structure houses neither an altar nor cannons.
Developed by the A.D. Makepeace Company, the Redbrook community began with a village green and the notion that “the best New England villages balance natural beauty and planned function.” The Meeting House would be its first structure, designed by Saltonstall Architects of Marion and constructed by the Valle Group of East Falmouth. “This building was meant to set the architectural tone of the village,” says Will Saltonstall, CEO and chief architect. It would also help establish a theme important to the developer and to this particular project—one of a committed, caring community. Appropriately, the first public event in The Meeting House was the A.D. Makepeace Company’s festive reception for some 80 representatives of nonprofit organizations selected to receive grants from the company’s charitable foundation.
Historically, the quintessential New England hamlet was rural and would typically broaden from relatively dense residential areas to the wider spaces needed for pastures and fields. Redbrook aims to imitate that progression, as does The Meeting House itself. Says Saltonstall, “The building has three masses, and it mimics the way farm houses expand.” Each section of The Meeting House has its own distinct texture, which serves both to emphasize some of Redbrook’s themes and to showcase its styles. The middle part is shingled, with an inviting front porch. This portion of the building was also designed to require no staffing; it can remain open to the public when the two wings are closed. Residents and visitors are welcome to stop in. To the right of the entrance, the largest wing has clapboard siding and another covered porch. Its interior currently houses the development’s main showroom along with offices for the marketing and sales departments. The final wing of the house features a board-and-batten exterior, the vertical style so prominent in the region’s classic barns.
This wing, painted a deep cranberry red, also hosts Redbrook’s cafe and catering business, appropriately named The Farmer’s Table. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch all day, and the owner, a teacher at Johnson and Wales University, also prepares take-out orders, offers cooking lessons, caters fundraisers and community events, and serves special dinners such as the Full Moon Dinner held in early November. “The location of The Farmer’s Table right on the green is important to us,” says Linda Burke of the A.D. Makepeace Company.
Elements from The Meeting House appear in a number of offerings available in Redbrook’s inventory of homes, all of which continue to draw from the A.D. Makepeace Company’s history in cranberry farming. To help achieve this continuity, Saltonstall Architects designed four of the original prototype houses and the YMCA building across the Village Green. The Valle Group would build the first two neighborhoods to begin their work at Redbrook, and the company’s signature, “homes that beautifully blend indoor and outdoor living,” would fit Redbrook’s theme to perfection. “The home styles we have built are a microcosm of the architecture and finishes in The Meeting House,” says Christian Valle, president of The Valle Group.
Just as the exterior of The Meeting House offers a preview of Redbrook’s outward appearances, its interior serves a similar function. “The palette of interior finishes throughout The Meeting House is meant to be warm, welcoming, and consistent with locally sourced materials,” Saltonstall notes. “The floors in the two wings are made with antique reclaimed wood that looks like boards from old barns.” In addition, Burke says, “In the public spaces inside, the décor, curated by the NE Collaborative Design Group LLC, reflects the A.D. Makepeace Company logo and its berry red and leafy green colors.” White beadboard cabinetry, shutters designed to look like barn doors, a lit version of Redbrook’s master plan under glass, and the entry room’s flagstone floor are just some of the highlights. Also, “The large, 1,600-square-foot great room for entertaining features a stone fireplace and an enlarged timber mantle along with custom built-ins and woodwork such as sliding doors that cover the TV and reception areas,” Valle says.
Though New England is no stranger to golf communities and developments that cater to retirees, Redbrook hopes to attract people from wider demographics—young families, first-time homebuyers, and professionals who seek nature’s solace yet require reasonable commute times to and from their urban workplaces. It’s fitting then that the local YMCA stands prominently across the Village Green from The Meeting House. In addition to its function as a focal point for fitness and activity within the village, the YMCA creates in Redbrook a destination for residents of the broader community and helps to eliminate the air of exclusivity that fogs over some developments.
“Redbrook’s appeal is for people who really value the natural world around them,” says Burke. For this reason, only a quarter of the 1,400-acre site will be developed, in a village consisting of 1,200 homes. The remainder will be preserved as woods with walking trails, rivers with kayaking access, ponds, and vistas for birdwatching. The A.D. Makepeace Company will also continue growing cranberries, an industry that depends on plentiful clean water. In fact, Redbrook is named for a successful clean water initiative in the nearby Red Brook, which flows from Plymouth into Buttermilk Bay in Wareham. This stream is home to one of the last populations of sea-run brook trout—or “salters”—in the area, and the company has worked closely with environmental groups and the Lyman Reserve to restore this important habitat. By removing dams and other accommodations intended to be more hospitable for these fish, these efforts became representative of the company’s approach to its land stewardship responsibilities. So what better name for the new community, to be built a short distance away, using those same principles?
Since Redbrook opened in 2015, its team has expanded to include notable builders such as Stabile Homes and Whitman Homes, and the project has garnered a number of prestigious awards in categories such as best land planning, best website, and community spirit. Saltonstall concludes, “For me as an architect, it has been really fun to see the village of Redbrook evolve from a clearing and a green to the active community that’s being created with dozens of homes. As the density increases, it’s really starting to blossom and to show its successes.”
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