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Randall Update


My husband and I have a knack for ending up with old properties that are in desperate need of repair, even though we never planned on this being such a big part of our lives. Growing a business while raising a family, and starting out with nothing, forced us to find beauty in places where most people saw no value. It all started with our first home, a small Sears Craftsman House that had been taken off the market, located in the historic district of our small Connecticut town. With an addition off the back that was barely noticeable from the front, we created a beautiful space to start a family.

In 2006, we moved our small children to Italy so we could work closely with farmers and producers, and we quickly set out to find the farm we had always wanted. At the time, the market in the area where my husband was born had inflated prices, but one agent told us about a property that had been taken off the market that he thought had potential. I’ll never forget when we drove up to see it for the first time. The site of the old dilapidated barn completely drained my body of all energy. I could not imagine ever calling such a place home, but when we walked around to the back, my then 7-year-old Giulia said, “The views are amazing. This land is beautiful. We should get it Mom! Don’t worry about that house; we’ll be able to fix it up.” Kids always speak from the heart, and everyday since we moved into our newly remodeled farmhouse, I secretly thank her for her wisdom.

In 2013, our company desperately needed room to grow, so I began the search for a property. The professional advisors in my life recommended I build on an industrial lot, but I had already started the culinary getaways in Italy to test the concept of doing cooking retreats and events at our future company headquarters. I had always been struck by the beauty of a historic property called Randall’s Ordinary in North Stonington, CT, which at the time had been closed and boarded up for years. The day I went with my attorney to visit the property and make an offer, it was pouring down rain outside and inside the main house. My heart ached at seeing the destruction of a building that was built in 1685, long before the United States emerged as an independent country. This home had been a safe house to slaves who hid in the root cellar and it was recognized as part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. The property was also listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. My attorney begged me not to get involved, that the whole project would be a huge drain on cash, and I thought it best to listen to his advice. I returned home to Italy and cancelled the offer I had made on the property. 

A year passed, the company continued to grow, and we needed to expand to a new space more than ever. I knew in my heart, I could not move forward and purchase a lot in an industrial park. The Randall property was somehow destined to be part of my life. After all, my business was built on history and traditions, and was much more to me than just a distribution center. There was really no separation between my personal and professional life. I wanted my office to feel like home. The street number for our first Craftsman home was number 41 and later at the closing of my Italian farm, I learned that number was also 41. So one day when I could not stop thinking about the Randall property, I looked up the address to find it was 41 Norwich-Westerly Rd. It had to be.

In November 2015, we moved into our new facility equipped with a warehouse and an office building that really does feel like home. The office is a timber frame building that exhibits the beauty and warmth of local Rhode Island oak and co-exists nicely with artisan-crafted pieces I brought in from Italy – steel doors handmade in Florence, a solid wood kitchen from outside of Venice, and handmade desks using reclaimed oak beams from Modena. It all blended together, just like my life in two countries, to create a space we love to work in.

This year, we set our sights on the most significant project- the restoration of the historic John Randall homestead. We have been working hard these last few years and are finally coming into the final stages of planning. We hope to unveil our plans this summer. All of the buildings have been stabilized to prevent further damage, are idle and clean, and waiting for much-needed attention. In the meantime, we are painstakingly restacking all of the historic stone walls while nourishing the soil of a newly created organic farm where we will grow our own produce.

Recently, we had the “before” images of the buildings captured because we definitely want to remember where we started once the work begins. A small barn will hold cooking classes, while the historic house will return to an inn and restaurant. This property is dear to many and after having the privilege of being its custodians since 2015, my family and our employees can confirm that something really special exists here. We are determined to find the way to do what is right, with every piece we are able to save and every piece we add. We want to create lasting beauty that will be welcoming to all and flourish for the next 300 years!

Here is the cooking barn:

And the 1685 John Randall home.

The dining rooms and hearth room on the first floor, with the hatch door to the root cellar where slaves were hidden.

The beautiful staircase to the second floor.

Future suites on the second floor.

 

64 Responses to Randall Update

  1. Jean Kalogeropoulos says:

    My sister and I dropped in unexpectedly about a year ago and were graciously given a short tour. I am so excited by this restoration! My mother was a Randall and I have been tracing my lineage and can not tell you how much that quick tour meant to my sister and I. Thank you for allowing us to look around and thank you for restoring such a great piece of history.

  2. Diane Luther says:

    This wonderful property deserved to be rescued by you. It looks amazing and your plans sound wonderful. I can’t wait to visit from Rhode Island one day.

    • jovial says:

      Thanks, and we cannot wait to host you. The property is actually in Connecticut, but a few miles from the border of Rhode Island, so you can see both!

  3. Dorothy Randall says:

    It all looks so wonderful. I can see the beauty of it now and can only imagine how it will look when you are done. I can tell you will treat it with the respect it deserves! Such an exciting project!! Hope everything goes as expected and it will be everything you and the rest of us are looking forward to!

  4. Elsa Brule says:

    Oh, if the walls could talk! Such a great undertaking. Would love to see it someday. I am a (7 greats) granddaughter of John and Elizabeth Randall.

  5. Lynn Cattrysse says:

    Carla, I cannot say thank you enough. My sister and I visited a couple of years ago with Terry Bishop. The property is so beautiful; I kept thinking it would make a great setting for a historical movie. When we were there, the headstones were all knocked over and most were covered under the dirt. To have so much respect shown for the Randall ancestors is truly appreciated. Also thank you for sharing your story of the number 41! I can’t wait to visit again.

  6. Molly Ross says:

    Please, please restore this house rather than renovate to give it modern updates. This really needs to remain a colonial tavern with as many existing features as can be saved, even if the rooms are smaller. I know that there probably have to be sprinklers and exit signs but please don’t blend it with modern design. If it is a colonial tavern I know lots of people who would come in historic clothing for tavern dinners and hearth cooking classes.

  7. Maren Lauder says:

    This brightened my husbands and my day. We loved the Ordinary and mourned it’s closing. (Are the descendants of the skunk family still there? They were my English husbands first experience of the animals.) If you need accounting staff, I would leave my job at Secor Subaru in New London.

  8. Denise says:

    The house looks amazing. I truly hope you will post pictures all along your endeavor and when it is completed. Wish you much luck in the love you will show this place. My heart is truly blessed that there are people such as you that can bring these wonderful homes back to life. So many go in and totally discredit the house making it modern. Best of luck to you and all that are involved.

  9. Larry Schopperth says:

    My wife and I loved staying upstairs in the original house and enjoying many hearth cooked breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. There is nothing like waking up to the smell of bacon and breads wafting up the stairs and into our room. I trust you are going to preserve as much of the original as possible. Are the chimneys still able to sustain fires on the hearths and bake oven and if not are you planning on restoring the chimneys? Are you planning on opening it as a B&B or Inn again and/or are you planning on serving open hearth cooked meals to the public?

    • Jovial Customer Service says:

      Yes, we will have rooms and be doing hearth cooking, and although not the same menu at Randall’s, there will be some of the old favorites!

  10. KerryJoy says:

    Thank you for posting this information about your business and your life. Good luck to you and I am looking forward to future installments of your adventure!

  11. susan says:

    OH, coming from northern NH I swear I could move into that house as is! I Love it and you will be so comfortable there. Congratulations.

  12. A wonderful journey that will continue to be a tremendous blessing all around. Congratulations to all of you, I am sure it will be stunning. Will be praying that Randall’s Ordinary will be anything but…

  13. Wayne says:

    Thanks for sharing. I’ll enjoy your products even more knowing that in my small way, I too am a part of your project.

  14. George Duggan says:

    That looks like a wonderful project and you’re clearly going to make the most of it. I’ve done a lot of construction work and I know what it takes to complete a project like that – time, money, vision, and dedication. Judging by your success in building your business, I’m confident you’ll be able to put them all together.

  15. Christine Canion says:

    I know you will turn this into something beautiful! Congratulations and best wishes for the project. We look forward to watching the progress and God willing, visit as guests one day! I can’t afford to go to Italy for a getaway just yet, but I could do Connecticut! 🙂 (One day I will make it to Italy, though!)

  16. Eric C. Randall says:

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! I am a 10th generation descendant of John Randall, Jr. We visited the homestead about 3 years ago and you were kind enough to open up the house and let us visit. Can’t wait to see what you do with it.

  17. Tiffani says:

    I loved reading your story of this property. Have you considered contacting HGTV? They might want to do a show about this restoration. Just a thought. Good luck with your plans. I can’t wait to see the after photos!

  18. Tracy Kustra says:

    What a wonderful opportunity! If you would be open to volunteers, please let us know! I would love to help!

  19. Sheila says:

    Congratulations! What an amazing property!
    I pray all goes well! It’s worth inviting the president of the United States once finish and relatives of the slaves from the past.
    Blessings!

  20. Jacqueline Angevin says:

    Hello Carla,
    What an amazing & delightful homestead! I, like you see it all restored for your family to enjoy. The small barn turned out to be a wonderful place to work.
    Thank you so much for sharing your photos so we can follow along vicariously and enjoy it with you.
    The best of luck and good wishes.
    Jacqueline

  21. Lois says:

    How I would love to visit! I absolutely LOVE your products and everything you stand for. I really enjoy following your journey!

  22. Nick Randall says:

    I can’t tell you how much this means to me. John Randall I is my 8th Great Grandfather. I was able to visit Randall’s Ordinary several years ago when the Indian tribe owned it. I was thrilled then, but hopefully in the near future when you have completed the restoration I can visit again (from Arizona) and be more delighted. I am sending this to as many Randalls as I know. You are amazing people. May God bless you for doing this.

  23. Patrizia says:

    STUNNING…. and EXCITING. What a rich heritage you have become a part of. You are truly blessed, and I know you will use it to bless many. Complimenti…. e AUGURI, Carla!

  24. mary says:

    To give a perspective on just how old this house is, Isaac Newton’s famous book, the Principia, was first published in July 1687, two years after Randall’s Ordinary was built. London was still having plagues and priests were still hiding in priest holes to avoid capture by anti-Catholic factions. (As were Protestants in Catholic-controlled areas.) I wouldn’t be surprised if the Randall house has one, or even a few secret hiding rooms. Maybe, that was the original intent of the cellar where the underground railroad slaves were hidden. According to this website https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:House_of_John_Randall_1666_-_1720 your house has a ghost!

  25. Caroline says:

    We are in the process of restoring an old farmstead, though quite young in comparison, dating to 1912, but we fell in love too and can’t seem to help ourselves with another reclaim project. Our first was a Cape Cod style home built on a shoe string during WWII, when there was a freeze on new buildings, then a 1924 four square. God bless you in your endeavors and give you wisdom. We certainly need both in our project!

  26. Brandi says:

    Carla, you live such an intentional and purposeful life. I’ve always thought you radiated Divine Light more than most, but the fact that you wrote about your recognition and your following the wisdom of your daughter and your number signs from heaven has made feel your spirit even more. Many blessings to you, your family, and your life’s guided adventures.

  27. Craig says:

    I love your vision. I find myself drawn to older properties myself. I am about to start work on an 1850 Colonial. Keep up the great work!

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