Enter Tewksbury Country Club and you're instantly transported to an earlier era. Everything- from the warm glow of the timbers and raised wood panels, to the artwork over the fireplace--bespeaks an earlier, less hurried time. A time when craftsmen could take the care they needed to handcraft magnificent hand-hewn timberframes and finish stairs and walls down to the most exquisite detail. But craftsmanship aside, looks can be deceiving.
"It became an instant classic almost from the moment we built it," says Randall Walter, the Bensonwood architect who designed the club in 2002. Bensonwood finished construction in 2004—or about 200 years later than anyone would ever guess.
Designed and built as the crowning finish to a fifty acre development featuring condos, homes and a nine-hole golf course, the Tewksbury Country Club features a tavern, three private function rooms, and a golf pro shop. The entire development was built on what is commonly called a "brownfield" site, which means it was reclaimed from an existing use; in this case, the old Tewksbury airport. The great thing about using a brownfield site is that existing natural habitats were not disrupted or plowed under to make way for new construction, while the removal of the asphalt runway and taxiways reduced water runoff and improved the aquifer.
In addition to breathtaking beauty, the club also has a bridal preparation suite and a large grand ballroom. "They were booked a year out for weddings by the time we had the timberframe up," says Walter. "I remember when we were fitting out the electrical in the bridal chamber. There were six men wearing tool belts in there. Given the 'brides only' tradition, we wondered if we should have even been in there."
"I've always watched This Old House on TV and had seen Bensonwood featured many times," says Marc Ginsburg, the owner of the club and the surrounding site. "When I decided the building would be post-and-beam, it made sense to bring in Bensonwood."
"The greatest opportunity for us at Bensonwood was to be able to design an entire building to such a high degree of finish. The building kind of caught its own energy," Walter says. At every turn, small details stand out. This was particularly apparent when a fanciful carpenter hand-carved the sun, flowers, and a ladybug in the grass in one row of arrow straight shingles. "It looked great so we told him to keep it up," says Ginsburg.
Inside, the warm wood panels and timbers serve as striking contrast to the elegant murals. Over the fireplace, your eye is drawn to what the club might have looked like at the turn of the nineteenth century, as a horse-drawn carriage drives away. A second mural reaches from the floor up to the ceiling and keeps the historical fantasy alive by hiding elevator doors. Even items that are purely from today's era are given historical touches, like the fire sprinkler system constructed from copper pipe.
"Tedd Benson told me about a post-and-beam building in Europe that's over 700 years old and still standing," Ginsberg says. "I decided to use the most durable materials available, including brick chimneys, stone fireplaces and a slate roof. I want this building to last, basically unaltered, for 300 years or more."
Today, the Tewksbury Country Club hosts approximately 100 weddings and 250 functions a year. The tavern serves food to golfers and people living in the area. "I think one of the best things is that the people of Tewksbury quickly came to admire this building as a centerpiece in the town," says Walter.
Had people living in Tewksbury during the early nineteenth century seen it, they might have felt the same way.
ARCHITECT: Randall S. Walter, AIA, Bensonwood
OWNER/DEVELOPER: Marc Ginsburg