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Historic home set in charming village

Wickford’s historic charm, walkability and nearness to Narragansett Bay’s great sailing convinced Bob and Betty Sue Reed to purchase an 1802 home in the 375-year-old Rhode Island village’s National Historic District.

The private dock of the 1802 home in Wickford, R.I.,'s National Historic District accommodates the owners' center console runabout (right) and a neighbor's fishing skiff.

“At first we’d tell friends we could survive on foot without a car,” says Reed, who lived in Europe for 30 years working for Caterpillar Co. When he retired, Reed was European senior sales manager.

“In Wickford, just like in Europe, we walk to whatever we need — the bank, post office, pharmacy, fish market, shops and restaurants.” (Except the grocery store, which recently moved from downtown.)

Still enamored of the village, Reed, now 76, and his wife plan to move to a smaller one-story home nearby. “I’m going to grow old there,” he says.

Their vintage two-story, three-bedroom, 2.5-bath home with an oversize two-car garage, 0.25-acre lot, dock and stone wall-lined waterfront on the inner harbor is on the market for $845,000.

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The Reeds retained their historic clapboarded home’s character, five fireplaces and period woodwork during renovations 15 years ago. “We always liked New England character, heritage and antique houses,” he says.

Inside, the formal living and dining rooms flank the central front door. Each room features plaster walls, wide pine floorboards, interior window shutters and a working fireplace in the original central chimney. The rear of the house contains an office with harbor views, a half-bath with laundry and — in the original keeping room — an informal sitting room. “Two centuries ago they would have done their cooking here, in the big fireplace,” Reed says.

In the harbor-facing ell, the couple created a new kitchen with ample cabinets, appliances and a separate pantry. “We both like to cook, so we designed it to be very convenient, with plenty of space for us to work together without tripping over each other,” he says.

Faux maple formica-topped counters coordinate with the tiled floor and maple furnishings. A breakfast bar separates the kitchen from the informal eating area overlooking Wickford’s busy harbor.

Reed says that during the summer they usually breakfast there or on the adjacent waterfront porch. The porch isn’t heated, but the three window walls have interchangeable screens and storm windows, allowing three-season use.

The three-season waterfront porch

On the second floor, the street-side master bedroom has a brick fireplace and en suite bath with twin vanities. The other front bedroom has a similar fireplace and shares a full bath with a rear bedroom that overlooks the harbor.

“Our favorite place in winter is the second-floor central sitting room,” Reed says. “We spend much time up there in our La-Z-Boys in front of the TV or fireplace.”

Stairs lead from the sitting room to an attic cedar closet and storage.

Flower gardens and shrubs surround a pleasant patio of pavers between the porch and oversized garage, which accommodates two vehicles and a skylit workshop.

A flagstone path leads from the patio across the lawn to the vegetable garden, dock and float where Reed keeps his 16-foot center console powerboat.

“We’re right on Wickford [inner harbor], a lovely little cove [off Narragansett Bay],” he says.

Earlier, when he owned a Beneteau 41 sailboat, he kept it on a rental mooring in the harbor. Both Brewer’s Marina and Wickford Shipyard rent moorings. “From our dock, our dinghy had immediate access to our mooring at all tides, though our center console can only get out when the tide is 2/3 or more.

“Our runabout [powered by a 90-hp Yamaha outboard] is perfect for Narragansett Bay, which is so beautiful for boating,” Reed says. “We cruise to Newport, of course, to Jamestown and all around. Sailing on the bay is spectacular, and we’d often sail [our Beneteau] much farther — Block Island, the Elizabeth Islands, Buzzards Bay, Long Island Sound, Block Island Sound.”

Reed enjoys the friendly atmosphere of Wickford Village, where he can walk to services, shops and restaurants, among them the Beach Rose Cafe, “a great coffee shop with tables on the harbor,” and Tavern by the Sea, “a nice restaurant [also with waterfront tables overlooking the harbor],” he says. He recommends Wickford Diner’s seafood meals and buys fresh seafood at Gardners Wharf Seafood on the town pier.

The “lovely informal yacht club in the village sponsors active racing and youth sailing programs,” he says. Wickford has three major marinas.

The home has water frontage on the inner harbor.

Wickford is quiet, yet convenient to I-95 (15 minutes), commuter trains to Boston (2 miles to Wickford Junction), Amtrak (a 20-minute drive to Kingstown, 30 minutes to Providence) and private plane access at Quonset Airfield (2 miles).

A cultural center for southern Rhode Island, Wickford features annual art and music festivals, the North Kingstown town beach and Wilson Park with biking/jogging trails.

The Reeds’ house has a basement with a concrete floor, central air conditioning, gas-fired hot water baseboard heat, public water and a new private septic system. Annual taxes are about $15,000.

Judy Chace, (401) 207-9166,, of Residential Properties Ltd., Narragansett, R.I., (401) 783-2474, lists the property.

December 2012 issue