Beverly, MA - The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) today announced the beginning of the first phase of the restoration of the Crane Estate’s “Grand Allée” on Castle Hill, a National Historic Landmark located in Ipswich. This important and exciting project will restore the signature landscape feature of the estate: the undulating, half-mile-long, grass lawn that sweeps to a view of the sea and is framed by classical sculptures, Norway spruce, and pine hedgerows. The Grand Allée combines a grand scale with beautiful decorative arts, making it unique in American landscape design. It is the only known landscape masterpiece of its kind still in existence in North America–-and one of only a few remaining worldwide. The Allée is one of the largest landscape features created by renowned Boston landscape architect, Arthur Shurcliff, who modeled the dramatic design after the beautiful Italian and French gardens of Renaissance Europe. Since 1949, when the Crane family gifted Castle Hill to The Trustees, the Allée has become a beloved and impressive backdrop for open-air concerts, weddings, tours and events, a children’s summer camp, and other recreational activities held year-round on the Crane Estate.
Nearly 100 years after its original installation, the Allée’s plantings and architectural elements have begun to rapidly decline. The aging trees are prone to damage from harsh weather and storms. In addition, at their mature height, the trees have outgrown Shurcliff’s design and become overcrowded, obscuring his carefully planned views of natural features and the original sculptures bordering the hedgerows. To restore this rare and iconic landscape to Shurcliff’s original splendor, The Trustees are embarking on a dynamic, three-year, environmentally sustainable renovation project. The restoration will constitute a living laboratory–-modeling cutting edge environmental stewardship with the diligent care of a National Historic Landmark.
The Allée restoration project has been created in memory of David Crockett, a former member of The Trustees of Reservations’ Board of Governors whose tireless efforts on behalf of Castle Hill and the Crane Estate were critical in preserving this property. Mr. Crockett was an Ipswich resident known around town, and within The Trustees, as the “Impressario of Argilla Road,” on which the Estate is located. Mr. Crockett’s commitment to the care of the Crane family’s extraordinary gift to The Trustees set the standard by which the property has been--and will continue to be--managed.
“There is no other Allée or formal landscape vista in America that can compare to the Grand Allée at Castle Hill,” says Bob Murray, superintendent of The Crane Estate. “The national significance of this property, its landscape, and its architectural features illustrates the importance of The Trustees’ careful role in its preservation.”
Already underway, Phase One of the project includes the removal of approximately 90 trees and the planting of 150 seven-foot Norway spruce and White Pines. It also includes the repair, cleaning, and reinstallation of statues and the addition of new landscape lighting features. Signboards at the Crane Estate will explain the process, and guided tours of the restoration work will be available. In an effort to be as sustainable as possible, trees are being carefully removed with cranes, cut into logs, and sent to a local sawmill for lumber. The remainder of the trees will be chipped on site, composted at a local facility, and returned to the property to enrich the soil before the spring planting season. A local shipbuilder has even expressed interest in several specific trees.
In addition, The Trustees will restore and re-engage a cavernous underground cistern and rainwater harvesting system, itself an original part of the design of the self-sustaining Crane Estate. This original infrastructure will meet all of the irrigation needs of the project, eliminating the need to use potable water and creatively supporting the Allée’s environment. Phases Two and Three of this ambitious restoration project will involve the removal and replanting of the additional sections of trees further along the Allée moving outward toward the sea, for a total of 635 trees planted.
By its conclusion, this effort will represent one of the broadest, most expansive restoration efforts ever undertaken at the Crane Estate.
More About the Crane Estate
The crown jewel in its collection of 101 properties located throughout the state, The Crane Estate – consisting of Castle Hill, which includes the Crane mansion or "Great House" and the Inn at Castle Hill; Crane Beach; and The Crane Wildlife Refuge – is one of only a few remaining estates intact from the Country Place Era. A National Historic Landmark, Castle Hill requires ongoing and extensive interior and exterior restorations so that it can continue to be enjoyed by 250,000 people from New England and beyond who visit each year.
Chicago industrialist Richard T. Crane, Jr., purchased approximately 1,380 acres in 1910, the beginning of what would become the Crane Estate. A contemporary of Cornelius Vanderbilt, Crane was captivated by the beauty of the landscape, and, over time, worked with eight leading architects and landscape architects to shape his summer family retreat. In 1928, he crowned the estate with a grand mansion designed by renowned Chicago architect David Adler. Today, the Crane Estate encompasses 2,100 acres, and is open to the public, offering educational and cultural programs and activities, including SummerQuest, recognized as one of Massachusetts’ best summer programs for children. The Crane Estate also offers opportunities for year-round recreation and wonderful sites for private functions.
More about The Trustees of Reservations in the Northeast
On the North Shore, The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) own and care for some 20 reservations in Essex County including: Agassiz Rock, Appleton Farms and Appleton Farms Grass Rides, the Crane Estate (Castle Hill, Crane Beach, The Inn at Castle Hill, and the Crane Wildlife Refuge), Coolidge Reservation, Crowninshield Island, Greenwood Farm, Halibut Point, Long Hill, Misery Islands, Mount Ann Park, Old Town Hill, Pine and Hemlock Knoll, Ravenswood Park, Stavros Reservation, Stevens-Coolidge Place, Ward Reservation, and Weir Hill. Encompassing 5,794 acres, these properties contain some of the most spectacular natural, historic, and cultural resources in Massachusetts. They offer woodlands and hilltops, coastlines, great estates, historic houses and gardens as well as programs such as outdoor concerts, farm days, summer camps, and plant sales. To find out more about The Trustees in the Northeast, please call 978.356.4351.
The Trustees of Reservations Statewide
The Trustees are 100,000 people like you who love the outdoors and the distinctive charms of New England, and believe in celebrating and protecting them for current and future generations. Founded by open space visionary Charles Eliot in 1891, The Trustees “hold in trust,” and care for, 101 spectacular “reservations” located on 25,000 acres in 73 communities throughout Massachusetts. All reservations are open for the public to enjoy and range from working farms and historic homesteads – several of which are National Historic Landmarks – to formal gardens, barrier beaches, open meadows, woodland trails, and mountain vistas. The Trustees also offer meeting space at their Gold LEED-certified green building in Leominster, and manage a popular campground for summer getaways.
The Trustees also offer hundreds of programs and activities throughout the year for all ages, most of which are free-of-charge or discounted for members. In addition, The Trustees are a leader in the conservation movement and have served as a model for other land trusts nationally and internationally. With communities and conservation partners, The Trustees work to address important conservation issues and efforts across the Commonwealth. The Trustees hold conservation restrictions on more than 16,000 acres of privately owned land and, with our partners, have assisted in the protection of an additional 16,000 acres.
As land is being developed and open space is being fragmented at a rapid pace across the Commonwealth, time is running out to save the best of Massachusetts’ landscapes and landmarks. To find out how you can protect or preserve a special place in your community, become a partner, request a speaker, and/or become a Trustee through your volunteer, donor or membership contributions, please call 781.784.0567, visit www.thetrustees.org, or email email@example.com. We are all Trustees.
Photos of current and planned views also available upon request.