House & Home: Peterborough home was originally an early 1900s theater camp 

  • The Sucher property in Peterborough, which features a main home and two four season cabins, was once the location for the Laughton Camp and the Out-Door Players in the early 1900s and had more cabins that the performers lived in and an outdoor amphitheater in the woods. Photo by Don Sucher—

  • The Sucher property in Peterborough, which features a main home and two four season cabins, was once the location for the Laughton Camp and the Out-Door Players in the early 1900s and had more cabins that the performers lived in and an outdoor amphitheater in the woods. Photo by Don Sucher—

  • The Sucher property in Peterborough, which features a main home and two four season cabins, was once the location for the Laughton Camp and the Out-Door Players in the early 1900s and had more cabins that the performers lived in and an outdoor amphitheater in the woods. Photo by Don Sucher—

  • The Sucher property in Peterborough, which features a main home and two four season cabins, was once the location for the Laughton Camp and the Out-Door Players in the early 1900s and had more cabins that the performers lived in and an outdoor amphitheater in the woods. Photo by Don Sucher—

  • The Sucher property in Peterborough, which features a main home and two four season cabins, was once the location for the Laughton Camp and the Out-Door Players in the early 1900s and had more cabins that the performers lived in and an outdoor amphitheater in the woods. Photo by Don Sucher—All rights reserved. No use...

  • The Sucher property in Peterborough, which features a main home and two four season cabins, was once the location for the Laughton Camp and the Out-Door Players in the early 1900s and had more cabins that the performers lived in and an outdoor amphitheater in the woods. Photo by Don Sucher—All rights reserved. No use...

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/14/2019 2:40:00 PM

The 29-acre Middle Hancock Road property in Peterborough owned by Don and Jan Sucher didn’t begin as a private residence.

It was turned into one in 1938, but prior to becoming the summer home of a then-Yankee Publishing editor, the property was known as a place where talented people could immerse themselves in the arts, according to the Suchers. It all began in 1911 when Marie Ware Laughton had a vision for a camp where performers and dancers could go for training and to fine-tune their skills.

The Laughton Camp, also known as the Out-Door Players Camp, was opened a few years later after the main bungalow was erected and nine cabins added to the property. The camp was limited to 60 and held for eight weeks over the summer months. The main house was used as a gathering spot, where meals were cooked. Tucked away in the woods, near a brook on the property, an outdoor amphitheater was created, using natural surroundings to get the desired effect.

“It’s still there,” Don said. “And from the size of it, it wasn’t just for them.”

These days, remnants of the camp remain. The Suchers originally purchased the property in 1997 with their son Aaron and his now wife, Sou. The Suchers were still working in the Boston area and would stay in one of the cabins when they came up on the weekends. When Aaron and Sou decided they wanted to move, Don and Jan bought them out and moved into the main house.

“When we came up here, we fell in love with it immediately,” Don said.

An addition was put on the house in 1981 that connected the main house and the existing garage area. Within the main house is a large kitchen, which was used many years ago to cook for all the participants in the Out-Door Players and later the Norfleet Trio Camp.

“It was the communal area where people would come to eat, gather,” Jan said.

The great room includes a sitting area, grand piano, pool table and bar. One of two original fireplaces can be found in the room and above it is a portrait the Suchers found on the property, which Don likes to think is Laughton.

They have a library upstairs, as well as what they call the Betty Davis Theatre, which includes a 12-foot screen and a vast collection of classic movies. It was documented that Davis attended one of the Out-Door Players’ camps, Don said. There’s a music room where Don does his creating, including more than a dozen guitars, a digital piano, keyboard and voice system.

“Our lives have been very much involved in music and the arts,” Jan said.

The master bedroom features a glass wall that overlooks the meadow and forested area, which accounts for much of the property. When they moved there, the trees had grown right up around the house, but a clearing project a number of years ago gave it more open feel.

For guests, they have an apartment that has its own separate entrance and could be rented out in the future. Two of the cabins, named North and South, have been renovated to be livable year-round. The North cabin has an updated bathroom complete with a Jacuzzi, while the South is used for storage.

The remaining cabins are showing their age and while the Suchers would like to return them each to working condition, some are a little past the point of saving without sinking a lot of money into them.

Before dealing with health issues and a balky knees, Don used to walk the property thanks to a network of trails. As an avid photographer, it gave endless possibilities for pictures of the natural landscape. Don said more than half the property is hilly, which adds to its beauty and privacy. It abuts the MacDowell Colony and they found photos from way back that depicted a baseball game between colony artists and camp visitors.

“Who knows who’s in that group picture,” Jan said.

The history of the property is what fascinates the Suchers. Jan embarked on a history project to learn about its beginning. She spent a lot of time at the Peterborough Historical Society gathering old documents and photos to learn more of what went on when their home was used as a meeting place for the arts.

“We’ve kind of carried the torch so to speak,” Jan said. “That’s what we love about it, it’s living in a part of history and it’s important to keep that connection to the past.”

“The history is real to us and it’s exciting,” Don said.

After Laughton decided to end the Out-Door Players camp, she rented the property to the Norfleet Trio Camp, an all-girls music camp for close to a decade records showed. Where the property lies was once known as the Peterborough Theatre District, as it also included the Mariarden Theatre across the street.

“What we found is that people knew very little about the property,” Don said.

They found a metal etching of the house that depicted it in the early days along with a number of card stocks with the image.

The property has a little bit of everything for the Suchers. There’s the privacy, which “means everything to us,” Don said. The historical significance and the space to house all their interests and hobbies is important too.

They couldn’t have asked for a better piece of land to spend their days in retirement.

“We’re still making it into our dream,” Don said.


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