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A Special Place Called 'Liberty Street'

A Special Place Called ‘Liberty Street’
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Have you ever decided to do something that for most of your life you’d never have even dreamed of doing?

The wraparound deck off the living room is the ideal place to view the sun setting over Meredith Bay.
Photo/Art by Judson D. Hale Sr.
The wraparound deck off the living room is the ideal place to view the sun setting over Meredith Bay.

I guess it’s time for a confession. Although I’ve never signed my name to any of the hundreds of “House for Sale” articles I’ve written and photographed for Yankee since 1958, I am the “Yankee Moseyer.” There. I’m finally “out”! Have I written all of them? Well, no–I occasionally had a “Guest Moseyer” during the 1990s. I’d surmise that I’ve done about 90 percent of them.

But there was one “House for Sale” article in all that time that never appeared on the pages of the magazine. I’d visited the property, interviewed the owners, and taken the photographs, but Yankee readers never saw any of it–and therein lies the beginning of my story for you this month.

“Hey, Jud! This is Paul Sweetnam. Remember me?” I was at my Yankee office. It was March 1971. And, yes, I remembered him. He had been one of my fraternity brothers at Dartmouth, class of 1955. “I have a ‘House for Sale’ story for you,” he said, and went on to explain that he and his wife, Fannie, were thinking of selling their house on the northwest point of one of Lake Winnipesaukee’s largest islands, Sleepers Island. “You gotta come see it,” he said. It so happened that I needed to find a property to feature in our September 1971 issue, so I went right ahead and accepted his invitation. We’d meet a week or so after ice-out at Gilford Marina in Gilford, New Hampshire, where Paul kept his boat.

My wife, Sally (we’re celebrating our 56th anniversary this summer), and the oldest of our three boys, “J.D.,” then 11, were with me that spring Saturday a month and a half later as we headed for Gilford. Coming over the crest of the hill on the Laconia Bypass (Routes 3 and 11) before heading down toward the Laconia airport, we had our first view of Lake Winnipesaukee spreading out before us, filled with its myriad islands, points, and coves. In the distance we even spotted a snow-capped Mount Washington. Of course we didn’t know it at the time, but this would be a view we’d always look forward to seeing every summer Friday evening for the next 43 years.

Sun setting over Meredith Bay.
Photo/Art by Judson D. Hale Sr.
Sun setting over Meredith Bay.

The trip out to Sleepers Island in Paul’s bright-red 18-foot outboard didn’t take long–maybe 15 minutes. My only recollection of that short voyage was being instantly thrilled to be out there on that huge expanse of lake, which, after a long winter and ice-out the week before, seemed to me to be just waking up. But I had to keep in mind that for me this was a working trip. I’d need to interview Paul and Fannie and take lots of photographs (black-and-white back then). All of this I proceeded to begin doing as soon as we’d tied up at the dock (far bigger than anything allowed these days) on the northwest point of Sleepers Island and climbed the short path (later to be a wooden walkway) up to the house. It was a large triple A-frame structure with decks on all sides, built in 1965, and surrounded by the tallest, straightest pines, which, 300 years ago, could have been selected for the king’s Royal Navy.

The northwest half of the first floor had a stone fireplace (now with a deer head over it) and comfortable furniture, all of which we eventually replaced. Sliding doors opened to that part of the deck overlooking Rattlesnake and Diamond islands. The southwest part of that first-floor space had more furniture back then, but later we purchased from an island neighbor an antique pool table for that area. It had originally been in a Boston pool hall. It was in constant use from then on. I can still hear in my mind today the gentle clicking of those pool balls late into our summer evenings.

But I’m getting ahead of my story.

From the deck outside the pool-table area, we looked southwest to Gunstock Mountain, which became the major ski area for our family, and farther on down toward Alton Bay, destined to be one of our favorite lake towns for breakfast, ice cream, and, when our grandchildren were little, miniature golf.

After looking at the three bedrooms and bathroom (one of three on the property) upstairs, we walked through the kitchen, with its six-chair table in the center, to the deck on the east side, where morning sun was streaming through the pines. The view from there, Paul explained, was toward Wolfeboro. “It’s about a 20-minute boat ride,” he said. Little did we know then how many dozens of dinners we were destined to enjoy over there. And, oh, those gorgeous rides home in the moonlight!

During our chats while meandering about, we learned that Paul and Fannie were newlyweds, a second marriage for both, but I couldn’t get them to fully explain their reason for selling–and somehow I didn’t feel comfortable pressing the matter.

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Updated Sunday, July 13th, 2014

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10 Responses to A Special Place Called ‘Liberty Street’

  1. Kathleen Conner July 13, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    What a moving story about the life of a lovely family. The life of a summer home and the love shared there. It was the sharing of a glorious life lived by a blessed few. Thank You for sharing the dream with so many who may otherwise have completely missed out. I wish I could go spend a few weeks at “Liberty Street” myself this summer.

  2. ann scourtes July 13, 2014 at 10:40 pm #

    very nice story

  3. Sarah West Coast July 19, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    This is a lovely story. My family parted with our summer memory-laden lakeside house in Maine years ago, though all of us remember it so fondly. It was part of the inspiration for my husband and me to buy a small waterfront cottage in Westport Mass., so we could make wonderful memories for our kids. Now that we live on the West Coast and the children are growing and heading off to summer camps and travel, it’s too hard to maintain, so we have decided to sell. But, as the author writes, a part of us will always be there.

  4. Chuck Owen July 19, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    I know your property quite well as I am good friends with 2 of your neighbors, the Gowland’s and Leach’s. Mark has been a long time friend and similar to yourself, a boyz weekend on Father’s Day is always had. As with you, a little work but, more socializing. Through my work at the Boston Globe, I came to know Cindy, J.D. wife. In a few conversations with her, we revealed a common interest, Sleepers Island.
    It made me sad to hear earlier this summer that you were selling the property, it makes me sadder reading such a great story. Whenever I fish around the point ( I’ve caught a lot of smallmouth just off your property ) I will think of this story and think of the good fortune my friends have been able to share in Sleeper’s. The most beautiful sun sets around!
    Be well.

  5. Denise Gonyer July 20, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    What a great story! A real tear jerker…You are have been so fortunate to make these memories to cherish forever and ever. You, your family and friends have been truly blessed. It is so great to hear this story..the island life is so different than the inland life. Thanks for sharing this great story of our beautiful lake! Gilford’s Town Clerk, Denise Gonyer

  6. Louise Fournier Perry August 5, 2014 at 7:33 am #

    What a beautiful heartfelt story! I know exactly how you feel. We just sold our beloved family home that was in our family for 62 years. The beautiful memories of family and friends will last a lifetime. It was so sad and difficult to walk out that door for the last time. We were lucky to have grown up in that beautiful house with the best parents in the world! It was bought by a young couple who had previously looked at
    50 homes. The minute they walked into our home they said they could feel the love in the old antique colonial. It now will have a new family to fill the rooms with laughter. When I was leaving the house for the last time I thanked it for all the beautiful memories that will always live on in our hearts…

  7. ed violante August 5, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    Lovely story about fond memories.Reminds me of my uncle’s home in new York state.Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. Faye August 5, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

    I loved your story — it was sad, sweet, funny & lovely. You are so lucky to have had a place on the lake, with your beautiful family. I bet you have great memories!

  9. Fannyv Diehl August 6, 2015 at 8:24 pm #

    I remember that day distinctly, since I was the owner of the A frame and , at that time, Paul’s wife. I remember it was a drizzly day. When I deplored the weather, you said you would write the property up with the weather so gray, and then state that if it is this nice in the rain imagine how gorgeous it will be in the sunshine! I’ve never forgotten that conversation; I was impressed that you could take a situation and make a positive out of a negative.

  10. Phyd April 13, 2016 at 9:14 pm #

    Do not do it…family traditions are the only memories that go on forever.

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