ASHBURNHAM — Exactly 115 years to the month after wedding photographs were taken on the front steps of a historic home in town, a bride and groom re-enacted the original nuptials portraits right down to their stoic facial expressions.
Meghan Jane Barr wed Evan Hidetoshi Oto on Oct. 15 at the New Dawn Community Center with a reception immediately following next door at the 82 Main St. home of her parents, Charles and Susan Barr. The home was built 115 years ago specifically for the wedding reception of Blanche Gay Hardy of Ashburnham to Dr. Moritz Schlick of Berlin, Germany, on Oct. 10, 1907, an occasion that was covered by the Fitchburg Daily Sentinel.
The young modern couple, who hail from Elmsford, New York, decided to pose with each other and their wedding party just like the original couple in the front of the bride’s family home.
“They nailed the unsmiling poses of the time,” said Charles Barr of the photographs captured by Central Mass.-based photographer Hannah Fisher.
Barr grew up in Lunenburg and lived many places with his wife and their six children, including three decades in Connecticut, before moving to Ashburnham two years ago. When he found out that a wedding reception had been held in that exact same spot at the beginning of the 20th century between the Cushing Academy graduate and the famous German professor she had met on a graduation trip to Germany, they knew they had to give a nod to the couple through the re-enactments.
Meghan now goes by Oto except to her second-grade students, who still call her Miss Barr. Her father shared that her sister-in-law quipped, “You’re the only person I know who could shorten your four-letter last name.”
When asked what it meant to the couple to celebrate their union at her family’s homestead, the bride said, “family is everything to us.”
“This home has brought us together once again under one roof where we can spend time with one another as a growing family,” she said. “We feel so grateful for this property and the memories we have made in just a few short years and felt we could express our gratitude by honoring its history with another celebration of love and mark the beginning of my and Evan’s life together the same way the couple and family did over 100 years before. We felt we were fulfilling the purpose of the house, as a place to gather, celebrate and express our love surrounding by the ones who mean the most to us.”
The newlywed and her husband stayed in the home that was previously a bed and breakfast for the wedding festivities along with her five siblings and their own children and extended family. Three of her siblings live in the Boston area, one lives near her in Westchester County, and one lives in California.
“The house is the natural gathering spot of children and grandchildren for holidays and birthdays throughout the year,” Barr said. “Because Meghan chose it as the venue in part due to pandemic backlog filling many commercial venues, it became both a practical and historically logical choice. Photos of the original couple and their wedding party are hung in the house, which inspired a re-enactment of those photos on the same steps as done 115 years ago.”
He said the location of their beloved home “is literally in the center of the community,” nestled between two churches and near the historical society, two blocks from the center of town.
“Several prior owners had large families and we frequently hear from neighbors and others that they played in or babysat in the house years ago, giving a shared sense of history to the community,” Barr said.
They welcomed 140 guests to the reception under a tent on the front lawn of the house, the same place the Hardy-Schlick celebration took place over a century prior.
“The wedding was perfect, according to the bride,” Barr said. “There was a beautiful fall afternoon ceremony next door in New Dawn Community Center, a former church, then a reception in a tent in the front yard with a see-through roof and sides.”
A Westminster business, McNally’s Catering, catered the reception dinner, an after-party at the Tavern on Central for 100, and a Sunday breakfast in the tent for 75. When asked how the merriment went overall, Meghan Oto happily stated “our wedding day was an absolute dream.”
“Between the fall foliage, blue skies, and the small New England town vibe, we felt the warmth of being at home on one of the most memorable days of our lives,” she shared. “Our guests commented on how cozy and warm the whole afternoon felt and how picturesque the whole property was scattered in the vibrant leaves.”
Barr said they were thrilled to host the celebration and carry on the home’s wedding venue tradition.
“Maybe there will be a third one 115 years from now.”