DERRY – A plan for a wedding venue will give new life to an aging but historic property.
Zoning officials unanimously approved a waiver recently giving Kimberly Livesey a step forward in her plans to develop a property at 140 Rockingham Road and create an event center that would showcase weddings and the like. events.
The property had been on the market for several years since owner Katherine Chism passed away in 2016.
Livesey has her own catering / event business and said the location is a prime spot not only for its pristine and scenic nature but also because of who once lived next door.
This famous neighbor was the poet Robert Frost, who lived in Derry for about a decade while teaching English at the nearby Pinkerton Academy.
Livesey’s plans are to incorporate Frost’s story and legacy into her project, using the name “Hyla Brook” as part of the overall theme.
She told zoning officials that she had always wanted to create a space like this and that she had had her eye on the property for several years.
“I want this to be more of a destination for Derry,” she said.
The project, if officially approved by the city, would include a wedding barn for up to 200 guests, and possibly future small cabins for overnight guests.
The small 969-square-foot clapboard on the 8-acre property, built around 1800 according to city records, and an attached dilapidated barn would be razed as part of the project.
But Livesey said she would incorporate any stones or historical artifacts she could find as part of her overall design.
And having the historic Robert Frost Farm nearby is an added bonus as this place attracts visitors from all over the world.
The house and property have a lot of local significance, according to historian and author Richard Holmes, and it’s more than just a neighborhood with Robert Frost.
Holmes told the Derry News several years ago that this place had ties to notable residents.
This included James Wilson, the first globe maker in the United States, born on this property, Holmes said. Wilson opened the first geographic globe factory in the United States.
Holmes listed another local notable, Aaron Fletcher Stevens, a two-term American Civil War general and congressman, born in Derry there.
And a man named Napoleon Guay bought the house around 1902 and lived there for about a decade while Frost lived nearby.
The children in the family often played together and Holmes said Frost referred to his neighbor Guay in his poem “The Mending Wall” with the famous line “Good fences make good neighbors”.
Some neighbors spoke out at the recent zoning meeting, saying the project would bring loud music and traffic to the otherwise quiet area.
Abutter Scott Davidson said he was concerned about traffic, noise and lighting.
“It would drastically affect our lives,” he said.
The variance approval placed restrictions on the time frame for the end of the music, both indoor and outdoor.
Others gave their support.
William and Jean Smith operate the nearby Rockingham Acres on Rockingham Road and said Livesey’s vision will bring dynamism to the property.
“It’s a perfect use of the property,” said William Smith.
David Chism, Katherine Chism’s son, has said he fully supports Livesey’s plan.
“I don’t think you’ll find better,” he said.
The New Hampshire Bureau of Historic Sites, which helps oversee the Frost Farm, also supports the plan.
Livesey said she wanted to make sure the property becomes a beautiful space to maintain the natural scenes and the Frost connection, while providing a new place for people to enjoy.
With the zoning council waiver, Livesey can move forward with the city’s approval process.