In the dappled sunlight through the leaves rustled by the cooling afternoon breeze, Annabelle Peabody stands in the yard of her home of 56 years and joyfully reminisces, freely sharing stories with the home’s new owner.
The property on Hillcrest Drive in Greenfield has been known by a few names through the years — Cameron Lake, the House in the Woods, and Peabody’s Pond — and now it will be known as Annabelle, a tribute by the new owner to the former teacher who has called this place home since August 1964. And at the head of the shaded driveway to the red house perched on a rise above the pond stands a that reads, “Welcome to Annabelle.”
At one point in the late-September afternoon, the property caretaker brought an aerial photograph to Peabody that he found in the attic. It was placed there many years ago by Peabody’s late husband, Louie. She pointed at various parts of the large photograph explaining where they made changes through the years, showing where the old foundation of the barn was, so close to the new barn, mere inches, and how they worried that taking down the old barn would maybe harm the new barn simply because of the proximity. It did not.
She spoke about her sons, the children that played on the grounds through the years on the gently rising and falling landscape, how her husband rigged up a system to cool the attic in the summer, and how they never had need for an air-conditioner for the rest of the house because of good breezes and closed blinds when the sun would get too hot.
She also spoke some about the history, and actually has compiled a many-paged document detailing what she knows about the home and the property. It’s all threaded together with her heart. She said she meant to just put something together, something practical, “but I’m afraid I got personal,” she laughed.
In 10 pages of intricately-penned words, Peabody has written the history as she and her family know it, including personal touches like how her sons camped out in the living room for a week after the oldest son received a tent and sleeping bag for his birthday, which was celebrated with a party and the attendance of many of his friends; putting a basketball hoop up on the barn for the boys; the youngest son, learning carpentry, redoing his whole room; and how children would come to the pond to ice skate every winter.
The home was built by a local banker in 1915. He used it as a summer home.
“Once upon a time,” Peabody wrote that, while she doesn’t know the precise history, the home was also once known as the 21 Club, she thinks at the time it was owned by the U.S. Shoe Corporation and it was rented out for parties and dances.
Sometime after that, Paul and Evelyn Cameron owned the property, also using it as a summer home where they held parties. It was Paul’s dad, Peabody has heard, that created the wheat drill wheel light that still hangs in the center of the living room.
Later, Ray and Lois Cameron bought the property, making it a year-round home. The Camerons put their stamp on the house, Annabelle wrote, including adding hardwood flooring to rooms, renovating the master bedroom, adding a furnace, and building the pond. Built as a fishing pond, fisherman paid to fish, and they could be served food from the house through a door in the dining room that opens to the yard on the side of the house.
The Camerons sold the property to Jim and Harriet Sellers. Fishing was not permitted at the pond during that time, and it “grew up.” Harriet Sellers worked at the hospital and was on call, and because of that had installed telephone lines all through the house, Peabody said.
In 1964, the Peabody family was living on what she called Circle Drive, which is the cul-de-sac portion of Lafayette Street. Peabody wrote that their little house didn’t do much for their comfort in the hot summer and there was very little shade. It was when her husband went to one of Greenfield’s stores to buy an air-conditioner, because he had had enough with the heat, that their new journey began.
While at the store, he had to wait in line and just happened to be waiting with local Realtor, John Ross. When Louie Peabody told him what he was doing there, Ross said, “Peabody, let me show you a place where you won’t need an air-conditioner.”
So he went up to the old House in the Woods with the Realtor. He was only able to look in the windows as the owners were away at the time. Louie went home and told Annabelle and their oldest son all about it and took them to see the property.
Annabelle wrote that her 7-year-old son loved it there, which was a surprise to her because he had such a good group of friends on their street. She said the night before doing Louie made the decision, he was up all night, but eventually decided to take the leap and buy the property.
The Sellers moved into the Peabody’s little “doll house” on Circle Drive, and the Peabody’s moved into the house on Hillcrest Drive and paid the Sellers $1,000.
Annabelle wrote that everyone called their home on the circle a little doll house. It was a newer home and in a quiet neighborhood full of “wonderful neighbors,” the backyard was fenced, the flowers tended, there was a rock garden, and seating inviting one to enjoy it all.
When the Peabodys moved into the new house on Hillcrest Drive, they made their own changes, like adding towel bars to the bathroom and replacing doors, mowing the overgrown vegetation around the pond, eventually enclosing the porch that overlooks the pond, and built the new barn.
Annabelle wrote that furnishing the much larger home with what had been in their home from Circle Drive presented its challenges. For instance, she had a “really nice rug” from her living room in the smaller home, but putting it in the new living room made the rug look tiny. Upon a visit from her aunt, she laughed, saying the rug “looked like a postage stamp on an elephant’s rear.”
The windows were bare for a while, until Annabelle’s mother bought her some blinds, which still hang in the windows. The dining room suite the Peabodys purchased to put in the dining room remained until recently after the property sold.
She wrote about how her mother and father came to live on the property later in 1964. Annabelle said a former owner had placed a nice mobile home across the driveway for his mother-in-law. Annabelle said her father and mother could do the same thing as taking care of the country home they had was becoming too much for them. So they did, and the mobile home, kept in pristine condition all these years, remains and has been the home of the property’s caretaker and Annabelle’s friend and helper these last years.
Annabelle stated how God has “provided perfectly” through the years for her and her husband, and her alone after his passing, to continue to live in the house perched above the pond and to lovingly maintain it.
As Annabelle stood in the dappled sunlight and the cooling fall breeze on a perfect late September day in the driveway of her home for nearly six decades, she said with joy, “This house could tell some stories.”
Angela Shepherd is a correspondent for the village of Greenfield.