Charles B. Pomeroy House - Circa 1883
A casual comment to Lynn Duval from a customer who mentioned that her Victorian home was surely too far off the beaten track to be included in the Tour proved serendipitous. Not so, Lynn quickly responded and off we went to visit the potential candidate at 327 South Street. Granted the property is about as far from Prospect Hill as you can go; it’s almost at the Windham/Lebanon line, as a matter of fact, but that distance in no way diminishes its appeal.
We were instantly charmed by this 1883 country Victorian with its spectacular grounds and view and were disappointed to learn that a conflict of dates would make the inclusion in the 2008 Tour impossible. Undaunted, in hopes that our readers would be able to visit this attractive property in 2009, we made a return trip this fall to interview the owners Elizabeth Huebner and Hedley Freake.
The Freakes (the final e is silent) and their three sons had lived in a ranch in Windham for 15 years when they decided that they needed a larger home and one with some interesting features. Both city folk by background, they thought it would be fun to have an ‘80s old farmhouse. During their 2 year search they went on one of our Home Tours which convinced them that a Victorian house would be desirable, just not an ornate one.
When they discovered this uninhabited property, (the owner had recently died), they fell in love with the acre-plus yard with its spectacular country views, open fields, and huge flat stones. It felt to them like stepping back one hundred years. Hedley in particular was excited about the generous space which offered interesting possibilities for a new kitchen.
They closed in 2002 and then the real work began. First, valued contractor Jim Baber informed them that the house was in worse condition than they had imagined and that it would require lots of work. Elizabeth and Hedley were not naive about the challenges they faced and resolutely, moved ahead doing the architectural design and all the work themselves. Notable exceptions, of course, were Baber’s carpentry; Larry Mooney’s building a new stone fireplace in the living room; and Jim Brennan’s electrical work.
As those of us who own old buildings are painfully aware, nothing is simple with any job and the unexpected is absolutely certain to be a given. In the Freake’s case, it was a massive barn which had to be razed immediately, per order of the city’s code enforcement officer. The hazard it posed of collapsing seemed moot as attempt after attempt to fell it were met with Yankee resistance. Eventually, of course, the demolition succeeded and all that remains of it today is the foundation.
Before the family could occupy the house, some crucial basics had to be in place. Fifteen of the building’s 28 windows were broken and needed to be replaced, overhead lighting installed on the 2nd floor, some asbestos removed, and the furnace replaced.
During the few years of their stewardship, they have tackled any number of restoration projects. Every window was removed, re-roped and weighted. The kitchen area was totally redesigned, including the removal of a staircase and the addition of a laundry. It is an exceptionally bright large space with a bank of windows that offer a bucolic view where cows once grazed at this farm site. The front door with its unusual square panels was lovingly returned to its original beauty. The staircase hand rail and spindles were refinished, an upstairs bathroom installed and a new one is currently being updated off the family room. A beautiful new roof of architectural shingles reminiscent of slate is a recent improvement.
Elizabeth is particularly proud of the transformation that she has been responsible for on the outside. The removal of invasive plants such as poison ivy and bittersweet has allowed for the regrowth of some of the original plantings, magnificent stones have been repositioned in useful ways, a stone wall repaired, and new gardens planted. All provide a perfect setting to enjoy these pastoral surroundings and spectacular seasonal vistas within city limits from any one of the house’s porches, (one in each compass direction.)
The family is justifiably proud of their home and have respect for its lineage. When the new kitchen was built, for example, some of the floorboards and wainscoting were fashioned into a unique bar by one of their sons. Doors, knobs, radiators, window panes are all kept for future use. Recycling at its best, we’d say. They enjoy the spaciousness of the sunny, comfortable 10-room house and appreciate it all the more because of its being a family project successfully achieved by their own mental acumen and elbow grease. The importance of family is further visible in the interesting furniture and mementos from Elizabeth’s Midwestern family that are perfectly suited to this décor.
Elizabeth Huebner and Hedley Freake are only the 2nd family to occupy this 125-year-old house. That in itself is unique, but even more so, we believe, is the fact that we were able to talk with a descendent of the original owner, Charles B. Pomeroy. That was a fascinating and interesting look into the rich life played out here when the Pomeroys welcomed family and friends to their cherished Victorian farmhouse.