Breaking New Ground: A Journey of Renovation and Self-Discovery

Author: Jorge Perez

Buying a new house is an exciting milestone for many, symbolizing a significant step into adulthood. For Robert Hartwell, this step means even more. Known for his work as a Broadway performer, educator, and entrepreneur, Hartwell is also the Founder and Artistic Director of The Broadway Collective – an elite academy that offers musical theater and mentorship training for the next generation of Broadway stars.

After purchasing a historic 200-year-old plantation-style home with a complex history in June 2020, Hartwell shared a viral photo that provided hope and inspiration during challenging times. Now, he partners with Scott Brothers Entertainment and the Oprah Winfrey Network to chronicle his home renovation for Max with Breaking New Ground. His mission? To fill this new home with happiness and love. This series goes beyond the usual renovation drama by integrating a celebration of Black culture throughout the home’s transformation and addressing profound questions of identity and heritage.

Robert Hartwell posed in newly renovated Paulette’s Parlour.

Typically, I don’t gravitate towards renovation shows, but Breaking New Ground is far from typical. It’s a unique blend of home renovation and a deeply personal journey of self-discovery. Hartwell transforms his home, explores his ancestry, and pays homage to the figures who have shaped his life. The storytelling in this show is exceptional, and it doesn’t shy away from the challenges of renovating a 200-year-old house. As he begins renovating, he delves into the home’s history, seeking to understand himself better and give voice to the Black individuals who lived there before him. The series transforms this historic house into a home filled with love, celebrating Hartwell’s resilience and the stories of those who came before him.

Robert Hartwell and Larry Goodwyn visiting the Horace Hartwell Gravesite.

Episode Descriptions:

  • Episode 101: The Parlor: Hartwell meets his team to begin renovating his 200-year-old home. He faces tough decisions to preserve as much of the 4,000-square-foot house as possible while incorporating his family legacy into the renovation.
  • Episode 102: The Kitchen and Dining Room: Hartwell tackles the massive task of renovating the kitchen and dining room. Balancing the budget and making numerous decisions, he breathes new life into spaces with a troubling history.
  • Episode 103: The Primary Suite: Hartwell envisions a primary suite as a place of rest and reflection. He dives into his family history, exploring his roots and how they shaped him into who he is today.
  • Episode 104: The Living Room, Study, and Exterior: Juggling creative and construction challenges, Hartwell leans on his friends and learns more about his new community. The home’s exterior, living room, and study come to life with love at their core.
  • Episode 105: The Dance Studio and Family Spaces: As Great Barrington, MA, starts to feel like home, Hartwell dreams of building a unique dance studio while manifesting a room for a future family, keeping joy at the forefront.
  • Episode 106: Mom’s Suite: Determined to finish his house, Hartwell works tirelessly to create a suite fit for a queen for his mother. The culmination of family, history, loss, and perseverance is revealed in this final transformation filled with love and joy.

Don’t miss the premiere of Breaking New Ground on June 27, 2024, on Max. Prepare to be inspired by Hartwell’s incredible journey of renovation and self-discovery.

Robert Hartwell and his father, William, looking at the restored exterior of the home.

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