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Souter moving to Hopkinton

Neighbor: He needed house to hold up library

Jimmy Gilman described in one word how he felt when he learned this week that his longtime neighbor, retired Supreme Court justice David Souter, was moving away from Weare: devastated.

'I took that as some of the worst news I've heard in a while,' said Gilman, who's 56 and shared the same road with Souter, who's 69, for as long as he could remember. 'I think the world of the man, and I don't care who knows it.'

Granted, the distance between Weare and Souter's newly purchased abode in Hopkinton - in Hopkins Green, to be precise - isn't too far, Gilman said, but it's certainly a change of scenery.

The modest colonial-era farmhouse that sits on the dirt-covered Cilley Hill Road in Weare is 'old and rustic,' as Gilman describes it, and has been in the Souter family for generations.

A moose-brown paint coats parts of the exterior; other areas are peeling like a bad sunburn. The lawn, surrounded by a towering pines, could use a good mow, but the house is otherwise charming - what one might expect to find in an old-fashioned New England homestead.

The perfectly manicured lawns decorating the large, swanky houses that make up Hopkins Green are a contrast. The quiet cul-de-sac is home to about 20 families; doctors, attorneys and businesspeople own many of the houses. Until recently, Gov. John Lynch lived there too.

Souter's new residence - a 3,500 square-foot cape - was purchased Thursday from New England College President Michele Perkins and her husband, James, for $510,000, according to county records.

Souter's green Volkswagen Jetta sat in the driveway of the new, empty house yesterday. He declined a request for an interview but said he was there to take floor measurements and hadn't yet met the neighbors.

The former judge's move to Hopkinton has been a quiet one: When asked yesterday, Town Clerk Sue Strickford said she didn't know anything about it.

'I haven't heard a thing. . . . It'd be nice though. I like him,' Strickford said.

Mary French, who lives down the street in Hopkins Green, said while she may not have agreed with all of the nearly two decades of decisions Souter made on the High Court, she was happy to learn he'd be coming to the neighborhood.

French said she thinks people will respect that because Souter has been in the public eye for so many years, he may be ready for some privacy.

'I think he'll like it here. We've found it very welcoming,' French said, who's lived there for nearly 40 years. 'He seems to have played the role of being a somewhat private person. . . . Hopkins Green is a very pretty, very quiet place.'

Hopkinton Selectman Scott Flood was 'very pleased' and 'astonished, actually,' about Souter's move, he said.

'It's the first I've heard of it,' Flood said yesterday. 'The fact that he chose Hopkinton - of all the places he could have picked to live - that speaks volumes for the town. We welcome him with open arms.'

Former Weare selectwoman Heleen Kurk said she was also caught off guard by news of Souter's move. She said she'd most miss seeing him turn out to vote during election season.

'I'm sorry that we're losing him, in the sense that it was one of our prides to have him here, I think,' Kurk said. 'He was an honest, honorable, decent guy - someone I'd like to have as a citizen of Weare.'

Gilman said Souter told him one of the reasons he decided to move was because his Weare house wasn't structurally sound enough to hold the thousands of books that make up his library.

'He said there was just so much weight from the books, it would be too much for the house to support,' Gilman said. 'He said he wants to live on one floor.'

Attorney Lucy Hodder, who also lives in Hopkins Green, said her family was thrilled to have him in the neighborhood, adding there are a few perks that come with the territory: a bear that's been spotted running through people's front yards recently, for example, or the fact that he'd be surrounded by 'every type of physician.'

'He'll be well taken care of,' Hodder said. 'We hope he enjoys the peace and quiet and camaraderie of the Green. . . . We welcome him home.'

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