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Boston & Ipswich, MA – November 10, 2014 – The care and keeping of large, popular National Historic Landmarks for public use and enjoyment is a critical component of The Trustees of Reservations’ mandate. The nation’s first regional land trust and a leading statewide conservation nonprofit, The Trustees preserve and protect 112 iconic landscapes and landmarks around Massachusetts.
Today, The Trustees are celebrating a significant milestone in the organization’s ongoing preservation work at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich – a National Historic Landmark and one of the few surviving, intact examples of the American Country Place Era – with the restoration of the Casino. Named for the Italian word for “little house” and used to describe small dwellings in gardens and landscapes that surround a villa, the Casino originally served as an elegant pool and entertainment space used by the Crane family. Located on the Grand Allée, it represents the most distinctive Italian Renaissance Revival-style architecture surviving from this period on the Crane Estate. The Grand Allée is one of the largest landscape features of its kind in North America, modeled after the beautiful Italian and French gardens of Renaissance Europe.
Since the Cranes gifted Castle Hill to The Trustees in 1949, the organization has carried on the family’s legacy of entertainment on the property, using both the Grand Allée and Casino as a popular backdrop for hundreds of open-air concerts, weddings, historic house and landscape tours, community events, a children’s summer camp, and other recreational activities held year-round at the Estate. In order to preserve their original design integrity, both have required extensive, multi-million dollar landscape, architectural, and structural restoration work over the past several years.
“There is no other formal, designed landscape in America that can compare to the Grand Allée and Casino at Castle Hill,” says Barbara Erickson, Trustees of Reservations President and CEO. “The national significance of this property and its unique landscape and architectural features illustrates the importance of our role in its authentic preservation. The restoration of the Casino marks a significant milestone that has been years in the making at this iconic property and we could not have accomplished this work without the ongoing support of our generous members and supporters and expertise of our talented staff. We invite everyone to come see the incredible transformation of this exciting, newly restored venue space.”
The original Casino, strategically situated down from The Great House and along the Grand Allée in order to preserve the sweeping ocean views, featured a saltwater pool framed by plantings and statuaries and bordered by two pavilions containing a bachelor’s quarters (or guest accommodations) and a billiard hall/ballroom. The Casino was designed by the Boston architectural firm Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge during the first building campaign on the property (roughly between 1910-1920), in collaboration with renowned Boston landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff who also designed the Grand Allée and is best known for designing Colonial Williamsburg and the Charles River Esplanade. The Trustees completed an extensive landscape restoration of the Allée in June 2012, which entailed the sustainable replanting of hundreds of trees, the restoration of statuary, and the refurbishing of an underground cistern and rainwater harvesting system.
The Casino restoration marks the final phase of this important project. After nearly a century in its seaside location, the building fabric and structural elements of the Casino suffered from exposure to the harsh elements, leading to a compromised structure that was eventually closed to the public in the 1990’s. The original pool had been filled and topped with grass before The Trustees took ownership of the property. Since 1998, The Trustees have worked to restore many of the Casino’s architectural and decorative elements, preserving as much of the original site materials as possible.
This past May, cultural resource experts embarked on planning for the restoration project, taking months to cull through original documents, drawings, photos and design plans to ensure accuracy and detail in design and execution. The Trustees have worked to uncover and restore the beautiful marble pavers and herringbone brick pathways framing the area, as well as restoring and reproducing statuary, urns, and other decorative elements that once adorned this elegant space so it can once more serve as an entertainment space on the property.
“The restoration of the Allée – and now the final pièce de résistance, the Casino – serves as a living laboratory, modeling a thoughtful, sustainable stewardship approach while preserving the historic integrity of this important National Historic Landmark,” adds Bob Murray, Northeast Operations Manager and Project Manager. “The completion of this restoration project is another step forward in returning this iconic estate to its authentic state for all to experience and enjoy.”
The Allée and Casino restoration projects have been undertaken in memory of the late David Crockett, a former member of The Trustees of Reservations’ Board of Governors and Ipswich resident whose tireless efforts on behalf of Castle Hill and the Crane Estate were critical in preserving the property. His 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 in perpetuity.
Caring for the 2,100-acre Crane Estate property is continuous. Over the years, The Trustees have conducted extensive restoration of other interior and exterior features of the Great House and surrounding landscape features on Castle Hill. The Allée and Casino restoration effort, however, represents one of the broadest, most expansive restoration and fundraising efforts ever undertaken on the property. The Trustees welcome additional donations to support continued preservation efforts. All donations are being matched by a generous donor, making individual support go twice as far. To donate, please visit: http://bit.ly/1sVZnpS.
More about the Crane Estate
The Crane Estate is the crown jewel in The Trustees’ collection of 112 properties located throughout the Commonwealth, twenty of which are located on Boston’s North Shore. The 2,100 acre Estate consists of Castle Hill – which includes the Crane mansion or "Great House" and the Inn at Castle Hill – as well as Crane Beach and The Crane Wildlife Refuge was owned by Chicago industrialist Richard T. Crane, Jr. who purchased the property in 1910 because he was captivated by the beauty of the landscape. Over time he worked with eight leading architects, landscape architects, and artists 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 welcomes over 300,000 visitors from near and far and offers year-round educational and cultural programs and activities, including SummerQuest, recognized as one of Massachusetts’ best summer programs for children, and private functions.
About The Trustees of Reservations
The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) “hold in trust” and care for properties, or “reservations,” of irreplaceable scenic, cultural, and natural significance for the general public to enjoy. Founded by open space visionary Charles Eliot in 1891, The Trustees is the world’s oldest regional land trust and one of Massachusetts’ largest conservation and preservation non profits. Supported by more than 100,000 members and donors and thousands of volunteers, The Trustees own and manage 112 spectacular reservations including working farms, historic homesteads and landscaped gardens, community parks, barrier beaches, mountain vistas and woodland trials located on more than 26,000 acres throughout the Commonwealth. An established leader in the conservation and preservation movement and worldwide, The Trustees have also worked with community partners to protect an additional 34,000 acres in Massachusetts. With hundreds of outreach programs, workshops, camps, concerts and events annually designed to engage all ages in its mission, The Trustees invite you to Find Your Place and get out and experience the natural beauty and culture our state has to offer. For more information, visit: www.thetrustees.org.