Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim. - MPF
I visited Putney, Vermont, today to see if I could locate the Overhills estate where MPF often retreated. I stumbled upon a house that felt like it could be it on Overhills Road just off Putney Mountain Road. I am wondering if anyone has ever visited the house and if there is any local history connected with MPF's life in the Putney community?
Thanks for any insights.
Your post is already 5 years old, but I will kid myself it's fresh, okay? :-)
I also researched the house a little, and found this page on a real estate website. It is very clear that this is the Follett/Briggs house in Putney. But the best about the page is that it features photos that must be from the 1920s, as well as photos showing the outside and the inside (!) of the house. So this is pretty insightful. Take a look!
P.S.: I would guess that someone from this group has probably already travelled there. Can you tell us more about the house, as it is today?
Good morning, all. My wife and I have owned and lived in Overhills since 2016. I'm a novelist and an academic with research interests in creativity in business management (and I knew nothing of the connection to MPF before we bought Overhills). I'm a tenured professor in creative writing and currently also an administrator at my university.
My next novel will be set here at Overhills, and I am aiming at a magical realism that integrates the past and present--the eras when MPF lived and worked here with the succeeding years, approximately 1880-contemporary era. I've been reading this site (thank you for publishing MPF's papers!) since 2016, as well as most of MPF's published works and a lot of the scholarship related to her work. I plan to spend time in several archives over the next couple of years while I write.
As for your questions about the current state of Overhills.... We are only the third owners of the house. It passed from MPF and Isobel to Cary Carpenter and his mother, and we bought the house after Cary died in 2015 (in his 90's!). One of the reasons MPF sold the house to the Carpenters was (according to local legend) that she was devastated after the death of Isobel and also had no funds for needed repairs to the roof (because Isobel had the wealth in the relationship, which, of course, passed back to her male relatives after her death). The Carpenters nearly doubled the size of the house with an addition, but the original house (including the original roof) is retained within and beside the addition. The house is old, of course, but it is really in remarkably good shape. The few original photographs of the place (on the realtor's site) show the built-in bookshelves and cabinets and window seats that line the huge living room (about 40x20) with windows overlooking Mount Monadnock about 60 miles to the east--"over the hills," of course! We are gradually restoring and updating the house (some 1960's era bathrooms are really ugly). The two original upstairs bedrooms (above the living room) also look east and are connected by a beautiful double doors. There are original servants' or guest bedrooms on the third floor, also with original built-in chests and drawers for blanket and clothing storage. We like to imagine the gatherings of notable thinkers of the era (many of whom visited Brattleboro during that time) in the big living room (which was also a dining room in MPF's time), and the two women retreating to their separate but joined bedrooms in the evenings. We were told that MPF's ashes were scattered here at Overhills after her death.
I've been fascinated by what I see as a barely suppressed sub-narrative of feminism and lesbianism in the writings of MPF--an outsider finding a socially acceptable way to express herself and integrate her personal realities into the broader political narrative--as well as a clear connection to the somewhat libertine and community-focused political and social realities of Vermont's history and present. An interesting note: the house has only been occupied by GLBT folks: my wife and I and our twins, Cary Carpenter (a gay man and quite a character, we're told), and MPF and Isobel. I'm spending a little time in the Putney Historical Society and Brattleboro Historical Society archives as part of research for the novel, and obviously I've got my eye out for MPF-related work and her activities in the area. On my scholarly front, I'm very interested in MPF's work on creativity in groups and will eventually get to an article or project on that as well. I'll certainly report out here if I find anything while in the archives! Looking forward to connecting with you all. T
Dear Teresa, thank you for sharing and for providing us with so much rich insight around the Overhills house and history!
I feel compelled to pack my bags and travel to Vermont immediately, to visit your house, if possible... but that's a journey to be undertaken at another time.
I am of course very much looking forward to that Overhills novel, too!
Regards from Germany, Niels