The Historic Hartley Mansion was sold by the Hartley family in approximately 1952 and then went on to serve as the “Sound View Nursing Home” and finally the “LeGault Nursing Home.In 1983 my office space in the Medical Dental Building on Colby Avenue in downtown Everett was no longer big enough for my colleague Tobae McDuff , myself and new colleagues that were to follow. Therefore, I somehow learned that the old LeGault Nursing Home on Rucker Avenue about half way between what was then Providence Hospital and the old Everett General Hospital was available. Having always been a fan of old buildings, I encouraged my father to take a look at it. At this time I had no idea about the historical significance of the building.
I first toured the “LeGault Nursing Home” – only latter to be referred to as the “Historic Hartley Mansion” – with my father, Sanford Wright Sr., a retired general building contractor, and Bob Butterfield, an old friend of my father’s, and founder of the architectural company, “Butterfield Design”. The residents looked as us in a curious way. Later, after the purchase of the LeGault Nursing Home, an article appeared in the HERALD newspaper about the sadness that the residents experienced when they had to move to new quarters.
Upon the recommendation of Bob and my father, the Newland Construction Company was asked to help with the restoration and renovations. The project manager proved to be Pete Newland, who later became a close friend. Many outstanding business owners and tradesmen to convert the “LeGault Nursing Home” back into the “Historic Harley Mansion”. (Please go to “The Everett Neurological Center Opening” and “THANK YOU!” for a complete listing of all involved.)
During the renovation the true significance of this structure suddenly became apparent, when I was introduced to Sue Hartley Brown, who had lived with her parents and grandparents (Roland Hartley) for the first 16 years of her life. (See “The Everett Neurological Center Opening”.) She is the one that explained the handwriting on all of the “In-Mansion” phones was that of her grandfather.
By the time that I first saw the stately Mansion in 1983, the ornate porch railings had long since been removed and replaced by scaffolding. There was a long, concrete ramp extending from the main porch all the way to the sidewalk on Rucker Aveneue to allow wheelchair access for the patients. The cut glass window to the left of the front door was removed so that a craft room could be built out onto the main porch.
The straight grain oak on the main floor and fir upstairs was covered with old, worn linoleum. The pocket doors dividing the dinning room to the right and the living room to the left had been removed and replaced by fire walls and metal doors with central push bars. In both the dinning room, living room, old billiard’s room west of the main staircase were curtains hanging down from tracks on the ceiling to provide some privacy or the patients. The central windows on the north side of the dinning room had been removed and were replaced with an emergency exit.
For some reason, a small window was placed in the south side of the main floor to the right of the fireplace.The fireplace mantle had been removed to make way for a large storage cabinet for resident’s belongings. Beneath the main stairs where a large pitcher and wash bowl had resided there was now a hand operated dumbwaiter associated the nursing home kitchen located in the basement. The old coat room across from the pitcher and wash bowl was torn out along with an adjoining part of the kitchen pantry for creation of a main floor bathroom – something traditionally not always present in older family homes of this era. The bottom portion of the back stairs that connected the kitchen with the second floor was removed to make way for a small nursing station. Finally, the old kitchen itself was gutted and served as another patient room. Fortunately, several kitchen cabinets and pantry cabinets remained as places for residents to store personal items. Miraculously the stairs leading from the old pantry to the basement remained untouched!
Upstairs the decorative caps on the stair railing system were cut off to make way for a solid fire wall that completely enclosed the main stairwell. Access to the second floor was through another metal fire door with a horizontal push bar. On the second floor the ceilings had tracks for patient privacy curtains. All of the original doors had been taken off and put in the garage to allow for new fire protective doors to all second floor rooms. Again – curtains hanging from the ceilings on tracks divided up the rooms for patient privacy.
The old sink and toilet in the north and south bathrooms were replaced with modern fixtures. (The tub and shower fixtures in the north bathroom and the tub in the south bathroom remained original.).
Finally, the original, rather narrow stairway served as access to the third floor. About halfway up the stairway was a metal fire door. Although referred to by some as “The Ballroom”, in fact the third floor was large but was not necessarily suited for dancing. The third floor instead contained a vast collection of resident belongings that had undoubtedly accumulated over many years. There was what must have been a bedroom room created out of this emptiness that faced west and contained a closet. Although there was a door opening onto a small, outside porch situated above the windows of the billiards room below, there was no safety railing and the purpose of the door – and the little outside porch – remained obscure.
In the basement many walls were constructed to provide a cafeteria or eating area for some of the more mobile residents that could negotiate the stairs – or who resided in the basement in rooms divided by more curtains hanging from the ceiling on tracks. Windows in the southwest corner of the basement and an adjoining room with a fireplace near the basement stair landing remained as the maids quarters. Finally, the door exiting to the inside garage where the family car was washed still contained bygone hand written information about the Hartley car’s service record.
The two story free standing garage behind and to the West of the mansion was accessed by a driveway from Rucker Avenue that extended along the north side of the mansion. The lower level of the free standing garage had both west and east doors so that the family car could be driven through the free standing garage and into the inside garage for washing. The free standing garage was piled high with all sorts of odds and ends from nursing home residents. Also, in the garage were all of the original second floor doors, blocks of decorative wood that had been part of the original living room mantle and the only piece of original furniture found in the mansion – an oak top desk that has since served as my desk for the past 25 years.
On the upper level of the free standing garage the nursing home owners had created a two bedroom apartment with the bedrooms and small kitchen located in the south half of the space and the living room in the north portion of the space. Beneath the living room carpet in the north half of the space was a large, passive turntable that was used to position cars into the south portion of the garage. This permitted storage of two vehicles in the South part of the garage with the third vehicle on the turntable itself.
– Sanford Wright Jr. MD