Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Pine Knoll Re-visited

Throughout my childhood I visited "Pine Knoll", the old house hidden in pine trees on a knoll at the corner of Preston Street and Route 1. People told me that it was my great grandfather's house, but I never met him. He had died in 1921; my visits were in the 1940's, 1950's, and 1960's. To me, it was the home of (great) Aunt May, (great) Aunt Margaret, and cousins Annie and Marion. These nice old ladies served lemonade in summer and ribbon candy at the holidays and sometimes let me play with an old doll house, or little kittens on the porch. Cousin Marion taught me to knit. Cousin Annie taught me to play piano. Their parakeet could say "Pretty, pretty, pretty bird!" and "Merry Christmas!" The house had many rooms, most of them quite dark and overfilled with family furniture, portraits, and history. It was a place where time seemed to stand still.

I re-visited Pine Knoll this week. I walked among the pines, took photos of what remains (not much), and looked again through my files of old papers about this family homestead. I re-read an 1881 newspaper article entitled The Nichols Museum. This detailed description of the house and its contents matches what I remember! In the 1960's the Pine Knoll house was like a museum. My father found an 1899 photograph of the parlor and took a similar photo himself. He observed that two chairs had changed places and a few other details varied, but the scene was remarkably unchanged.

Change, of course, is what I notice now. I'd been away for decades. As I walked around "Hathorne Greene", the condominium development now on the Pine Knoll land (which formerly was the Prince farm), I met a resident who described it as one of the most beautiful places to live in Danvers. He's been there since 1988 -- that's 20 years, about the same length of time in which I experienced Pine Knoll.

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