Fred and Rosalind Slavic built their home on a thickly wooded site in Fitzwilliam a half century ago. They wanted their 300-acre tract to remain in a wild state, so they have willed it to the Northeast Wilderness Trust. The trust will dismantle the buildings and retain an easement on the land.
They were smitten with the land from the moment they saw it running up the side of Little Monadnock. “We lived in New York City at the time,” says Fred, “we had a publishing business. And in the winter time, we always liked the woods. We decided we'd try to buy a piece of land and fell into this piece in the wild part of Fitzwilliam.”
The hills the land occupied made it difficult to harvest timber from so no one tried, and the trees grew unencumbered. And for Rosalind that was part of the attraction. “It may seem crazy, but the idea of owning these trees struck us as something terrific.”
When they describe the land, the Slavics adopt the tone of proud parents or admiring offspring, speaking of the land as a virtuous entity. Says Rosalind, “When you get up to the very top you have a wonderful view to the west looking out over acres and acres of forest land. It was a beautiful place with streams and ledges. It was perfect for us.”
The Slavics put a deposit on the land, pending approval of the paperwork. Anyone who’s bought a home can appreciate that assembling paperwork can seem like a black hole from which Time cannot escape. But Fred and Rosalind demonstrated remarkable patience as they “surveyed the land and studied the old deeds to figure out where the property lines were.” Three years later they tied up the paperwork into a legal deed.
“Then we began looking for a house site,” says Fred. The 300 acres they purchased did not include any buildings. Their first choice for a site proved to be too remote and so they moved to the next one on the list. Even this site required the construction of a dirt road, and a cable car to shift building supplies from the town road on to the property, up a cliff face to the build site. Fred “built the cable car at my plant in New York, and rigged up an electric windlass to haul the building materials up.”
Fred designed the house himself, “I wanted it to look old-fashioned, and it was tall so we could get up in the trees. Rosalind is an artist, and her studio was in the attic.” This gave her an excellent view to provide inspiration. Designing the house allowed Fred to not only have complete control over what the house looked like but also meant they had greater control over what the area around the house looked like. Rosalind explains, “We wanted to save as many trees as we could, we wanted to keep the place looking wild. So we snuck the house in there instead of clearing the land like most people would have done.”
The Slavics never had any children, and “when we realized what we had, we knew we had to leave the land to Rhododendron State Park, which it already adjoins. We couldn’t think of anything better to do than give it to the state,” says Fred. But the state wouldn’t annex the land to the park with the houses on the property, so the Slavics turned to the Northeast Wilderness Trust.
The Trust helped the Slavics navigate the legalities of bequeathing the land to the Trust, which would then be responsible for taking down the house before turning it over to the state.
Fred Slavic passed away on October 6, 2013. Rosalind is doing well and has moved to a senior living community in Keene, NH.