The Changing Face of Bedford: Historic Horse Farm on Davis Road Soon to be Residential

Eleazer Davis Farm, at the curve on Davis Road ~ Courtesy image (c) all rights reserved

 

An aerial view of the Eleazer Davis Farm ~ Courtesy image (c) all rights reserved

The owner of Eleazer Davis Farm at 253 Davis Road has decided to sell about 60 percent of her acreage for residential construction.

Lisa Samoylenko says her plans are designed to achieve the best possible outcome for the town. She is seeking a “creative, ethical, knowledgeable developer/builder who wants to come in and keep the farm setting,” as well as conserve the open space in the rear of the property, part of the Concord River flood plain.

She said she hopes to have everything lined up by the end of the calendar year.

Eleazer Davis Farm is at the big curve, about a mile west of Concord Road. The enterprise has been a center for breeding, boarding, and training horses for competition. The barn has a capacity of 28; many clients employed trailers for transport and temporary boarding.

Samoylenko, whose family has owned Davis Farm for almost 30 years, put the historic horse farm on the market more than a year-and-a-half ago, including listing with realtors who specialize in equestrian properties.

When it became apparent that selling the farm as an equestrian property would not be possible, she said, she pivoted to ensuring a commitment to retaining the character of the property, which includes the 1705 home built by the father of Lt. Eleazer Davis, for whom Davis School is named.

“I assumed I was going to sell it as a farm, as it is,” Samoylenko related. “As I got deeper into it, I really started to factor in how much the horse industry has changed. It has been an education – about agriculture and property development in a Boston suburb.”

She explained that there are different equestrian specialties. For example, “At our barn, we do primarily dressage and eventing,” featuring sport horses. “I underestimated how the whole landscape for the sport horse industry in this area has changed,” she said. “The three-day eventing has headed south for year-round events and bigger pastures.”

Meanwhile, she continued, the dressage and hunter and jumper disciplines “don’t require the big open land or as much of a farm atmosphere; it’s more of a controlled boutique atmosphere.” That means the economics demand more horses on a smaller parcel – “very different from what we did.

“The bottom line is: how we ran a farm, how this farm existed, is just not where the horse industry in the Northeast is going.” She entertained a few offers, all of which would have involved “a lot more traffic, smaller paddocks, more horses – a lesson factory.”

“It wouldn’t be this antique, pastoral, conventional farm that everyone’s gotten used to around here,” she affirmed. “I’ve talked to a lot of the neighbors. They don’t want to look at trailers and cars and people running around. It’s very ironic – people want to live next to my horse farm. They don’t want to live next to a horse farm. But the way we run the farm now is economically impossible.”

She also noted, “We have kept hidden the unpleasant aspects of raising animals. That would change completely.”

Overtures to land trusts were also unsuccessful. So unless someone with independent wealth swoops down and offers to buy the property as a “hobby farm,” Samoylenko said, “we have to go in another direction.”

The best, most desirable use, is to restore the antique house – the beams are in good shape, the foundation is amazing,” Samoylenko said, adding that the original barn needs to be retained as well. “The historic barn is small compared to the recently constructed barns here and the non-historic parts of the farm would not be missed. In fact, removal would open the views to the back of the property which is quite beautiful.”
“I’m talking to people who want to preserve the image and look of the farm but update it, and give people the opportunity to look out on a pastoral setting,” she said. “It’s a unique property that really needs the right touch.”

She plans to retain about five acres on the west side of the 14-acre parcel, abutting the Little Meadow conservation area, where horse trailers used to park and build a smaller house for herself, along with a barn to keep a few horses.

There is a perpetual “visual conservation easement” on that part of the property, she pointed out, adding, “I don’t want to live next door to a horse farm I don’t manage.”

Samoylenko said in recent years she has been “painting and doing a number of creative things, and “that is expanding right now.” She said she hopes to further grow her design and fine-arts business as well as continue some private teaching, training, and competing with horses and riders.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763


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