EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


October 14, 2007

British TV show films at historical house in Haverhill

HAVERHILL - Thomas Spitalere wore a sharp black polo shirt and crisply ironed black slacks, and got himself a new haircut.

The Historical Commission chairman wanted to look sharp, after all, as Haverhill's representative to the whole of England during his appearance on the British Broadcasting Corp. network.

Producers from the BBC show "Who Do You Think You Are?" filmed this weekend at the Hazen Garrison House at the corner of Groveland and Water streets. The hourlong show follows famous English celebrities who are researching their genealogy, and in this case the path led to Haverhill.

Spitalere was tagged as the voice of the city, and has helped the producers do research and even assisted them in writing his loosely scripted lines.

"It's the first time I've done something like this, so it's interesting," Spitalere said of his first major television appearance. "A lot of pressure here."

The TV crew came to Haverhill Friday from New Brunswick, Canada, where they filmed other portions for the show.

The celebrity connection to the Hazen Garrison House remained a secret; the producers would not reveal the details. But the female star is a blood relative to Richard Hazen, a British merchant who settled in Haverhill, and was in the city for the filming, Spitalere said.

Past celebrities on the show include movie actors John Hurt and Jeremy Irons, and Food Network chef Nigella Lawson.

The producers, Christopher Bruce and Olivia Howes, went over documents with Spitalere at Buttonwoods Museum Friday afternoon, and the filming happened Saturday morning at the house.

The current house owners, Ken and Linda White, moved in four years ago and have two young children. They are proud of their 283-year-old home's past and welcome the British TV show, which first came to Haverhill four weeks ago to scout the filming location.

The celebrity connection to the home is still a mystery to the Whites, and they may not find out more until the show is aired in March next year.

"I still don't know who it is," Ken White said.

The Hazen family was a highly regarded New England clan.

Richard Hazen built the English manor-style house at 8 Groveland St. in 1724 about 75 yards from the Merrimack River, where he wanted to build a trading wharf. The city was settled only about 80 years earlier.

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