Peabody, Massachusetts is a place, like many others, that has undergone a significant amount of development over the decades. However, Brooksby Farm is a part of Peabody that remains a “place out of time” in its natural beauty, and also serves as a location for several of the Peabody Historical Society’s properties.
Joseph Smith, a Lynn, Massachusetts shoe manufacturer with a significant amount of money, built Smith Barn around 1903/4, with the intent to use it as storage for animal feed, farming implements, and the apples that were harvested from the surrounding orchards. Smith Barn is one of the most prominent properties in the Brooksby Farm area, as it’s used year-round for various public and private functions. For example, each autumn Smith Barn serves as the host for the Peabody Historical Society’s craft fair. Additionally, Smith Barn can be rented for weddings, corporate events, or parties.
To the side of the Smith Barn is another historic property that was also built in the early 20th century by Joseph Smith. Known as Orchard House, it was build in the style of a Victorian cottage, and it was where caretakers would live. Presently, this house is private property and rented as such, so it’s not open to visitors.
Peabody Historical Fire Museum
Behind Smith Barn is the Peabody Historical Fire Museum. Build around 1875, this was the home of Peabody Engine Company No. 3. In 1990, this building was moved from Endicott Street to its present location. Exhibits include firefighting items not just from Peabody, but also the North Shore. The Peabody Historical Society holds lectures here, and makes the building available for gatherings and/or meetings, free of charge, to groups and organizations with a fire-related background.
The Nathaniel Felton Senior and Junior Houses
Directly across the street from Smith Barn, Orchard House, and the Peabody Historical Fire Museum, are the Nathaniel Felton Senior and Junior Houses. Built around 1650, two centuries of the Felton family lived in these houses. Nathaniel Felton Senior and his son, Nathaniel Felton Junior, are particularly well-known because they defended John Proctor, a neighbor of theirs who was one of the accused in the Salem witch trials.
In 1902, Joseph Smith bought the Nathaniel Felton Senior and Junior Houses. The Smith family enlarged both houses, and used them as summer homes. Despite the structural changes, both houses still have some components of their original structures. Guided tours of both houses are sometimes available.
Presents for the Present
The Peabody Historical Society was given the Nathaniel Felton Junior House, 8.5 acres of land, Smith Barn, and Orchard house in 1976 by Eleanor Smith, who was the widow of Joseph Smith’s grandson. In 1983, Joseph Smith’s granddaughter, Janet Smith, gave the Peabody Historical Society 8 more acres of land, as well as the Nathaniel Felton Senior House. An additional 200 more acres of land was sold by the Smith estate to the City of Peabody around that time, and it is the City of Peabody that owns Brooksby Farm.
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