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And a way of life is gone.

Our home for ten years, a crazy white elephant purchase on a hill looking at Boston fifty miles in the distance, is gone. The flames reached into the overcast, illuminating the township for miles around. Mother Nature whanged it with a bolt of lightning, as if saying “Time’s Up.” What a calamity for the town, the current inhabitants, and all who remember. She was a three-story play house, kitchens and bedrooms on all floors, with wide open skies and sweeping views – and trilling birdsong. A place to gather for meteor showers, toast birthdays, and have wine-tastings.

For us, Worcester industrialist Charles Washburn’s erstwhile summer house was a fabulous venue for playing party host to friends and family, the locus for elegant soirees and giant sleepovers. Once we had twenty-six at thanksgiving, complete with six lolling dogs. The carcass of the deep-fried turkey, cooked by family friend Elliot, a New York restaurant reviewer, saw itself being hoisted through the hallway at a trot in the jaws of one victorious dog, making us roll with hilarity. It was a place to love, enjoy, and cherish.

Much has been said of its chapters in Princeton history – but our chapter is the one we hold dear. It was full of magic, the old house, and we renovated her to reignite that magic. We reinstalled the curved staircase, torn out to comply with building codes for her chapter as an inn. While the carpenter was working his own kind of architectural magic, the intercoms came alive with a husky voice rasping out:

“I really like the staircase.”
Oh, didn’t I tell you? She had ghosts. Oh yes. The carpenter grabbed his tools, announced loudly to whatever in the air around him, “Well I’m going home now,” and scampered away as fast as his legs could take him.

Winter came, and the Christmas season.
Ah, let’s have a concert!  But how to decorate.  No problem – Jess Hart, our house guest, turned out to be a display expert. (We had ample room to host three cycles of young families, while they renovated their own homes). She and husband Terry festooned the rooms with evergreen swags and fairy lights, helped by their pretty young daughters.  And outside? Fat snowflakes lightly fell, veiling the landscape with glistening white, putting lace on mini-light wrapped trees. When soprano Maria Ferrante swished down those stairs in her diva dress, joining the crowd of sixty-four in the staged living room – her performance cast even more magic. How can I tell you how mystical it was?

The ghosts know.  I’m sure they too, wail into the abyss, bemoaning their loss.  There’s nothing more final than fire.  It was a good run we’ll never, ever, forget.


  • Wonderful requiem!!

  • Very sorry for your loss, Michelee! Yet glad that apparently no people were injured. And I believe that the old mansion in all its glory is still alive in the memories of its ghosts…. 🙂

  • It was a brand and magical place. I enjoyed each of our visits there with you, especially thanksgiving with the house full of extended family.

    Fire is such complete termination.
    But, the house will be remembered and missed.

  • Thanks Wellsie. It waa a most special place and time, and I’m glad you all were part of it.
    Abrazos…. M and H

  • Now I miss it too. What a loss, such wonderful memories, and I never knew a thing about it before reading this. Make of that what you will…

  • So sorry to hear of the loss of your grand old house! It was well loved, and we will of course remember our visits fondly !! 💗💗

  • A requiem for a home. Beautifully written.

  • That was a lovely home. I am glad that I will never have to pass by it to see it burned–or in some ways worse–cleared away. I can keep its loveliness in my mind. I can keep the dinners at that six-dog table in my heart. Where they have been since I said goodbye many years ago, and drove away.

  • Such a conjuring of delicious visuals with your words! I could “see” everything, hear the voices in my head and smell the epicurean delights! Ohhhh…how strongly I sense the loss of an era that I was not even a part of! Definitely an affirmation of your storytelling skills!

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