The home’s ornate Victorian details are picked out in five different trim colors.
We’ve been moseying around New England for many years. So, naturally, we have developed a particular liking for certain towns. No, we won’t name them all (our readers would give us the dickens for not including their favorites), but we will say that Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, is high on our list. Whenever we’re heading over to the Berkshires on Route 2 (i.e., the Mohawk Trail), we invariably pull off onto old Route 2A and mosey through the Shelburne Falls downtown and on over the Iron Bridge, as it’s called, crossing the Deerfield River. If nobody honks at us, we stop halfway across and look to our right at what was once a bridge for trolleys, now the nationally famous Bridge of Flowers. Farther down the river to our left are the picturesque dam and the old round holes they call “glacial potholes,” formed in the river eons ago.
But when we visited Shelburne Falls a few months ago—a bit before the Bridge of Flowers began to truly bloom—our destination was what was described to us by several people who know the area as “the most admired home in the village of Shelburne Falls.” The owners are Harriet Paine, who has a portrait photography business in town, and her husband, Alan Dargis, whom Harriet, when she was single, had hired to do some painting after she’d purchased the place in 1982. “And,” she added with a smile, as we eventually found ourselves sitting around the table in their spacious kitchen, “he simply never left.”
We’d had no trouble locating the place. Before the turn onto Bridge Street leading down to the river, there it was: a magnificent Gothic Revival gingerbread house surrounded by two beautifully landscaped acres, a pond, and even a miniature version of the main house that serves as a toolhouse. It was totally different from anything we’d ever seen before. Unusual. Handsome. Intriguing.
To continue our kitchen conversation with Harriet and Alan (along with their 17-year-old cat, Whisper, who contributed an occasional meow): Harriet said that since she and Alan were “creeping up” in years, they felt—reluctantly—it was time to downsize. As usual in such circumstances, which we’ve encountered so many times in our moseying, it’s sad. They’ve spent years restoring and improving the place to the point where it’s in pristine condition, and now it’s time to part with it. They’re asking $649,000.
So it seems someone else will have to participate in the long life of this unusual place. The next people will be the eighth owners of the house, which was built by a local dentist in 1868 and sold shortly afterward to Linus Yale, founder of the Yale Lock Manufacturing Company. The third owners, Harriet continued, were Henry and Jenny Patch, who operated a portrait photography business here in Shelburne Falls—just as Harriet has been doing. It’s only a coincidence, she said, adding, “They even specialized in animal portraits, just like I do. Odd.” Next were three owners who were Patch descendants, and then came Harriet and Alan, the seventh owners.
Eventually it was time for us to walk with Harriet through all 12 lovely rooms, including the five bedrooms with their stunning wooden floors and arched windows. The room on the second floor of the attached barn (which is almost as big as a gymnasium) is where Harriet poses many of her customers for portraits. In back is a door leading to a large deck overlooking a lawn and the woods; the pond is visible, too, off to one side.
After saying our good-byes to Harriet, Alan, and Whisper (who meowed a farewell), we drove down to the river as we’ve done so many times before. Yes, Shelburne Falls is surely one of our favorite towns in New England. Maybe we’ll reveal our other favorites in an upcoming issue. Can you wait?
Contact Mary Cohn, Cohn & Company Real Estate, at 413-772-9274 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yankee likes to mosey around and see, out of editorial curiosity, what you can turn up when you go house hunting. We have no stake in the sale whatsoever and would decline it if offered.