House Redux: Yankee Magazine's Original House for Sale
It all started with a crooked-looking bay window in 1999. More than a decade on, that’s how Chris Allen remembers it. The window, made out of two old cabinet doors, was just a small part of a grand old house in downtown Groton, Massachusetts, that Chris passed each day as he made the daily drive from his home in Concord to Pepperell, where a horse of his was stabled.
“It just seemed to be calling to me,” Chris says. “It just made me want to find out what else was there.”
So he tried to do just that, slowing down just enough every morning to take in a little more detail. There was the way the house sat back from Main Street, tucked away from the traffic. The varying roof heights appealed to him. So did the seemingly forgotten yard, which sloped and meandered before butting up against a wall of trees. Even the crooked house lines drove his interest.
Finally, after a year, Chris paid a visit to a nearby real estate office and told an agent that if the place ever came up for sale, he’d love to talk to the owners. “Funny you should say that,” she told him. “I just got off the phone with them, and they’re thinking about selling.”
Let’s step back a moment. You see, this isn’t the first time this property has appeared in Yankee. In April 1950, in response to reader requests to feature homes that were actually on the market, our magazine took action.
“For some months now, we have been running, as you know, pictures and a story of some attractive house in [New England],” editor Richard Merrifield wrote in that month’s issue. “Naturally, this sort of story would not be as interesting as a similar story of a house actually for sale–one YOU could do something about.”
And with that, the genesis for Yankee‘s long-running “House for Sale” column was born.
In 1950 the property was the home of Robert Sturtevant, former director of the recently shuttered Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture, an all-women’s institution in Groton and the first of its kind in the country. Sturtevant’s 115-year-old home was a patched-together place, a series of carriage and wagon sheds that years ago had been turned into “a dwelling with rooms blithely located at five different levels,” the Yankee Moseyer wrote.
Handmade doors adorned the place. There was an artist’s studio, a large “summer” room, and, under Sturtevant’s hand, a beautifully landscaped yard. “If you’re an imaginative family,” the Moseyer added, “this house could be fun.” The owner’s asking price: $16,900.