New England History for Sale

Saturday, February 20, 2016
Haverhill — The late John Page, a longtime director the of New Hampshire Historical Society, spent decades amassing a collection of New England antiques, and much of it was displayed in the historic Haverhill Corner home that he and his wife, Ruth, owned until their deaths in 2012.

On Friday, hundreds of visitors took the chance to view the Pages’ collection inside the early 19th-Century federal-style brick house for the last time.

The event offered visitors a chance to preview the house and its contents in advance of an auction next weekend. The auctioneers with Plainfield-based William A. Smith will pack up the antiques and bring them to Plainfield for a preview next Friday and the auction on Saturday, where the property itself also will be sold.

“It’s nice to see the home now because when it changes hands it might not look the same,” said Sandra Metz, of Hartland.

Metz, who toured the house with her husband, Dave, said they both love old houses and history.

Dave Metz pointed to the wide-angled frames around the home’s windows, which let in more light than the right-angled frames common in modern homes. Perhaps such frames have gone out of style because electricity makes people less reliant on outdoor light, Metz said.

Sandra Metz quipped that outdoor light is no longer necessary because people rely on artificial light from their computers and other electronic devices.

As they meandered through the three-story, 14-room home, visitors could admire antique rugs, wooden furniture, paintings and architectural details such as wallpaper and 10 fireplaces.

The home — which sits on just over an acre of land — includes 31/2 bathrooms and a three-story central spiral staircase. It sits across the street from Alumni Hall and the Haverhill Library, east of the green.

A hearth in a parlor on the first floor contained a warm blaze on Friday. Employees and friends of William A. Smith auctioneers and appraisers stood nearby to answer questions.

Jonathan Sinclair built the home in 1810 and operated it as the Grafton Hotel, according to materials provided by the auctioneers. At the time of the home’s construction, Haverhill drew lawyers and judges to Grafton Superior Court, and those visitors needed a place to stay.

The home and antique collection are imbued with the sensibilities of their former owners. Notes stuck to the inside of some of the bureaus describe the origin of the item and its provenance — the names of previous owners.

John Page held a master’s degree in historic preservation from the College of William and Mary. He spent 15 years as the executive director of the New Hampshire Historical Society.

He later served as director of Inherit New Hampshire, which is now known as the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance.

The Pages died just months apart in 2012 — John in May at the age of 76 and Ruth in October at 75. They were married for 45 years.

A private investment group that includes auctioneer Bill Smith bought the Court Street house last year from the Pages’ sons, David Page, of Hampton, N.H., and Christopher Page, of Boxborough, Mass.

Touring the home on Friday, Debbie Page — John Page’s cousin — said “the atmosphere” of the house made her miss her late cousins.

She said she hopes the home’s new buyer will “keep it up.” It would be especially nice if the new buyer is someone with an interest in history, said Page, who sits on the board of the Haverhill Historical Society.

John and Ruth Page were involved with the town’s historical society and their obituaries invited mourners to donate to the restoration of the historic Pearson Hall building in Haverhill. Pearson Hall was the first home of Haverhill Academy, where Page’s grandfather served as headmaster.

Turning to auctioneers to sell the house — a somewhat unusual approach to real estate marketing — was spurred by a lack of success in marketing the home through traditional real estate agents, said auctioneer Bill Smith, while seated in front of the fire during the open house.

He attributed the initial lack of interest to the fact that the house sits in an “undiscovered area” in the Upper Valley. The ideal buyer will have an appreciation for old houses, have some money to spend and have a “huge extended family” to fill the 8,500 square feet of living space, he said.

Such buyers might not mind or might enjoy the homes quirks, including its slanted floors, thinly insulated walls and its proclivity toward blowing fuses.

The Pages’ antiques collection is characterized by items specific to the immediate area, Smith said. John Page, a “history buff,” had a passion for local craftsmanship, Smith said.

Americana expert Gary Yeaton, of Concord, was on hand to answer questions about the furniture. He admired the way Smith’s staff displayed the antiques.

“It’s fabulous the way they’ve done it,” he said.

He was glad to see 300 people turn out for the event and noted that such interest is consistent with the upswing in the antiques market of late.

“It’s good for the economy,” he said.

Except for needing a new boiler and an updated kitchen, the home is in good condition, Yeaton said. If it were in Hanover, he said, it could sell for more than $2 million.

Haverhill, on the other hand, needs a bed and breakfast or a fine restaurant to attract visitors and pull up the real estate market, Yeaton said.

Bidding on the house will begin at $250,000 next Saturday. The home is assessed at $315,500, according to the town’s property records.

Tom Beers and Mary Durfee, owners of the historic federal-style Bayley-Cobb house in Newbury, toured the Pages’ house on Friday in hopes of finding locally-made items that the previous owners of their home had sold. Meanwhile, they admired details such as door latches and expressed awe at the work it would have taken to keep the third-floor fires lit.

“Hopefully somebody that buys it does right by it,” Durfee said.

The auction is set to take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27, at the W.A. Smith Auction Gallery on Route 12A in Plainfield. The house will be auctioned at noon.

A preview of the antiques will take place from 12 to 6 p.m. on Friday and beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.


In discussing a historic Court Street home that will be auctioned on Saturday, auctioneer Bill Smith said Haverhill Corner is an “undiscovered area” for prospective homeowners. A story in Saturday’s Valley News incorrectly reported how he described the area and also failed to note that Smith is part of a private investment group that bought the home, which dates to 1810 and once served as the Grafton Hotel, last year.