By KAITLYN NAPLES
Even though this mansion was built over a century ago, the people of Bristol are still able to enjoy the view of it from the street. But on May 4, the Bristol Historical Society is hosting its annual Derby Day at Beleden mansion, and giving guests the opportunity to tour the home and enjoy an afternoon inside this historic spot of which many may not have been aware.
The Beleden mansion on Bellevue Avenue was built by William Edwin Sessions in 1910 and had been in the Sessions family, a prominent family in Bristol, until 1977 when it was sold to Dr. Steven Wernick, a local dentist. Wernick then sold it to a man from Florida, who then sold it to its current owner in 2009. The current owner, who asked to remain anonymous, has spent the last few years restoring the home and cleaning up the property to look like it did 100 years ago.
“The house deserves it,” the owner said, adding that he has done some painting, has brought in furniture that reflects the early 1900s style, and more, however the home was well-maintained.
When you walk into Beleden, you almost feel as though you are stepping back into the turn of the century, with its grand foyer, library, high ceilings, dining room, reception area, and the most popular room—the music room. And that is just the first floor.
Each room looks flawless, and spotless, and resembles a museum.
William Edwin Sessions is known for founding Sessions Clock, and also for being the founder of The Bristol Trust Company, which is now Webster Bank. He lived in Beleden, which stands for “beautiful garden,” for 10 years with his wife Emily before he died. Emily Sessions resided in the home until she died in 1947. The couple had two sons, Joseph B. and William Kenneth, who followed in their fathers footsteps and ran his businesses.
When the Sessions family lived in the house, it took a servant staff of 18 to maintain the home and yard. The house used to have a larger garden and backyard, which they would open up to the public, however it has been scaled back and the current road Beleden Garden Drive goes through where the yard used to be.
When you walk through the grand hallway on the first floor, you find a large staircase with the original banister intact, which leads up to where Mr. and Mrs. Sessions’ bedrooms were. William’s room faced Bellevue Avenue, and Mrs. Sessions’ room faced the backyard. Also upstairs is the balcony that overlooks the music room on the first floor, the “palm room,” which was a year-round conservatory, and the Parsons room, where visiting clergy would meditate or reflect.
Last year, the historical society held its Derby Day at the mansion, where guests enjoyed food, drinks, and tours of the home and then were able to mingle and watch the race.
“Many people said they would come back again if we held the even again,” Bristol Historical Society member Tom LaPorte said, which is why the society decided to host the event again this year. “It is such a unique event; there is nothing like this in Bristol.”
The Derby Day will be held on Saturday, May 4 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Beleden. Guests can enjoy gourmet food from Nuchies Restaurant, an open bar, a tour of the mansion, a raffle, music played on the original organ that has been in the home for 100 years, and women who wear a Derby hat will be entered into a contest to win prizes.
Anyone interested should call Tom LaPorte, (860) 583-2688 or Tom Dickau, (860) 582-1537 for tickets.
Comments? Email knaples@BristolObserver. com.