Making breakfast for the guests is like making history
FITCHBURG --Howarth House, this former mill city’s first bed-and-breakfast, has a rather unique claim to fame: Guests may find Fitchburg Fire Captain Brian Belliveau whipping up their pancakes or omelets in the morning.
They ought to bring an appetite, because Belliveau is more accustomed to cooking vats of pasta for a gang at the firehouse down the street.
“It’s true, I always make too much,’’ said Belliveau, a 30-year veteran.
Belliveau and his wife, Linda, opened Howarth House nearly two months ago in their spacious 1911 five-bedroom home overlooking the Fitchburg State College campus. The inn is named for the home’s first owner, T.E. Howarth.
The idea sprang from the Belliveaus’ experiences staying in B&Bs on vacations in Ireland, Scotland, France, and throughout New England. When their youngest daughter left for college two years ago, they became empty-nesters with “an awfully large house.’’ Running an inn seemed like an ideal post-retirement life, said Linda, who was an EMT in 1981 when she met Brian on an emergency ambulance call.
The couple decided to invest in Fitchburg, their home for more than three decades. They had happily raised their two daughters here, love the community, and don’t want to retire elsewhere.
“You tend to only hear the negative things,’’ said Belliveau about his hometown. “People said we were kind of crazy to open here, because tourists don’t come here. But this is a wonderful community. I think there is so much potential for tourism here.’’
They hope to attract guests with business at the college and tourists interested in the Johnny Appleseed Trail of North Central Massachusetts, which includes several local orchards, Davis Farmland in Sterling, the Fitchburg Art Museum, and Fruitlands Museum in nearby Harvard.
In the coming years, they would like to be a way station for leaf peepers heading north to New Hampshire and Vermont.
Until now, out-of-towners have had to choose among a few chain hotels next to the highway. Howarth House is a homey, old-fashioned place where resident canines, Tucker, a golden lab, and Bear, a Newfoundland, welcome arriving cars (but are not allowed in guest rooms).
Both Belliveaus agree the most special spot in their home is the “fire room,’’ a glassed-in porch just off the main part of the house.
The room, which Brian created when they bought the house in 1993, holds a trove of firefighting memorabilia, including the helmet belonging to Brian’s father, Fitchburg Fire Captain James Belliveau, who died in 1967 fighting a fire at a local furniture company.
His father was 43 and Brian was 9 at the time, one of five siblings. He and his older brother, James, wanted to follow in their father’s footsteps and joined the department as soon as they were old enough. His brother retired as deputy chief earlier this year, after 36 years of service.
Over the years, Brian has acquired an old-fashioned fire hydrant from Shirley, a vintage deck gun used on an old firetruck, and countless photographs and artifacts, which he loves to show off to visitors.
The fire room, which opens onto a brick patio, is the only place in the house where guests can enjoy a cigar, if they wish, Belliveau said with a grin.
And guests need not worry about stray embers, he said. Howarth House is equipped with a state-of-the-art residential wireless smoke detector system, complete with lights and control panel. (“Don’t get him talking about that or he’ll never stop,’’ said his wife.)
Belliveau, 51, hopes to serve the fire department for several more years. Linda, 52, continues to work as a medical technician at MetroWest Medical Center.
Since they plan to keep their jobs for now, they decided to launch the business slowly with two bedrooms, each with private bath. Guests get a breakfast of omelets, pancakes, French toast, fruit or pastry, and coffee, served between 6 and 9:30 a.m.
In the coming years, they will complete renovations on more guest rooms, said Linda. “So far, we are really enjoying ourselves. It’s not easy, but we really hope we can make it work,’’ she said.
Erica Noonan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.