House & Home: A view into the Peterborough of old

  • The home of Janine and Rick Lesser on Pine Street in Peterborough was once part of the old town common off Old Street Road and served as a general store. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The home of Janine and Rick Lesser on Pine Street in Peterborough was once part of the old town common off Old Street Road and served as a general store. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The home of Janine and Rick Lesser on Pine Street in Peterborough was once part of the old town common off Old Street Road and served as a general store. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The home of Janine and Rick Lesser on Pine Street in Peterborough was once part of the old town common off Old Street Road and served as a general store. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The home of Janine and Rick Lesser on Pine Street in Peterborough was once part of the old town common off Old Street Road and served as a general store. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The home of Janine and Rick Lesser on Pine Street in Peterborough was once part of the old town common off Old Street Road and served as a general store. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The home of Janine and Rick Lesser on Pine Street in Peterborough was once part of the old town common off Old Street Road and served as a general store. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The home of Janine and Rick Lesser on Pine Street in Peterborough was once part of the old town common off Old Street Road and served as a general store. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The home of Janine and Rick Lesser on Pine Street in Peterborough was once part of the old town common off Old Street Road and served as a general store. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The home of Janine and Rick Lesser on Pine Street in Peterborough was once part of the old town common off Old Street Road and served as a general store. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/20/2021 3:00:55 PM

Legend has it that the home of Janine and Rick Lesser on Pine Street in Peterborough once played an important role in the commerce of the initial town center.

While everyone who calls Our Town home knows downtown as the area enclosed by Main, Depot, School and Grove streets, including Depot Square, the town common once resided on what is now Old Street Road.

In stories passed down from previous owners Janine Lesser said she has been told that the original part of the home, which the Lessers have owned for 15 years, was once that of an old-time general store.

As the town began to grow and the center of the economy transitioned from farming to textile mills, the downtown needed to be by the rivers, where it resides today. Lesser isn’t quite sure when the house was moved from its old location to its current spot and turned into a home, but from what she’s gathered it likely happened somewhere in the 1830s or 1840s. A drawing of Peterborough in 1886 that hangs in the upstairs bathroom shows the home on Pine Street.

Moving buildings around in those days wasn’t uncommon, but still quite a feat to go from Old Street Road, near the old cemetery, to the downtown side of Pine Street.

Lesser has often thought about what life was like back in those days and how it was set up – shelves stocked with flour and sugar, helping to supply town’s people with essentials.

“I’d love to see something that shows me what it used to look like,” she said.

The original part of the house includes Lesser’s office, as well as a hallway to the dining room and two rooms upstairs. There’s a staircase now, but Lesser said it was put in at some point later on and she suspects there was merely a ladder that allowed early owners to access the upper floor. The paneling on the bottom half of the walls in the hallway and dining room are original to the home. There are also beams across the ceiling that are clearly not just for decoration.

“Those are the real thing because the ceiling is all sloped in between,” Lesser said. “So you can see how old it is.”

It has two big floor-to-ceiling French windows that Lesser said would have likely served as a way for people to enter the store. They have since been enclosed by paneling on the bottom and a screen up top to protect the front room from the elements and a more traditional door resides to the right of them. Outside the front entry and large windows is a brick porch as well as a brick patio that is in desperate need of repair.

The windows in the dining room are original to the early construction that Lesser dates back to the late 1700s. Like many old windows, they weren’t exactly the most energy-efficient, so the Lessers had them reconditioned six years ago. The floor is also original, but has maintained a high quality look despite all the years that have passed.

The kitchen area was added in the early 1900s and has gone through a couple updates. On the wall between the dining room and kitchen, there are fireplaces on either side, and the one in the kitchen has a cooking arm that Lesser often thinks about how it was used to make family meals.

Early on a barn was added to the property and eventually, a connecting hallway was created from the house to the barn. The barn is now a separate apartment that the Lessers rent out, but when the hot and humid weather arrives its past is certainly noticeable.

“You can smell the animals,” Lesser said. “It would be hard to live without the barn in those days. You had to have animals.”

A stream in back was likely used to help gather water for the animal way back when.

“It was a big asset and resource that had to be shared,” she said.

In the ’70s a large addition was added that includes a living room, master bedroom, bath and large deck. Upstairs there are two bedrooms, one from the original building and another as part of the addition, while one of the original rooms was converted into a bathroom.

The foundation under the original portion of the home was created using large rocks and is a continual project to keep it from allowing water to get in. At one point before the Lessers bought it, a French drain was installed to prevent flooding. It’s an old musty cellar, but one that is perfect for wine.

There are a lot of little questions that Lesser wonders about. When was the stone wall in the back constructed? What kind of animals lived there?

“What was life like? How did they use to live here,” she said.

While Lesser has always been a fan of old homes, there are times when she longs for a newer feel.

“I want something clean and bright and open, but when it comes down to it, I’m emotionally connected to the old homes,” she said.

And the more Lesser learns about her house, the deeper connection to the Peterborough of old she feels.


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