SUTTON – This old stone building still has rings on its outer walls for tying a horse’s reins.
Inside there are vaults from the time when part of the building served as a Catholic church.
Perched on a hill overlooking Manchaug Village and the Blackstone River, the building has served many purposes since its construction in the 18th century, from the aforementioned church to city offices and a general store.
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Today it serves as the new home for District V House, a home design retail store.
Born and raised in Worcester’s District 5, owner Janice Burke has spent most of her adult life as an interior designer. She decided to open a home accessories retail store to combine her love for design and “all things around the home”.
“I looked all over Worcester” to find a suitable location, Burke said. After some research, she found what she was looking for: lots of space, parking, “a really nice location”.
history of the place
According to the Sutton Historical Society, the Manchaug Company Store Building at 356 Manchaug Road was constructed circa 1868 by the BB&R Knight Company (the world’s largest private cotton manufacturer, as reported by The New York Times in the early 20th century).
The building has at various times housed a general store and market, a village library, a post office, and also served as a meeting and polling station.
All of the coarse ashlar granite used in the construction of the Manchaug Building was quarried directly in the Manchaug area off Whitins and Putnam Hill roads.
The 300-seat community hall on the second floor hosted plays, musicals, dances, and other community gatherings.
This parish hall served as St. Anne’s Church from April 1924 to June 1953 after a fire on Wednesday, April 16 burned down 10 acres of the “apartments,” including the church, rectory, convent, and parish school; it rendered a quarter of the city’s population homeless. The village received a new church building only after the death of their pastor in 1951.
A shop remained in this building until after the Second World War. George Plante was the last manager. Descendants of Plante still live in Manchaug, and the family’s ancestors were some of the first French Canadians to arrive in Manchaug.
A new home for “house”
The premises were most recently the home of an interior designer and her husband, who lived on the top floor and had a shop on the first floor. Burke said that during last winter’s renovations, a pipe burst on the top floor, damaging the floor below.
It might have been a setback, but it gave Burke a chance to “get rid of a dirty rug.”
While some rooms are still a work in progress, including Burke’s office, the main room offers customers the chance to browse the wares from 15 local and regional vendors that Burke has “carefully curated”.
“The vendors offer antique, classic, handcrafted craftsmanship. Their styles complement rather than compete, ranging from brand new sellers to veteran sellers,” Burke said. “The big reason I wanted vendors here is because it helps incubate an organic adoption from a passion into a true small business.
“Starting small is still starting. Economic development in small business collaborations has been a tremendous catalyst to make the leap into their own businesses or business growth. The mantra I kept in mind throughout this process was ‘Alone we’re a drop. Together we are one ocean’.”
“I really believe that we support each other in this process and that we will go further. All but one of my vendors are women. We all have a kind of kismet story that connects us, and I’m grateful and excited for all of the ways we’ll grow together and individually,” Burke said.
In one room there is a vendor selling towels and cutting boards with a Sutton theme. Another has objects from all over the world, including French furniture, Belgian feathers and a zebra skin from Africa.
“This is my UN,” she said.
Next to reception, a Stow-based plant shop, The Botanary, has plants for sale complete with instructional signs on how to keep the plants alive and thriving.
Burke said she plans to open a home improvement department (she’s awaiting supplies); Home delivery is also in the works.
Burke opened the store on July 16, which also marked her 40th birthday.
“With this store, my lifelong dream has come true. It’s the highlight of my entire life,” Burke said. “I have always had a passion for all things home and opening this store has been the most exciting and wonderful experience of my career.
“My new neighbors and the city have welcomed me with open arms, and I look forward to not just sharing my store with everyone, but creating an experience when I come to visit. I’m partial, but what my vendors and I have created is absolutely magical when you just walk in the door,” she added.
Some of that magic has flowed outside. While cleaning up the back of the building, Burke and her family discovered a courtyard (the site of a horse stable) and a fountain.
The room has been converted into an English garden (her father is still trying to get the fountain working); Burke said she’s already held a few social events.
Burke plans to get involved with both of Sutton’s community events, most notably December’s Fairy Lights; It has already registered as a tram stop.
She’s also looking forward to getting to know her new neighbours, including the Vaillancourt Folk Art across the street, which has ‘given me the most gracious support and welcome’.
District V House is located at 356 Manchaug Road, Sutton, opposite the Post Office. The opening hours are Thursday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information call 774-314-0022, visit https://districtvdesign.com/, his Facebook page or via Instagram.