Part one of a two-part series
PEPPERELL — One of the homes featured on the Holiday House Tour is a colonial that predates the Revolution and might have been a stop along the underground railroad. Restoration continues on the home, which is not far from the Eli Boynton home (see nearby story), but it will be ready for the tour.
Abel Adams House
At the corner of Shirley and Mt. Lebanon streets, Chris Skirkey’s historic house was a love-at-first-sight buy and her husband’s antique dream house, she said. With a vintage that may date to the 1700s, the house was a fixer-upper, even though some work had been done by a previous owner. But despite the heavy lifting they’ve done already and hefty work in progress, this is still their dream house and Chris envisions her small son, Ian, who already exhibits pride of place, inheriting it someday.
When his dad, William, was replacing wide pine floorboards in the period-perfect dining room, for example, Ian planted a time capsule that he later pointed out to a friend, proud to have helped with the work and to have staked a claim that’s now part of the old house.
Chris said she’s not sure of the build date, but estimates the 1740s. The Pepperell Reader indicates the property may have its origins in the early 1700s, when Samuel Hosley shuttled back and forth “on horseback” between his home and workplace, “the old Sullivan blacksmith shop” in the town center. Having secured 500 acres of the Groton Plantation and built a cabin on it, family records show Hosley gave land to his sons, all of whom reportedly served in the Revolutionary War. One of them, Timothy, and his wife, Lydia, provide the link to this old house. Their daughter, Hannah, married Abel Adams.
An early map of Pepperell shows the farm owned by Abel and Hannah (Hosley) Adams, and according to the Reader it’s likely they inherited it from Hannah’s family. Both born in the late 1700s, Abel died in 1836 and Hannah died in 1857, still in possession of the home they had shared.
In 1879, the Kemps owned the property, which has passed through several owners since, including the Wood family, who “made many alterations” and raised four children there. They also ran a greenhouse and the operation was reprised by the next owners, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Godwin, who bought the property in 1969.
The country kitchen is the heart of this old house, with the dining room a close second. The Skirkeys have tastefully updated the cooking area so it marries practical purpose with period features that simply couldn’t be sacrificed, such as a huge keeping room fireplace straight out of a colonial cook book, with a massive mantle, beehive oven, hearth bricks darkened by centuries of use and its iron pot arm still intact.
Exposed beams, wide board floors and paneling reclaimed from the roof when it was replaced round out a portrait from the 18th century. Most of the windows are new, but the panes are real and Chris has saved one from a previous makeover. Not an original, though; no wavy glass. Upstairs, there’s more restoration in progress and in Ian’s room, a door next to the fireplace has narrow steps leading down into lathwork and darkness. Chris said she’s heard this house was a stop on the underground railroad, which is a fairly common claim hereabouts. It did exist, though, and some of the stories are true. The underground railway was a series of safe houses, often with secret rooms and escape routes, where abolitionists hid slaves who had escaped from the pre-Civil War South, seeking freedom in the north.
Like her friend Denene Premus in the Eli Boynton home, Chris is a collector. Dining room shelves hold an array of collectibles geared to the colonial era, if not exactly from it. Earthenware, color-ware, and bowls of varied shapes and sizes look more like ready-to-use culinary tools than artifacts for display only. The walls are her work, made over in off-white, stucco-like plaster that complements the dark wood that frames the room, fireplace and all.
Outside, the grounds are picture-perfect as is, with lots of places for a lively child to play. Inside, every nuance is respectful of the period, so much so that a silver-plated pitcher, which looks decidedly Victorian, was hidden away. The Holiday House Tour, 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2, is co-sponsored by the Friends of Pepperell Recreation and Century 21 Nashoba Associates.
Tickets are available until the Dec. 2 tour date and can be purchased from Friends of Pepperell Recreation, Century 21 Nashoba in Pepperell or Groton, and McNabb’s General Store. Tickets are $15 or two for $26, senior tickets are $10.