Saturday, October 16, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 78: Peabody, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 78:  Peabody, Massachusetts
September 8, 2010

            Peabody is one North Shore town that I had ulterior motives for visiting besides my normal traveling.  I will admit that the lure of a Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant made this an easy trip to book.  Obviously that was only the tip of the iceberg as far as things to see, but for me it was like visiting an old friend when I used to dine at Chick-fil-A many a time while living in Southeastern Florida a few years back.
            Peabody is not only an amazing town to visit but according to Forbes Magazine in 2009 it ranked 14th as far as America’s Most Livable Cities, meaning Peabody is also a great place to build a life.  On this day I was just up for a visit and was very happy with all that I saw.
Peabody Historical Fire Museum
            The best place to start in Peabody is an area filled with historical sites.  The Felton-Smith Historic Site is simply amazing.  It began in the dirt parking area which was in between rows of apple trees.  The bright green apples under the warm sun gave me the feeling that this spot was going to be impressive.
            On the left, standing alone against the wide open land behind it, was the Peabody Historical Fire Museum.  This building looks more like an old church than a fire house built in 1875.  The building was known as the home of Peabody Engine Company No. 3 when it resided on Endicott Street.  It was moved to the Felton-Smith Historic Site in 1990 and contains some rare firefighting artifacts from Peabody and the North Shore. 
            The Smith Barn, part of the name of the Felton-Smith Historic Site, is located at the forefront of the property on Felton Street.  Built in 1903 by Joseph Smith for storing apples, grain, and farming machinery it sits overlooking 250 acres of orchards and conservation land.  It is frequently used for weddings and the Historical Society’s annual Craft Fair.  It can comfortably hold up to 240 people.     
Smith Barn
            The privately owned Orchard House is to the right of the Smith Barn and is not open to the public.  Across the street is a pair of historic homes owned by Nathanel Felton Sr. and Jr.  The home of Nathanel Felton Sr. is the oldest home in Peabody, built in 1644.  The Nathanel Felton Jr. house was built in 1683.  The Feltons were famous for defending their neighbor, John Proctor, during the Salem Witch Trials.  To clarify, I have used the spelling of the name ‘Nathanel’ which is as it appears on both of the signs in front of the historic homes.  It does seem a bit odd, but I do not believe that the historical society would have spelled it this way unless it was correct.  I thoroughly enjoyed being able to park and walk a short distance to all of these places.  If only all of my trips were so convenient.
            A short drive down the road is another amazing treat, Brooksby Farm.  Weighing in at 232 acres, 65 of them being orchards, this working farm is a great destination for adults and children alike.  Visitors can pick their own apples, strawberries, and raspberries, or buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the farm stand. 
Brooksby Farm leading to Fire Museum
There is also a nice collection of barnyard animals which I enjoyed.  There were sleeping pigs, snoring at that I might add, there was also a solitary chicken that had escaped its pen and was trying to get back in while the other chickens all clucked at it.  When I informed the nice people inside the farm stand they told me that chicken is a master escape artist.  The animals also included a llama and what I think was an emu, it would not come over to me.  The sheer size of the farmland was incredible, it extended all out as far as I could see.  The Fire Museum sat majestically on the other side of the hill with nothing in the way to obstruct my view. 
After enjoying the quiet of Brooksby Farm I ventured into the center of Peabody and its City Hall.  I liked their City Hall because the walkway leading up to the front doors was lined with many flags of foreign countries.  After snapping some nice shots of the various flags blowing in the wind it was time for my lunch at Chick-fil-A.  The one thing I did not realize was that the restaurant itself was located inside the Northshore Mall.
This was the first time during any of my trips that I actually had a mall as a destination.  I parked on the wrong side and had to walk the entire length of the mall which was packed on this day.  It was very much worth it though when I caught sight of the Chick-fil-A logo and got my order. 
George Peabody House and Museum
After enjoying my lunch by the Waters River Marina I was off to my final destination.  The George Peabody House and Museum is the birthplace of the man for whom the town is named.  Born in 1795, in what was then known as South Danvers, Peabody was a well known international merchant and philanthropist during the 19th century.  Before it became the current museum the yellow home was actually used by the American Glue Company.
There are many other historic homes in Peabody, many located on Washington Street, and they all house their own story.  I will take from my time in Peabody the memories at the Felton-Smith Historic Site, the Fire Museum, and Felton homes.  Everyone who visits Peabody needs to spend some time at Brooksby Farm either picking their own fruit or taking in the barnyard animals.  Peabody is yet another amazing town in a string of them on the North Shore.  Have fun and happy traveling!

DirectionsFelton-Smith Historic Site/Brooksby Farm:  From I-95 north take Exit 44B for Rt. 1.  Keep right at fork in road, continue 2 miles and keep right at another fork in road.  Take Lowell St. exit and keep right, turn left at Baldwin St., turn left to stay on Baldwin St.  Turn left at Felton St.  Historic Site is on left, Brooksby Farm is all the way at end of street.
            George Peabody House & Museum:  From I-95 north head toward Exit 44A, slight left at Rt. 128.  Take Exit 26 to merge onto Lowell St.  Turn right at Foster St., right at Washington St.  Peabody House is #205.


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