376 Brush Hill Road, Milton, Massachusetts – Part I
We moved to 376 Brush Hill Road in September of 1956. I was nine years old, and my youngest sister, Karen, had just been born. She was kept in the hospital a few extra days so my parents could get us moved in before they brought the new baby home. Her imminent birth was what prompted my parents to start house hunting. A tiny (1,000 square foot) house was simply too small for a family with six children. Truth be told, the house had been bursting at the seams with five.
I know of specific houses that were rejected (on Adams Street, on Canton Avenue) because their deficits were mentioned, again and again, over the years—whenever we drove by one of them with my mother. (“We looked at that house but it … “was too chopped up”… “was too close to the street”… “had no yard,” and on and on).
I have the impression that my father put himself in charge of the search—taking my mother only to those he considered possibilities. But once he saw “the Crosby house,” the search was over, as far as he was concerned. “He fell in love with the place,” we were told. And Old Mr. Crosby (not to be confused with his sons, the builders of Milton’s “Crosby Colonials”) pretty much decided, once he saw my father’s enthusiasm, that this was the man he would sell his beloved home to.
It must have been Mr. Crosby who told my parents that at one time the house had awnings on nearly every window. On summer days, he said, “it looked like a ship in full sail.” It must have been a magnificent sight! (Interestingly, the inspector who went over the house with a fine-tooth comb when my mother sold it in 1979 pointed out the slight arch in the floor of the upstairs hall, saying, “These big old houses have a deliberate curve to their floors just like the decks of the great wooden sailing ships.” (I have no idea whether this is true—or he was making it up!)
Mr. Crosby (I have a vivid memory of him in my mind’s eye) was in his early nineties—a lean, tall, handsome and very dignified old “Yankee” (as the scions of Milton’s wealthy WASPS were referred to by us lesser beings). His wife, we were told (I vaguely remember her as tall, thin, and frail), was becoming forgetful, and their children were insisting that the old couple had to move to a place more manageable in size and nearer to one of their daughters (in Hingham). They had lived here for forty years, and he, it was clear, was reluctant to leave. The property—over three acres—was to be divided. The house and barn would be sold with an acre and a quarter of land. The apple orchard and the meadow would each be sold separately.
I remember being brought along with my parents to see Mr. Crosby at his daughter’s house in Hingham (Liberty Pole Lane). I believe my father was invited down there to speak with him about the possibility of buying the two “extra lots” for $16,000. My father very much wanted to do this. But my mother didn’t. She found the idea of taking on such a “huge” additional mortgage just too daunting. In retrospect, of course, what a bargain—and great investment—that purchase would have been.
The thirteen-room house with its generously scaled rooms, sweeping porch, and fine architectural details, had obviously been a showplace in its day. But it had been many years—decades, more likely—since any routine care had taken place. This, combined with the fact that Old Mr. Crosby wanted to be sure that the house would be full of children once again, was the reason he was willing to sell it to my parents at a (bargain) price—a price they could (barely) afford.