Group of Donald Hall neighbors, admirers work to purchase poet’s farmhouse 

  • Donald Hall sits in his blue chair in his living room surrounded by his books, magazines and newspapers. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Donald Hall, shown here at his Wilmot, N.H., home in 2006, decided to become a poet when he was 14. He died Saturday, June 23, 2018, at 89. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Monitor staff
Published: 5/12/2019 10:49:54 PM

It was the thought of the blue armchair by the window that drove Mary Lyn Ray to sit outside all night in the rain. 

For 35 years, she had watched her friend and neighbor, former U.S. poet laureate Donald Hall, revise poems, watch baseball games and drink black coffee while in that chair.

“To anyone else, it looks like an ordinary furniture chair,” she said. “But for anyone who knew Don, it was such a telling focal object.” 

Ray, a children’s book author, drove two miles down the road from her home in South Danbury at 6 p.m. on Friday night before the estate sale at Eagle Pond Farm in Wilmot on Saturday, where many of the belongings of Hall and his wife, famed American poet Jane Kenyon, would be sold. 

She alternated between sitting on the porch of the old historic farmhouse and sitting in her car for 15 hours until the sale began at 9 a.m. At one point, a neighbor stopped by to give her a down comforter to borrow. 

For the last two weeks since Ray found out that Hall’s family farm was being put on the market, she had been contacting fellow writers, preservationists and admirers of Hall’s and Kenyon’s work in an effort to collect items that represent their lives and careers. 

They attended two auctions where Hall and Kenyon’s belongings would be sold – one in Plainfield run by William A. Smith Inc. on Thursday and one in Boston on Friday. The sale in Wilmot at Eagle Pond Farm over the weekend was where the last of Hall’s belongings would go. 

At the sale, Ray said she and other fellow preservationists were able to purchase the blue chair, along with two leather satchels Hall used to carry his writing in and other items of significance. 

At the other auctions, they purchased Hall's Glenwood kitchen and parlor stove, his desk, painted bed, books by Hall and books that were inscribed to Hall from authors including Wendell Berry, broadsides, a blanket box and a country 19th century four-drawer chest. 

She and the other preservationists were also able to make an offer on the farm. They will be closing on that sale in just a couple of days. Ray would not say how much they offered to pay for it. 

Plans are still being finalized for what will become of Eagle Pond Farm. Ray said the goal is to preserve the space and eventually open a museum where people can view the artifacts. Ray said she is not sure whether that collection will be held in the house or in another location. 

Eagle Pond Farm, where Hall’s family has lived since 1865, was the inspiration for much of the former U.S. poet laureate’s work. He often shared memories in his writing of time spent with his grandfather, Wesley Wells, who he described as a master storyteller. Wells would recite poems from memory beside a burning wood stove, Hall recalled. He spent many summer days as a young boy haying with Wells and the family’s one horse.

 Kenyon lived at Eagle Pond Farm with Hall until she died of leukemia in  1995. Hall died there last June at age 89. 

 Ray said the farmhouse  was a place that inspired both writers throughout all of the time they spent there. 

“I think they just found that they were home there," Ray said. “They found a place that fed the soul and fed their poetry and prose.”  

The idea of fans of Hall and Kenyon’s work purchasing the home has received positive support in  Wilmot. 

 “I think it’ s very appropriate for his legacy to be remembered, memorialized in some way,” Wilmot Historical  Society president Liz Kirby said. “His family home is a very nice way of doing it –  it’s  right on a U.S. highway.”




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