Inside J.D. Salinger's Former New Hampshire Home

Aug 25, 2014

Author J.D. Salinger, the enigmatic author of The Catcher in the Rye, was secretive and reclusive. And his neighbors in Cornish, New Hampshire guarded his privacy fiercely. So, just about anything that gives us a peak into his world is of interest to those who loved his work. Recently, a home he once owned in Cornish, New Hampshire was put up for sale by its current owner.

Salinger lived there for about 30 years, from the 1950s to the 1980s. He continued to live in Cornish until his death in 2010.

Jane Darrach is the real estate agent for the seller. She spoke to us from her office at Martha Diebold Real Estate in Hanover.

"We're getting a huge amount of interest on two levels," Darrach says. "One is from the media, who love to talk about Salinger. You know, we've had calls from London papers and Esquire and all sorts of people. And then, at the other level, is people who might possibly be interested in buying it. "

The fact that J.D. Salinger lived in the home isn't a selling point for everyone, Darrach says.

"I mean, some people couldn't care less. One person who I took to see the house, I told him Salinger lived there and he said, 'Who's that?'" - Realtor Jane Darrach

"I mean, some people couldn't care less," she says. "One person who I took to see the house, I told him Salinger lived there and he said, 'Who's that?' So, you know, it's all in your perspective. But I think in general, people do have a fascination with fame." 

But the fame doesn't affect the home's value, Darrach says. Sellers can't bump up the price by $200,000 or $300,000 just because Salinger lived there.

"You have to get the bank to appraise it, so that's not going to work," she says. The bank doesn't care "even slightly" that Salinger once called the place home. 

As for the house itself, Darrach shared these details:

"It's a very, very pretty setting, and it is very secluded. It incorporates land on both sides of the road, and the road is pretty much a non event -- very small. You walk into the house into a ... family room which is combined with a kitchen, and there's a fire place, which is lovely ... And then up half a dozen stairs to an enormous living room with exposed beams. Kind of barn-y feeling, rather than sophisticated."

The property also has a "lovely view of Mount Ascutney" and an apartment above the garage. "Salinger used to hang out a lot there, apparently, when he was on the outs with his wife," Darrach says.

Salinger also built a tunnel from the basement of the house to the basement of the garage, but Darrach says she's not sure if that had anything to do with marital strife. "I'm not sure what this history is there."

"It's a very, very pretty setting, and it is very secluded."

To weed out the people who are just curious to get a peek at the famous recluse's home from those more serious buyers, Darrach says she "chats quite a bit" with interested parties "to make sure they're not just curiosity seekers."

The seller has also requested that no photographs be taken of the interior of the house, though professional shots are posted with the listing on the Martha Diebold Real Estate website.

"I think that pretty much discourages just the lookers," Darrach says.

Who would be the right buyer for the Salinger house? Darrach guesses that it would suit a couple best.

"It's not a very big house. It's about 2,900 square feet. It has rooms that are on the small side. The bedrooms, for instance, I always think today that people think their children need enormous bedrooms -- it's as if they're minor royalty. And in those days, when this house was built in 1939, that was very definitely not the case. So I think a couple, because today everyone wants to have one guest room and two offices."

But young couples looking for a nice, small starter home will likely be deterred by the asking price: $679,000.

"I could see it being a second home," Darrach says. "Because it is a beautiful spot to come to. The mountain view is just spectacular."