Photo: Belmont Children’s Librarian Liz Fraser telling a tale of Peter Rabbit.
Liz Fraser stood before more than three dozen tots in the main room of the historic 1853 Homer House with a simple story to tell about a rabbit with floppy ears.
“Here is a bunny with ears so funny.
And here is a hole in the ground.
When a noise he hears, he pricks up his ears.
And jumps in the hole in the ground.
The Coordinator of Children’s Services at Belmont Public Library, Fraser was the featured storyteller at the Belmont Woman’s Club inaugural “Literacy on the Lawn” celebrating the 150th birthday of author and artist Beatrix Potter, the creator of Peter Rabbit.
Despite occurring in late July at the height of vacation plans, the lawn was full of children and parents painting, playing croquet and hanging out with a small collection of farm animals – including a baby goat who kept escaping from the enclosure – as the Belmont Woman’s Club, Belmont Public Library, Habitat and Belmont Center businesses sponsored the day’s events.
For the Woman’s Club, the aim of this event and others is to “draw more families into the history of the house and its beauty,” said Nancy Sarris, the club’s co-president along with Belmont resident Wendy Murphy.
The Club is looking to “re-energize” the organization, attempting to dispel the stereotype of “old ladies drinking tea and playing bridge” which was the case 90 years ago when the club began, said Sarris.
By opening the house to events, outside tours and functions, the club is seeking to highlight the house, a rare example of antibellum residential architecture still standing in greater Boston.
“I fell in love with the house when I first visited it 22 years ago, and I hear the same thing from others,” said Sarris, who was a senior vice president of Belmont Savings Bank.
The Club has begun a $250,000 capital campaign towards making the house – built by the uncle of artist Winslow Homer who visited and painted in Belmont in the 1860s – more accessable to outside groups, focusing on repairing the driveway and including parking along with exterior architectural improvements including restoring the overhangs. The campaign is in addition to $100,000 in Community Preservation Committee funds approved by Town Meeting in 2015 for the House’s rehabilitation and restoration.
Possible future events could include a Taste of the Town in the fall where restaurants would provide samples, a holiday house tour and educational forums focusing on women and girls. Currently, Susan Smart, the Homer House Curator, is leading private tours of the house through September on Sundays at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
“The Woman’s Club and the Homer House want to be re-involved in a big way with the town,” said Sarris.