My first recollection of the parlor (or palour, if you like a French flair) was on the Beverly Hillbillies TV show. Old Jeb moved from Bug Tussle to Beverly with Grannie, Jethro, and Ellie May to a 32-room, 14-bath, 21,523 square foot magnificent mansion located at 750 Bel Air Road. They had a grand foyer, a dining room with a fancy eating table, Grannie's kitchen, a "cee-ment" pond, and the parlor where they could greet the Drysdales, Jane, or other "city-folk" that might come a callin'.
The origin of the word "parlor" was from medieval Europe and was used to denote two rooms in a monastery. There were inner and outer parlors where the clergy, who, despite the vow of silence, could talk about the Patriots and Deflategate without getting caught. The outer parlor was used to greet visitors and conduct business. The inner parlor was where the clergy could talk amongst themselves, play cards, and possibly make wine or beer... Indeed, the work "parlor" is derived from the French word "parley" which means to talk. Parley vous?
The term parlor made its way into residential homes in the 18th and 19th centuries where the front parlor was used to greet guests and entertain. It was the center of family gatherings to celebrate births and weddings but also to hold funerals. As such, this was the most important room in the house and therefore it was decorated and furnished with the very best the family had in order to show the rest of the world their social status. I have noticed older homes in this area where the front parlor, or living room as we call it today, has ornate wood work, a fireplace, nice hardwood floors and then the next room back would have lesser quality and hardwood floors where the center portion of the room is finished in pine rather than hardwood to save money.
Today, we don't call any room in our house the parlor. We have replaced it with the living room, the family room, the great room, and even the Man Cave. But parlors live on outside the home. We have tattoo parlors, ice cream parlors, beauty parlors, pizza parlors, billiard parlors, and, thankfully, funeral parlors (not that we didn't want Grandpa hanging around a little extra longer there next to the wide screen TV.) There is even the well known Polly's Pancake Parlor if you are familiar with Northern New Hampshire. And, of course, there are lots of massage parlors that you say you have never visited.
But, the parlor at home, whether you call it the living room or family room, was and still is the most important parlor. Back in the Victorian era (that's even before black and white TV) when groups of people gathered in the parlor they got bored looking at each other. So they invented games such as Charades, Blind Man's Bluff, and the Dumb Orator (that's not a reference to a real estate agent.) These were to become known as Parlour Games. My kids played Space Invaders, Pac Man, and Asteroids in the parlor but someone thought "Video Games" sounded better.
Then there were enterprising and clever sorts that would entertain the guests with simple feats of magic sleight of hand, and illusion. Disappearing coins, card tricks, levitating cigarettes, and lots of silk scarves were used to mystify and amaze. Many a Houdini got his start in the front parlor. As does many a real estate agent who sits and meets with his new clients there. But, while real estate agents can be extremely entertaining and can even perform magic on occasion, the parlor along with the rest of the house has to be priced well in order to make it disappear. Anyone want to play Pictionary?
There were 1,107 residential homes on the market as of November 1, 2015 in the twelve communities covered by the Lakes Region Real Estate Market Report. The median price point came in at $264,999 meaning that half the properties were priced below and half were priced above number. This inventory level represents a 12.4 month supply of front parlors on the market...
Pease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 11/11/15. Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.
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