'Eulogy for my beloved home': Fire razes 200-year-old farmhouse in Southfield

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NEW MARLBOROUGH — When she found the centuries-old Colonial farmhouse back in 2003, Emily Newman knew, despite its condition, that it had been a "happy home."

"Poor old girl was a bit run down," she wrote.

But Newman and her husband, Jeremy Stanton, had found in that girl a willing dance partner.

"She never gave us any ugly surprises in the restoration," she wrote of the Southfield farmhouse. "It was exhausting to fix her up, but we all `felt' she was happy, and that made us happy, too."

Newman reflected this week on the home, which was consumed in an early morning fire Friday that quickly swept through a home in the heart of this village and reduced it to cinders. And, it nearly took out the former church next door.

She declined to be interviewed, but Newman shared her thoughts in what she called a "Eulogy for my beloved home."

The destruction of the home, more than two centuries old and a next-door neighbor to The Southfield Store, has swept sadness into this close-knit village — but also relief that no one was injured in the blaze.

Newman, Stanton and their two young children were living across the street at the time, having been forced out by damage from a kitchen fire two weeks earlier.

New Marlborough Fire Chief Charles Loring III said the family's absence from the home is the bright side of a conflagration that consumed the house in about 10 minutes.

He also said that saving the former church, now used as art studios, was fortunate.

"It was very close," he said. "I'm very thankful, very surprised. That whole side of that church was burning when I got there."

Loring said he arrived after the first call came at 3:42 a.m., with reports of flames out the windows.

"Once it breaks out the window and gets a lot of oxygen, houses burn fast," he said. "And an older house burns a little faster than a newer house."

The State Fire Marshal's Office and an insurance company are investigating. But Loring, who wouldn't speculate, said he doesn't know if they'll ever find out what caused this conflagration on Norfolk Road.

"It will be hard to determine because it's pretty well gone."

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Precious things

At The Southfield Store on Monday, the loss hung heavy amid the happy sounds of the espresso machine, and three young children conversing over lunch.

"People have been asking, 'Is everyone OK?'" said Abbey Medara, who was making a sandwich. "Luckily."

Newman also shared with The Eagle a thank-you note her family had given to firefighters, which said, in part:

"To have to come back to the exact same location, and after the recent other terrible loss nearby, seems unfair, exhausting, and depressing," she wrote. "You have such a hard job, emotionally."

In her "Eulogy," she described a place with a good innate spirit, and a soul wide and deep with two centuries of joy and tragedy.

And now this latest in the blows of life.

"After mom died, I was the holder of family lore," Newman wrote. "We lost photo albums, there are no pictures of me or my brothers from our childhood."

And that is just one example of some precious things that had gone up in smoke, as well as the basics of life — for which a friend of the family has set up a GoFundMe page.

This village over the little bridge takes some getting to — cell service is a crapshoot, for instance. For Newman, it's been a blessing.

"It's been unexpectedly social and endlessly supportive of everything — the good times and the bad."

The family's plans are "shaky." They might put a trailer on another property where they keep a miniature horse. They'll build a house there, she said. And they might even build something where the "jewel" once stood — which in their 16 years there witnessed "much joy, and terrible heartbreak."

Something beautiful will rise from these ashes. On the phone, Stanton sounded sure of it.

"Emily and I feel such a connection to that place and that house, so we will do what ever we can to make it possible for something good to be there," he said. "It's just phenomenal to live in a small town and to be so supported by the community. It's a unique and amazing experience."

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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