The house that grapes built. Grapevine Cottage on 491 Lexington Road, once owned and operated by the great grape cultivator, Ephraim Wales Bull (1806-1895), still stands as one of Concord great testaments to it's storied history.
What was so innovative about this particular grape? The Concord Grape is a particularly strong plant with an extra tart and therefore distinct taste. Strains in Europe, which were winter crops in the warmer climates of places like France and Spain, couldn't survive when brought to North American shores due to the chill. The Concord Grape was the first grape to be successful cultivated in these frigid northeastern weathers and led to hundreds of other strands nationwide.
The Concord Grape was first unveiled to the Concord Horitcultural Society in 1854. Sadly, Bull never saw financial success through the impressive cultivation of the Concord grape and died poor. His gravestone, located in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, appropriately reads: “He Sowed, Others Reaped.”
In 1855, Bull was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and became chair of the Committee on Agriculture. Bull was later elected to the Massachusetts Senate.
Benefactors began the company that is synonymous with the Concord grape: Welch's Food, Inc. In fact, Welch's still calls Concord home for their corporate headquarters over on 575 Virginia Road.
As for the Grapevine Cottage itself, it was purchased after Bull's death in 1895 by Harriet M. Lothrop (aka Margaret Sidney), author of the popular, Five Little Peppers children's book series. After Lothrop 's death in 1924, Grapevine Cottage was made into a tea house in 1928. In the 1940s the cottage had a successful run as a restaurant under a woman named Mary C. Tobin.
Today, the Grapevine Cottage is a National Historic Landmark that remains as it was when it was renovated by Lothrop around the turn of the century. Wine lovers and horticulturists from all over the world still flock to this site to admire the history of wine, jelly and jam making in America.