House For Sale: In The Shadow of Mount Monadnock
Yankee Plus Dec 2015
TABLE OF CONTENTS
They say that Dublin, New Hampshire, situated 1,493 feet above sea level on the shoulder of the most-climbed mountain in America, Mount Monadnock, is the highest village in New England. But that’s not a big deal to Dublin residents. They’re more likely to point out how many famous people, particularly artists and writers, have lived or “summered” in the town over the years: people such as Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Amy Lowell, Rudyard Kipling, John Singer Sargent, and Abbott Thayer. If you take one of any number of trails up Mount Monadnock from Dublin, you can think of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow doing the same.
Famous scientists and statesmen, as well, have enjoyed Dublin’s “exceptionally bracing and stimulating” atmosphere, as Mark Twain described it. For example, William Howard Taft visited Dublin twice during his presidency (1909-1913). Whom did he visit? Well, it was his Secretary of the Treasury, a wealthy part-time Dubliner named Franklin MacVeagh, who lived in a mansion–called a “cottage” in those days–less than a mile from the village and half a mile from Dublin Lake. Across an expansive field from MacVeagh’s place was a historic Cape house and barn complex, built in 1769, which MacVeagh purchased in 1898 and used as an office for his aides and staff members for more than 30 years. Now skip ahead to this year of 2010 and our moseying story can begin …
As we stood for a few minutes in the second-floor master bedroom (with separate stairs), which extends the entire width of the Deacon Benjamin Learned House, across the field from the old MacVeagh mansion, we tried to picture what it must have been like here during the summers of Taft’s presidency. You see, to escape the heat of Washington, D.C.–there was no air conditioning in those days–Secretary of the Treasury MacVeagh would bring his whole department, probably several dozen members, to Dublin, and install them on both floors of the Learned House, which he’d just purchased, and where they’d conduct all of the country’s financial affairs, right there in the shadow of Mount Monadnock. We’re sure the magnificent views out these windows facing south and west were an inspiration to them.
So now, all these many years later, the historic Learned House is for sale (asking $589,000). Besides the nine-room house, the property includes about 4-1/2 acres of open field, a farm pond, and a gorgeous 156-foot-long barn containing a three-bay garage, three stalls for horses, an old icehouse, and a heated workshop with a vast assortment of machinery and windows looking out to Mount Monadnock.
Stored in various areas of the barn are also a 1929 Model A truck and a 1976 Chevrolet truck with a plow and only 40,000 miles on it. Oh yes, we spotted a John Deere tractor, a snowblower, and a Gravely mower, too. (We happen to know that the 1929 Model A truck isn’t available, but you could surely dicker for the other things.)
For the last 50 years, the current owner of all of this is one of Dublin’s most community-minded and likable citizens, Richard A. Hammond. “If you need something done for the town,” the saying in Dublin has gone for all these years, “get Richard Hammond involved.”
Originally from Holden, Massachusetts, and a mechanical engineer by trade, Richard, with his first wife, Ruth, purchased the Learned house in 1960 and then made improvements year after year–always careful, however, to maintain the historical integrity of its features, including wide pine-board floors, raised-panel doors, exposed beams, gunstock corner posts, and so on. When they replaced the 9-over-6 windows, they made sure that the new looked just like the old.
Two daughters, Sarah and June, came along, and it wasn’t long before the barn was housing their horses. “We were on our horses every day,” recalls June, “exploring all of Dublin’s back roads and trails.” They also biked over to Dublin Lake for swims during the summer, skated on the farm pond during the winter, and played with their friends in the hayloft year-round. In fact, on our recent visit to the property, we noticed witches and paper pumpkins scattered about up there in that loft, reminders of one of their long-ago Halloween parties.
All during those years, while Ruth devoted time to the gardens and landscaping, Richard was busy running his insulation and siding company (based in nearby Keene), serving on countless town committees, and doing home projects, such as building mahogany cabinets for their kitchen, converting a shed into a den, constructing a sunporch and attached deck, and making outdoor furniture in that wonderful workshop of his.
And perhaps it goes without saying that every detail of this property–whether it was the roof, the siding, the wiring, the heat, the septic and alarm systems–at one time or another received his full attention. And today that shows. There’s nothing on this property that needs doing currently. At one point, Richard even installed new windows throughout the barn.
Of course, all families, sooner or later, experience tragedy. In 2001, Ruth passed away, and with the girls married by then and on their own, Richard was alone, filling this sad time with projects and community activities. In 2005, he decided to attend his 55th high-school reunion in Holden. It was a good decision. On the first day, he met a classmate who introduced herself as Alice. They didn’t remember each other, but they had an enjoyable conversation. Both had recently lost their spouses. A dinner followed–and then, eventually, they married.
Alice loved Dublin and the historic Learned House. And yet after several years, the couple found they were traveling more and enjoying some of the cold winter months in warmer places. So when a condominium in neighboring Peterborough became available, they decided to acquire it and, yes, sell Richard’s historic property to a family who’d once again have parties in the hayloft, skate on the farm pond, and surely put horses back into those stalls in the barn.
“No doubt you’ll really miss this place,” we said to Richard at the end of our visit. “I miss it already,” he said. “We had some wonderful years here.” And then, after a pause, “But it’s time.”
And so it is with everyone, we thought as we drove back to the village. At some point, “it’s time.” But not for the old Learned House up there in those open fields and meadows overlooking Mount Monadnock and distant Massachusetts, some 40 miles away. It’s ready–in perfect shape, in fact–to begin another 240 years. But with whom?
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.