PUTNEY, Vt. – Claudia Williams, daughter of Red Sox great Ted Williams and his third wife Dolores Wettach Williams, has lovingly restored and renovated her childhood home in Putney, filled it with cherished memorabilia to honor both her parents, and is about to open it to the public as a romantic bed and breakfast.
Called the Splendid Splinter, in honor of one of her father’s nicknames, the property sits perched atop a hill overlooking the Connecticut River and includes two buildings, the original house where her family lived, and a newly renovated attached barn now called the Sweetheart Barn to commemorate her parents’ love story. The focus of the renovation for Claudia is captured by “Discover the place where the greatest hitter who ever lived fell in love with Miss Vermont.”
Claudia’s mother, Dolores Wettach Williams, was a dark haired beauty, former Miss Vermont, famous Vogue model, and even had done an Italian film when she met then retired Ted Williams. They married in 1968, had two children John Henry and Claudia, and lived together in the house until their divorce in 1974. After the divorce, her mother stayed there with the children, always improving the property as the children grew up. Ted Williams would return each summer and spend a few days there, while picking up the children to take them to Canada for fishing.
The location of the house itself has a history. Initially, the house was located next to the road. While her father was away on a three-month trip early in their marriage in 1971, her mother had the house moved 521 feet up the hill to ensure the privacy that her husband cherished and also to take advantage of the spectacular view. She kept the project a secret until his return.
Although a baby at the time, Claudia has heard the story retold often. When her father, who was notorious for his temper, pulled into the driveway to see it missing, he became angry, drove furiously up to his in-laws’ house next door then remembered his wife had told him of a surprise she had for him. He drove back down and when he got out of the car, saw her furiously waving at him with Claudia in her arms and John Henry standing next to her. To commemorate the event, Claudia had a plaque made that will stand at the original site with words that include, “Love can move a house.”
“I love it. I love the story and this is where I grew up,” Claudia said.
With the recent loss of her mother, Claudia searched for a way to honor both her parents. As proud as Claudia is about her famous dad, it was important for her to represent her mother as well. “I brought things home that I thought were powerful enough and symbolic enough to honor them… My dad is very famous, there’s no doubt about it. I can’t downplay it one bit. My mother in my heart is every bit as famous. I want to honor her in every way that I can,” she said.
The result is stunning. The new renovated Sweetheart Barn is a quaint haven for couples perched atop a historic stone foundation. That sits alongside the charmingly restored three-bedroom home, full of meaningful and thoughtful details around every corner. Each beam, countertop, banister, tile, fixture, and paint color has been chosen with care and has a story behind it. A well-loved fallen maple has been turned into sliding doors and countertops. River stones from her mother’s earlier home along a river in Bartonsville now line the Sweetheart Barn shower. Beams from the old barn are repurposed. Italian tile from the same town as her mother’s movie imported for another shower and bath. Claudia has been careful to stay true to the original footprint of the house and has made only small structural changes mainly to add bathrooms, take advantage of the view, and more fully open a room.
Most striking of all is the staggering memorabilia throughout the house, a treasure trove to any Red Sox fan certainly; much of it original, autographed photos of her father playing the game but also including artist signed serigraphs, carvings, and other artwork. Here her mother is also well represented with original photographs of her modeling days, paintings of her mother, a sculpture of her mother holding her brother as a baby, and framed posters of her Italian movie.
Not to be missed is the staircase to the second floor. The balusters are intricately carved baseball bats and the landing finials are large hand-carved baseballs. With stunning lighting and a large photograph of a young Ted Williams, the connection to her dad can’t be missed but each baseball bat carving incorporates her mother’s favorite flowers – black-eyed susans, lilies, and irises – to add a feminine touch.
Each bedroom in the house has been given a meaningful name: “The Queen” is the name her father always called her mother; “406” to represent her father’s record setting batting average; “Miss Vermont” again honoring her mother; and “The Kid” in homage to another of her dad’s nicknames, which will be a sports room and office space for visitors. Each themed room contains more personal memorabilia that honors her parents and her family as a whole.
Outside on the grounds there is a bronze statue of her dad on a bench near the fire pit that used to be located outside the Ted Williams Museum in Florida but has since been donated to this project. The bench overlooks the spectacular view but also a white stone-lined heart in the distance that represents Claudia’s mother. Inside the heart are lavender plants, another of her mother’s favorite flowers and representing her mother’s favorite color. Outside of the heart has been planted with blue rug juniper bushes. The effect will be a purple heart surrounded by shimmering blue from a distance. Flowerbeds along with an extensive rock wall and keystone arch are other details to be explored and enjoyed on the property.
Every step of the process has been a labor of love for Claudia. She has done many artistic touches herself, including refinishing countertops and creating signage and metal artwork. “When I started to pay homage to my parents, my artistic side started to come out, almost as therapy,” she said.
Claudia hopes that the property will become a beloved landmark and one people will come to for romantic getaways as well as a wedding venue. “I hope it’s a success. I’ve put everything I’ve got into it,” she said. “I’m doing this and literally, gifting it to the public.”
Claudia is welcoming the immediate community including neighbors and local town residents to a soft opening Thursday, Aug. 29 and there is a formal grand opening reception, by personal invitation, Friday, Aug. 30 at the Splendid Splinter.
Soon after, she will launch a website that will serve as a booking portal along the lines typical of an Airbnb property. Follow her on Facebook @splendidsplinterbandb for up-to-date details. The Splendid Splinter is located at 1585 E. Pine Banks Rd. in Putney.