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