Corey and Mike Beneduce were eager to get back to nature. The couple longed for more space, specifically of the outdoor variety, after being quarantined in their Maplewood home. So Corey started searching the internet for real estate. “I had a very specific key word,” she says. “Everything had to have a stream.” It didn’t take long for her to find this historic but rundown property in the northwestern reaches of the state, down a long gravel driveway off a country road in Hampton. “The first time we stepped on this property, we had an immediate connection to it,” says Mike. It was the perfect spot to settle down, they agreed, with 6 acres of land, a barn, an old distillery, a pool and pool house, rolling fields and, importantly, not one, but two streams. The couple pounced. “We wanted more nature in our lives,” says Corey.
Mike, 33, grew up close to the Hampton property, while Corey, 33, is from western Maryland. The couple met at Cornell University, where she studied hospitality and he majored in viticulture and enology, the study of winemaking. (Mike graduated in the school’s original class of winemakers.)
The move from Maplewood put Mike closer to his winery, Beneduce Vineyards, in nearby Pittstown. Now, more than a year later, the couple is painstakingly restoring the home and grounds to their original grandeur, an arduous task, but a labor of love. Luckily, they are both handy: “Corey’s the designer,” says Mike. “I’m the doer.”
The house, once the grand estate of Judge Samuel Johnson, was built in 1757. Back in the day, the judge actually held court in the main living room every Monday, says Mike. Originally set on 1,000 acres (much of it now preserved), the once palatial 18th-century building has undergone several additions and renovations, the last of which was half a century ago. Before the Beneduces, the home was owned by Marie and Bob Everett, who, explains Mike, “put 50 years of work into it. They had more time than money.” In fact, the Everetts named the home and property Someday Farm, a nod to their dreams. The Everetts were clearly a forward-thinking couple; when they bought the home in the 1970s, it had no plumbing or electricity whatsoever. “The Everetts bathed in the stream for a time,” says Mike.
Fast-forward to 2020: Prior to closing, the Beneduces got permission to camp on the property, setting up a tent alongside one of the streams and celebrating their second wedding anniversary while absorbing nature. (Corey had recently finished hiking the entire Appalachian trail—all 2,190+ miles, alone—and was no stranger to sleeping under the stars.) It was during this night that the couple confirmed their ambition, certain that they could handle the enormous challenge of taking great care to honor the home’s history while making it their own.
First, the couple replaced the popcorn ceilings and painted the purple-and-blue walls off-white. Along the way, there were several surprises. While repairing and refinishing floors, they uncovered original tongue-and-groove oak flooring from 1757. The living room beams, they discovered, were originally from the 1600s. Another discovery: the original straw and mud insulation. “I love uncovering history,” says Mike.
To date, the couple has finished restoring the living room, dining room and sunroom. They furnished the rooms sparingly, mostly with midcentury-style pieces, many of which were crafted by Mike’s grandfather, a furniture repairman by trade. Others they found in antique shops and flea markets. The couple is especially fond of the piano, a somewhat rare Baldwin Acrosonic, which they found in New Hope, Pennsylvania. “They only made this style for two years in the ’70s,” says Corey. “It’s very special.” The couple opted not to put a television in the house. Instead, says Mike, “we talk and read and listen to records, and Corey plays the piano.” And, he admits, “we get more done.”
The couple is slowly getting through their to-do list. All three baths needed a major renovation, so the couple started downstairs, in the bathroom off the sunroom. Renovations of the two upstairs baths are underway. Says Mike, “We had three showers when we moved in, and right now, we have one.” However, he’s quick to point out, the property has an outdoor shower. “We’re not bathing in the stream,” he jokes.
Also on that to-do list: the kitchen. As dedicated entertainers, the couple are taking their time to make sure it’s done right. “The whole house is a work in progress,” admits Mike.
Meanwhile, the pair have tackled the outside, clearing years of overgrown brush and weeds throughout the property. “We’ve put a lot of sweat labor into this yard,” says Mike. A favorite hang-out is the small stone patio adjacent to the still house, once a functioning distillery, Mike says. Here, the couple wind down at the end of a long day. “Listen carefully,” says Corey, “and you can hear the stream.”
Growing up in nearby Gillette, Mike and his siblings frequently helped out at his family’s business, Great Swamp Greenhouses. When his parents bought a 50-acre Pittstown farm to enlarge the garden center and were exploring new crops to grow, Mike suggested grapes. “Making wine was our family tradition,” he says. “We’d been making a barrel or two each year in our basement.” There was one small problem: “No one knew how to grow grapes.” So Mike earned a degree in viticulture, the art of winemaking in cool climates, and in 2009 planted the first vines that would eventually become Beneduce Vineyards. The rest, as they say, is history. It took three years to get the first harvest; the winery now makes 12 different wine varieties, yielding 4,000 to 5,000 cases a year. The Pinot noir is Mike’s favorite. “It earned 93 points from critics,” he says. The vineyard and tasting room are open to the public and often hold special events. For more information, check out beneducevineyards.com.Click here to leave a comment