Last weekend I had the spectacular pleasure to tour Tim and Lynn Cook's house in Lyme/Orford New Hampshire with a few people from my art group. Staying down the road at Lindsay Hancock's family retreat of 60 years, it was a truly inspirational 11 hours of food, friends, and farms.
On Saturday morning, Lindsay had called the neighbor, Lynn Cook, to see if we could come tour her house. Recently they had gotten a conservation easement put on the house to save the murals inside done by the 1820's itinerant painter, Rufus Porter. The house also has been lovingly restored by the Cooks for the last 30+years.
The tour turned out to be so much more. We first had a look at the newly restored gardens that Lynn has been lovingly adding to for years. Weeping crabapples, a sunken garden, flower gardens with 19th century varieties of Nicotianas and Dahlias, and vegetable garden with rare varieties of eggplant, peppers, and a great purple brussel sprout I will hunt for next year. The stable was a sight to behold, as all the fittings were of the highest quality and it was immaculatly ordered and clean. Tim recently had gone into the Tack business, running a tack shop from a side barn.
Then we went inside. Passing by neatly stacked cord wood and yard kindling, we entered this 1811 house. Through a few small and dark, cozy rooms and into the grand entryway, the murals leap out at you when you enter the formal entrance. Recently restored, these murals are the best examples of Rufus Porter's work in the area, most of the others having been painted or wallpapered over. We are stunned by the murals. In a subdued palette, these folksy paintings are strange and wonderful. Feathery looking and bizarre, you wonder the eye that made these tall, lanky trees and sailing ships.
Plaster has bowed but has been cleaned to allow these beauties to stand as they were. Through the hallway and up the stairs they continue into a large formal bedroom that has been brought back to something like the original elegance. Fronds and houses, ships and huntsmen all frolic on the walls to the delight of the onlooker. A rare treat it was to be able to see these paintings that give us a glimpse of what beauty looked like to the 1800's homeowner.