The dirt road to Ray and Karen Berg’s Victorian style home in Manchester takes visitors past farms, cornfields, and rolling green pastures to a light blue Queen Anne perched on a hill. The house and its pastoral setting could be straight out of nineteenth- century Manchester. Yet the home was built in 2003.

For Ray Berg, it’s part of his dream of building “new old houses.” After teaming up to build the home, he and custom-home builder Jeff Proctor started a company called Manchester Victorians to undertake similar modern retro residential projects.

A retired college engineering professor who is president of Manchester’s chamber of commerce, Berg is a history buff. He likes the look of Victorians but not the upkeep and space limitations of a historic home. In his own house, he found ways to replicate the old look with new materials, such as using fiber-cement planking instead of wood on the exterior. “The pitches and proportions still match a Victorian exterior,” he says. “There are just many options and amenities available that let you have the distinctive look and charm of an old house to match modern needs.”

The Bergs’ 3,500-square-foot home is designed in an open farmhouse style. Rather than the dark woods, antique-filled rooms, and narrow hallways of a typical Victorian, the interior is light and airy. Where the parlor would be on the first floor is a master bedroom and bath. The turret room upstairs is an office. Extensive windows that look out on flower gardens and a creek are energy efficient. The carriage house is a garage for cars, not horses.

The red barn out back was built in 2005 using post-and-frame construction, after Berg made a careful study of historic barns in the region. It has a climate-controlled workshop but otherwise closely resembles century-old local barns.

Manchester Victorians is starting out slowly, generating lots of interest but few contracts in the stalled economy. One of Berg and Proctor’s first projects is an addition to an 1860’s Italianate farmhouse. They are talking with another client who wants to build a Queen Anne larger than Berg’s. They work from a library of historic home plans and also have an architect on staff. The company is open to building barns and other outbuildings and managing rehab projects on historic homes.

–Shelley Daily