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House For Sale: Winchester, Massachusetts

House For Sale: Winchester, Massachusetts
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As to the outside, they cleared large areas of brambles, uncovering blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry bushes. They also established a fully fenced vegetable garden as well as perennial gardens, repaired the old stone walls, put in an evergreen privacy hedge along Ridge Street, and provided tender, loving care to the larch, dogwood, catalpa, peach, pear, and apple trees as well as the various evergreens and the many mature flowering shrubs.

Next on our agenda that morning was a brief tour. We began by walking out one of the dining room doors onto a large cement-floored, glassed-in porch where, Hillary told us, she loves to have her lunch. (You can also walk from the dining room into the kitchen or, through the hall they opened up during renovations, the living room.) We marveled at the huge size of the birch tree just outside. A couple of doves were huddled together on one of the lower branches, enduring the rain.

“That birch was planted right after the Hurricane of ’38,” David told us. As to the doves, he said the property is home to many of them — as well as hundreds of other birds, including owls. “Lots of bunnies here, too,” he added.

We didn’t see the cellar. Just peered down some stairs to it. “I wouldn’t care if I never went down there,” said Hillary. But David said he loved the cellar, pointing out that the old rock foundations and huge supporting beams give a real sense of the place’s long history.

They agreed about their favorite room in the house, however. “It’s without a doubt our bedroom,” they said almost together. Once up there on the second floor, we could see why. It’s large, has windows on three sides (one of which overlooks the biggest catalpa tree we’ve ever seen), and has access to a large bathroom. And, oh yes, there’s a fireplace on the one wall without windows. Jacob’s nearby bedroom, filled with lovely furniture made by his father, and Liza’s room are also spacious and full of light.

On the third floor are Hillary’s office, a playroom, and a large, loftlike room in one corner of which was a professional set of drums. “Great way to relieve tension,” David explained with a smile.

A couple minutes later, crouching under a couple of umbrellas, we scooted across lawns, past the tree house and the chickens’ house, to David’s truly fabulous studio (reborn from the old barn), which also includes a workshop and garage. The studio part, with solid windows across the entire front, has roughly 600 square feet of uninterrupted space beneath a 13-foot-high cathedral ceiling. In the back is a bathroom and kitchenette. We were tempted to go out a back door to climb the tower, but with the sides and third floor (top) of it completely open to the elements, we decided, well, maybe another time.

Back in the main house a bit later, preparing to leave, we had to know why they had decided to sell. (They’re asking $1,295,000.) “The lure of the rural landscape has always been pulling at us,” replied Hillary, “and now that we no longer need to commute into Boston, we are finally giving in to it.” She said that when the opportunity came along to buy 44 acres of land in northern Vermont, where they plan to build a zero-energy home, they couldn’t resist. “Ironically,” David added, “exactly the same thing that led us to this property has also now taken us away.”

So it is that Winchester’s Johnson/Thompson House, as it is known to local historians — the oldest house in town, on land that, although shrunken, hasn’t changed much in more than 250 years — is now ready to take on its third family since 1711. And, you know, that was exactly 21 years before George Washington was born.

For more details, contact Nancy O’Herron at Coldwell Banker, 3 Church St., Winchester, MA. 781-729-7290;

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