Post-and-beam Hearthstone Community house in Wilton for sale

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WILTON – The 12 houses of Hearthstone Community are clustered on eight acres, surrounded by more than 90 acres of conservation land in the mostly undeveloped northwest corner of town where Wilton, Lyndeborough and Temple come together.

Dating to the early 1980s, the private community is Wilton’s first cluster community, developed after a prolonged debate with the Planning Board and other town officials about the advisability of such developments, which are now an accepted part of the zoning regulations.

“It is an intentional community,” Barbara Carpenter said, sitting in her living room with its big, hand-pegged, exposed beams, white ceilings and wide windows with their view of the surrounding woods. “People who came together with the intent of being good neighbors.”

Under the terms of the land trust, residents own their homes, but not the land. All utilities are buried, some houses share wells and leach fields, and no new houses can be built. All of the houses provide views of woods, not other houses, Carpenter said.

Whitney and Barbara Carpenter have lived at Hearthstone for 28 years and are looking to retire and move to Rhode Island.

“We came here for the Waldorf school,” Barbara said. “I left a small Waldorf school in Rhode Island.” She is currently a pre-kindergarten teacher in Mascenic Regional District and plans to retire from teaching.

Their house was the first post-and-beam house in the community, constructed by Phil Brooks, of Lyndeborough.

“Back then it was all manual labor,” Brooks said taking a recent tour of the house and noting changes. “We had a lot of fun (putting up a house frame), a barn-raising sort of thing. A lot of neighbors came.”

He added, “With all of the liability, that is now probably illegal. Now, we use a crane. Back then, we were all young and didn’t think anything about it.”

Brooks was one of the first in the area in what he called “the timber frame revival,” beginning with the disassembling of old barns and reconstructing them, then moving to new construction. He recently sold his business to his associate, Paul Freeman, when neither of his sons expressed an interest in continuing the company.

“Paul started with me as a consultant,” Brooks said. Instead of building the house frames, “now we cut them into pre-
measured kits and ship them world-wide.”

Hearthstone Community was begun, Whitney Carpenter said, “by a group of landless, poverty-stricken Waldorf teachers who joined with the Monadnock Society of Friends. We put our heads together to form a land trust in the early ’80s. We put together a model. It’s all off the grid. We couldn’t get financing because we didn’t own the land, but somehow they pulled it off, got people to build houses and formed a homeowners association.”

About 100 acres was purchased and the rest of the land is under permanent conservation. That group decided to not pave the roads, to bury all utility lines and keep the roads private, doing all the maintenance themselves. Only one original resident is still at the community.

“We bought our house half finished,” Barbara Carpenter said, “finished it as we had money. We were able to finish it within our means and it has always been a very comfortable home.”

The house is on a hillside and has three levels, a loft with a bathroom at the top and a studio apartment in the lowest.

“We have rented the apartment to friends in transition,” Barbara Carpenter said. “I was hoping our daughter would come back (after college), but she didn’t,” having found work elsewhere.

The Carpenters agree that community living is not for everyone.

“This has always been an experiment,” Barbara said. “We solve problems at monthly meetings. We have potlucks and are very supportive.”

Whitney added, “We worked out a complex policy to help people. Everyone figures out what they can do, committee-style. It’s a very flexible kind of thing that has worked well for us.” There are rules, he said, “like no pesticides and no snowmobiles.”

The community is reached from Barrett Hill Road. The house is being offered for sale. The Carpenters can be reached at 654-6423.