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No ‘Calvin Coolidge Slept Here’ Signs Mar President’s Home, Would- Be Inn

May 19, 1985

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) _ No ″Calvin Coolidge Slept Here″ signs mark the late president’s estate, The Beeches, whose owners have been trying for two years to convince neighbors they won’t mar the historic home by starting a bed and breakfast operation.

Real estate agent Robert R. Nelson and his wife, speech pathologist Daisy Mathias, bought the 16-room house on 16 acres for an estimated $250,000 in July 1983 with the idea of renting three bedrooms and serving breakfast to occasional tourists.

After opening, then going through several several heated hearings and a ban on operations, the couple thought they would be able to open this month with a recently obtained zoning permit.

However, a group of neighbors went to court Thursday to block the opening.

″We feel it is a desecration of the home of a former president,″ said Emma Kaplan, a neighbor. ″I think the city is money hungry, and anything that has to do with business is acceptable to it.″

The Nelsons opened for business in August 1983 after the city building inspector said they didn’t need a permit to rent three rooms or less.

Suits and countersuits involving 30 neighbors who organized to fight the tourist home led the city zoning board to order them to stop in December 1983.

The neighbors claimed the business was disrupting their privacy and creating a traffic hazard.

″The neighbors who objected originally said they didn’t know we had been running a bed and breakfast establishment,″ said Ms. Mathias, 44. ″I think what happened was most neighbors didn’t understand bed and breakfast is a private home and thought that it would somehow change their neighborhood.″

Heavy traffic and lack of privacy were the last things the couple and Coolidge were looking for when they chose the three-story, gray-stained cedar shingled house set far back from the road.

Coolidge, born in Plymouth, Vt., graduated from nearby Amherst College and began his law career in this western Massachusetts city of 29,286. He rose from City Council member to mayor, legislator and governor. Even after becoming president in 1923, however, he and his wife kept their home in a rented duplex in Northampton.

After Coolidge uttered those now-famous words, ″I do not choose to run again,″ and returned to the duplex with its beloved front porch, he found his privacy gone. So the Coolidges moved to The Beeches.

The house, built during World War I, has no plaque or sign to recall Coolidge’s years there.

Most guests in 1983 were between 30 and 60 years old and few expressed interest in the former president.

″This is where Calvin Coolidge slept,″ Nelson, 48, said nonchalantly when showing off the guest master bedroom.

″When we show them this room, they just don’t seem to ask that question and we only point it out when we remember. It’s not the same kind of question which comes to mind when you tour Mount Vernon,″ Nelson said.

″They do want to know where Calvin Coolidge died,″ he said, showing the bathroom adjacent to the master bedroom where the president suffered a coronary thrombosis Jan. 5, 1933, while shaving.

Are people afraid of a ghost? ″He was always known as ‘Silent Cal’ so they wouldn’t notice him anyway,″ Nelson said.