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Bell Mansion provides touch of elegance

Multiple rooms available for rent to host meetings, business soirées
Belrock, which houses the Art Gallery of Sudbury, was formerly the mansion of lumber baron William Joseph Bell. It has three galleries and expansive grounds available for business functions.

For an elegant setting for business gatherings that’s both charming and historical, organizers need look no further than the Art Gallery of Sudbury.

Situated near the city’s downtown core and overlooking Ramsey Lake, the gallery is located in one of Sudbury’s most iconic and oldest residences: Belrock, or, as it’s more commonly known to locals, the Bell Mansion.

Built in the Arts and Crafts style from local stone, the 6,000-square-foot residence was constructed in 1907 by lumber baron William Joseph Bell and his wife, Katherine, who moved to Sudbury to make their fortune harvesting the area’s dense pine forest, at a time before the region became better known for mining.

A popular site for outdoor weddings and photo shoots, Belrock has been largely overlooked for business functions, but Joelle Beaulieu, the gallery’s facility coordinator and executive assistant, said she’s open to ideas and welcomes new purposes for the space.

“Probably, people think it’s just a nice location, and they just think weddings,” Beaulieu said. “They don’t realize, ‘I’ll just go there for a meeting.’”

Gallery 1, located on the main floor, measures 1,000 square feet and has a capacity of 75 for non-fixed spaces, or 90 people standing. A roll-down screen is available for viewing videos or presentations, and a microphone, podium and projector can be provided if needed.

Gallery 2, located on the second level, also measures 1,000 square feet and has the same capacity. Wi-Fi is available throughout the facility.

The open nature of the galleries means that a variety of setups — from a formal sit-down dinner to a casual networking soirée — can be configured to the spaces, Beaulieu said.

Also on the second level is Gallery 3, which measures 420 square feet and is ideal for smaller groups of 15 to 30 people. An adjoining studio is most often used for children’s art classes in the summertime.

In the basement, caterers have access to a prep kitchen with a sink, countertops and a fridge to prepare food for serving.

Clients can even arrange for art instruction as teambuilding or networking exercises.

“If you’re a group, and say your work group wanted to do a class, we provide classes,” Beaulieu said. “If you wanted to book your group to come do art while you’re doing teambuilding, we can also accommodate that.”

Any revenues generated from facility rentals are reinvested into arts programming and bringing new exhibits to the art gallery, a non-profit organization.

However, there are some limitations to using the space, Beaulieu noted.

“When we have artworks on the wall, meetings in the gallery spaces can happen, you just can’t have food or drink in the galleries,” she said. “So, unfortunately, when exhibits are running, then we’re limited in what we can do, but we can accommodate.”

Adjacent to Gallery 1 is an open foyer where food and drinks can be served away from the valuable artwork, and upstairs, Gallery 3 is often used for serving food when an event is taking place in Gallery 2 next door.

The building is non-accessible for guests with mobility challenges, but the expansive grounds, with lush lawns and landscaping, are also available for rental.

“We’ve accommodated large tents,” Beaulieu said. “I had a wedding here that had the ceremony at the front, but then the reception was (on the back lawn) and they were 180 people.”

For larger gatherings, the art gallery requests that clients arrange for portable washroom facilities on site as the gallery’s aging plumbing can’t accommodate a large volume of use.

But what the gallery lacks in amenities, it makes up for in character.

In its heyday, the mansion was one of the more luxurious residences in town, situated on a hill overlooking Ramsey Lake, and today it’s still revered for its unique architecture, beautiful vistas, and historic place in Sudbury’s heritage.

More than an entrepreneur, William Bell was a philanthropist, involved in several charitable organizations and bequeathing 110 acres of land — which now encompasses Sudbury’s waterfront Bell Park — to the public when he died in 1945.

Upon Katherine’s death nine years later, with no heir to assume her fortune, Belrock’s ownership went into the public domain.

A 1955 fire damaged some of the interior, and there have been many alterations over the years to update and modernize the building. But one room, a small conservatory on the ground floor, remains intact.

Beaulieu said that room in particular holds fascination for clients who like a bit of supernatural mystery, as murmurings and strange sightings over the years suggest the mansion’s matriarch never really left.

“Apparently (the conservatory) was Katherine Bell’s favourite room and, apparently, she’s still around,” Beaulieu said. “There are lots of stories about when people are here and they hear someone running up the stairs.”