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The Hiroshi Hayashi Land

Below content is from Monadnock Ledger Transcript article by Francie Von Mertens, published January 29, 2015.

Every piece of land has a story to tell.

Hiroshi Hayashi’s legacy lives on through 100-plus acre parcel conserved by the Harris Center.

Every parcel colored green on a town’s map of conservation lands has a story. It’s a story about choices made to hand land down to future generations unchanged. It’s about people and their connection to the land.

The most recent Peterborough story has to do with Hiroshi Hayashi, called “Hiroshi” by just about everyone who knew him, dressed in chef ’s white, at his Latacarta Restaurant in downtown Peterborough. The Latacarta Dinner on the menu was a work of culinary art that changed monthly to reflect the seasons. Who knew vegetables and grains could taste so good and satisfy so completely? I imagine carnivores converted to vegetarians by the Latacarta Dinner.

One of our daughter’s first jobs was there. It was a family effort trying to keep her one white blouse over one black skirt presentable. That was the uniform for the Latacarta wait staff overseen by Barbara Sustick.

Hiroshi and Barbara prepared the meal at Anna’s wedding 15 years later.

HiroshiViewBrookHiroshi’s deep connection to food carried over to the land. He bought Richard and Betty Lindhe’s place to the far northwest of Peterborough along Route 137. Betty was the longtime school librarian at Peterborough Elementary. With this week’s blizzard fresh in mind, there’s a story relayed by Barbara of snow one winter reaching so high the five Lindhe children could climb up and slide off the barn roof. The Lindhes sold to Hiroshi in 1986 with the understanding that the land would not be developed, that other generations would know their land stretching down along Nubanusit Brook just as they did.

Hiroshi talked with the Peterborough Open Space Committee about his desires for conservation. One gray April day he led us along an old farm road down to the Nubanusit. We didn’t succeed back then, six years ago, despite plans and inquiries and fundraising ideas.

Hiroshi died three years later, and his family respected his wishes that the land remain intact. A buyer — called a “conservation buyer” — was the goal, someone who would conserve the land, really, truly, legally. Forever.

In time, the Harris Center became that buyer, assisted in part by a grant from Peterborough’s land fund. The Conservation Commission and Select Board voted unanimously to support the $50,000 grant. The case for support was easy: over 100 acres of farmland and forest that link to other significant conserved lands; wetland and shoreland (excellent wildlife habitat); a trail that links across the river to Sargent Center’s trails by means of a pull-along skiff or a cable bridge.

Barbara Sustick was part of the conservation efforts over the years. She knew Hiroshi’s ties to the land and his desire to conserve it, and had lived there herself, walking the old farm trails. When she heard the project was completed, she asked if that meant she could walk those trails. It was a rhetorical question, I think, asked in gratitude and wonder that indeed she — and others — could. Forever.

A Harris Center hike last Sunday to explore the land drew a large group — the largest he’s seen on an outing, said Eric Masterson, the Harris Center’s land protection staffer. Harris Center head Jeremy Wilson talked a bit about Hiroshi. Jeremy moved here a few years ago, but has local family ties and he knew Latacarta Restaurant well. Come spring, and blossoms on the old apple trees, he said there will be a grand celebration of the Hiroshi Hayashi conservation land.

As postscript, there’s more than one story to every parcel colored green, but they go back too far in time to truly know. An online search of the Registry of Deeds finds an 1887 deed written in elegant cursive recording sale of the “real estate of said Nathan Holt,” including the “Holt house” and “Scott pasture,” to Mary Mc-Clenning Turner of Boston. The deed mentioned a right of way “across the cow pasture” for neighbor Joshua Richardson and his assigns, but subsequent deeds dropped that reference. Her McClenning middle name suggests Mary Turner grew up in Dublin and was related to the large Richardson clan.

The Turners ran an early B&B, a practice that became common when rail put the region in easy reach of Boston. Farms often added income by putting up city folk escaping city heat and congestion. Bank foreclosure on the Turner son in 1928 suggests that more income was needed. The bank sold to Raymond and Anna Davis but not until 1943. Barbara said there was a fire at some point, and perhaps that explains the foreclosure and 15-year time gap between family owners. She also said Mr. Davis often commented that his wife slept in Dublin and he in Peterborough. Town lines converge at the house site, with Harrisville close by as well. The Davises sold to Richard and Betty Lindhe in 1968.

Deeds and town histories provide just the bare bones, with so many stories lost to time. Whose children ran down the cow path on hot summer days to swim in the Nubanusit — called Goose Brook in the old deeds? Who cleared the land for pasture, built the stonewalls, laid the barbed wire? Who heard whistles announcing the milk train that made many stops to pick up farm produce for the city, or trains that delivered farm guests who needed to be picked up at the station?

I imagine many people — past, present and future — pleased that one town’s conservation map has one more history-rich and natural resource-rich parcel colored green.
A pull-along skiff crossing the brook. 

Hiroshi Flowers - Copy

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