Former home of The Folkway in Peterborough is on the market

The stage area in the converted barn at The Folkway building.

The stage area in the converted barn at The Folkway building. PHOTO BY ANNIE CARD

From left, Sasha, Jonathan, Isaac and Widdie Hall at The Folkway. 

From left, Sasha, Jonathan, Isaac and Widdie Hall at The Folkway.  PHOTO COURTESY SASHA HALL DUVERLIE

The former restaurant/bar of The Folkway on the first floor of the house. 

The former restaurant/bar of The Folkway on the first floor of the house.  PHOTO BY ANNIE CARD

The exterior of the former Folkway building at Grove and Laurel streets. 

The exterior of the former Folkway building at Grove and Laurel streets.  PHOTO BY ANNIE CARD 

The original spool tables in the performance space.

The original spool tables in the performance space. PHOTO BY ANNIE CARD

By JESSECA TIMMONS

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 04-17-2024 8:49 AM

The former home of one Peterborough’s best-known institutions, The Folkway restaurant, is back on the market after almost 30 years.

The Victorian home at 85 Grove St., built around 1860, was once the home of W.H.H. Pritchard, a Peterborough veteran of the Civil War. In the early 1970s, local residents Jonathan and Virgnia “Widdie” Hall came up with the idea of opening a restaurant and folk music venue in Peterborough, and the house became The Folkway.

During its time as a restaurant and performance venue, The Folkway hosted folk music luminaries such as Tom Paxton, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Martin Saxton and Suzanne Vega.

Both Halls were teachers at The Well School, and Jonathan, a musician, had started the tradition of the school’s community coffeehouses, in which students, faculty and parents performed and sang. The success of the Well School coffeehouses – which are still part of the culture and community at The Well School today – inspired the Halls to try to open their own venue.

“There was no place to go out to dinner in Peterborough back then,” said Sasha Hall Duverlie, daughter of Jonathan and Widdie. “There was Nonie’s and the diner, and that was it. People used to drive to Keene to go out to dinner, or they just ate at home a lot more. My parents wanted to create a place where you could sit down and have a nice dinner and a glass of wine and see some great music.”

Sasha and her brother Isaac grew up in the house next door to The Folkway. Widdie grew up in Nelson, but had spent time out West. She met Jonathan when he came to Peterborough to visit a friend.

“My mom was in the thick of the counterculture movement. She lived in San Francisco during the Summer of Love. She worked as an apartment manager for Jefferson Airplane,” Duverlie said.

Duverlie recalls her parent’s friends pitching in to repair the building, working frantically to get the restaurant ready to open before a change in zoning laws would have switched the building’s zoning from commercial to residential.

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“We had to just open up for one night to get grandfathered in on the zoning,” Duverlie recalled with a laugh. “It was very much a community project. My parents had friends who were kind of handymen and carpenters, and they jacked up the building on tire jacks, and everyone pitched in. They salvaged the granite for the steps to the barn from a property that was being torn down in Milford; everyone just helped out.”

The Halls and their community of close friends renovated the space for the cafe and the bar in the front of the building, and turned the barn into a performance space. They also built the bridge connecting the house and barn, and added an outdoor brick patio and the parking lot. The second floor housed space for instrument lessons and a music shop.

After about three years of running the Folkway together, Jonathan and Widdie divorced, but Widdie kept running the venue on her own. The Folkway flourished for more than 10 years.

“It must have been pretty hard, as a single mom, to keep running the business,” Duverlie said. “My mom was pretty incredible.”

In total, The Folkway hosted over 3,000 live concerts and put Peterborough on the folk music map. Today, the Peterborough Folk Music Society continues the tradition of bringing live folk music to the Monadnock region.

In 1988, Widdie Hall closed The Folkway for health reasons. She died from cancer that the same year, at just 44 years old, when Sasha and Isaac were teenagers.

After Widdie’s death, Duverlie’s grandmother, activist and educator Cornelia Iselin, was determined to reopen The Folkway, and founded the nonprofit Folkway Foundation to keep the venue going.

“Since it had been closed, it was a lot more difficult to reopen. They had to make it accessible, put in new restrooms and a ramp, and do a whole lot of stuff to the building,” Duverlie said.

The Folkway Foundation closed in 1995, and the subsequent owners ran a computer business out of the space, which is zoned for both commercial and residential use.

Cathy Cambal-Hayward of Masiello Realty, the listing agent, said April 2 that the building had been on the market for 24 hours and had already had one showing.

“It’s very unique,” Cambal-Hayward said. “The main floor, where The Folkway restaurant was, is largely untouched. This building had such a rich history with The Folkway, and it really could be anything going forward. My vision is that this could be a multi-purpose building; it could be a business and a residence.”

Cambal-Hayward notes that the building has excellent parking on the combined three lots which make up the property, and includes a wired-in generator, which ensures the residents never suffer the effects of a power outage.

The second floor includes a three-bedroom apartment which is in need of renovations.

The building, which has four bedrooms, four bathrooms and a converted barn, sits on 0.53 acres and is listed at $550,000. To request a showing, contact Cathy Cambal-Hayward at 603-494-9968 or go to masiello.com/listing/4989796/85-grove-street-peterborough-nh-03458.