Sitting at the curve of old Route 6 where it meets Main Street in Hampton, Conn. is a unique house that has stood as witness to Hampton events and history for some 80 years. It is an amazing house which reigns large in my memories from childhood.
My mother, Dorothy Pearl Overbaugh grew up in Hampton with her 2 sisters and brother in a farmhouse at the foot of Hammond Hill. My Grandpa William A. and Grandma Mabel Pearl farmed there for many years. After her death in 1929 and their daughters marrying and moving away, Grandpa, who avidly read the National Geographic magazines he subscribed to, took a train trip to fulfill a dream of traveling to some of those marvelous places he’d read about. On that train trip, he met a widow, Elizabeth McDuffee Fero. They fell in love and soon married. In the early 1930’s, Will and Elizabeth sold the farm to Will’s son, Bill, and moved to the top of Hampton Hill into a newly built home on Main Street and Route 6.
I grew up in Waterbury, Conn. Our family made summer pilgrimages to Hampton to escape the city and revel in the clean air and loveliness of the old village of Hampton. For Mom it was a coming home. For me, as a child, Hampton was a new world of freedom, family and fun. We often stayed with Grandpa and Grandma Elizabeth in that big house on Hampton hill. Entering the house from the big front porch one was immediately aware of the sweet, fresh smell of wood. Even today, most of the beautiful wood trim in the house is unpainted and the wood smell is still detectable. The rooms were large and filled with light, the large, open kitchen where Grandma made the most delectable pancakes, fried chicken, baked beans and pies, always smelled inviting. I am sure that she was a star at church pot luck suppers!
Immediately upon entering my grandparents home, I would first stop to enjoy a winter scene of miniature people skiing and iceskating in the little landscape of a snow covered hill and pond. It sat in a glassed-in book cabinet directly opposite the front door. I would then make my way into the kitchen where there was an old secretary desk with space underneath covered by a little curtain that held an old wooden box of blocks and toys. That toy box was brought up to one of the front bedrooms on the 2nd floor for me and set on the wood floor at the foot of a bed where I was free to create imaginary cities, towns, castles, etc. to my heart’s content.
To me as a child, this house was a marvel, and it evoked wonder, pleasure and memories that I have never experienced from any other place. It struck me, when I had a wonderful opportunity in recent years to revisit this special place, that as an adult it still seemed very large and still held a kind of magic for me.
As a child visiting there, I had the run of the house. Large, easy to climb stairs linked the different floors of the home. I explored everywhere and developed definite feelings for certain special spots. One was the sun room on the 2nd floor where Grandma had a day bed, wicker chairs and many flowering plants. It was open and bright and had gorgeous views of the valley and her perennial garden below. The attic was floored and held all sorts of treasures stored there. At each end of the attic were large windows which at the front overlooked the street and at the back overlooked the back yard and the valley. The large basement also had windows and was well lit. Grandpa had his workshop there and Grandma had shelves filled with her preserves and canned goods.
This house is an inviting and well designed treasure, very well constructed, and handily withstood the Hurricane of 1938 despite major wind damage to neighboring homes and structures. When we retired back to New England, had it been offered for sale, we would likely have purchased it. To me, this place in the heart of the beautiful village of Hampton, has a warm and embracing aura.