The Trustees Renews Focus on Cultural Properties Enlivening Some of Massachusetts’ Most Iconic Historic Sites

With visitation and membership at the highest level in The Trustees’ nearly 125-year history, the nation’s first statewide land trust and one of the Commonwealth’s largest nonprofits enters an exciting new chapter.

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Kristi Perry
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Boston, MAMay 21, 2015 – In time for opening season and National Preservation Month, The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) announced that the organization has formally launched a transformative initiative to reinvest in, restore, and celebrate its cultural sites and collections to attract more Massachusetts’ residents and visitors to its cultural and historic properties. Through a $26.6 million “Bringing our Stories to Life” campaign, The Trustees are increasing their focus and attention on enlivening signature properties such as Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich and Naumkeag in Stockbridge, two National Historic Landmarks that draw thousands of visitors from around the world to experience the magnificent architecture and designed landscapes.

The organization is also focusing on lesser known but equally important sites like the Allen C. Haskell Public Gardens in New Bedford, a former nursery that once served clients such as Martha Stewart and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Sites where The Trustees has increased its investment and attention have already experienced a significant increase in visitation and program participation in an era when visitation to cultural sites has been on a downward trend nationwide. The organization is hoping to reverse that trend at other sites on its wish list in the future as well.

“We estimate that 95 of our 113 properties are culturally significant. They represent a preserved 300-year timeline of architecture, design, arts and artifacts, and fascinating stories of their former inhabitants – many of whom were famous authors, designers, gardeners, politicians, and titans of industry – that are deeply rooted in our local and national history,” says Barbara Erickson, President and CEO. “We hold these places thanks to the incredible vision and legacy set forth nearly 125 years ago in Boston by Charles Eliot, who founded The Trustees to ‘preserve and protect places of exceptional scenic, natural, and historic beauty’ and ‘set them aside for public use and enjoyment, just as a public library holds books and an art museum holds pictures.’ Today, we are taking that mandate another step further by moving beyond stellar stewardship and traditional tours of our properties. We want to secure these cultural assets for the next century and bring their stories to life in new, innovative ways that make them more relevant and meaningful places to visit, learn, and be inspired.”

Major initiatives designed to increase preservation of these cultural sites and enhance visitor engagement have ranged from restoring iconic gardens and landscapes created by some of the world’s most influential designers, to creating interactive house tours where you can be a “guest” of the former owner or go behind-the-scenes to see a servant’s perspective. Cafes, expanded gift shops, lawn games, and other visitor amenities have been added to enhance and extend visitor stays on property. Other programs such as free open house days, weekly family entertainment programs, and on-site artist programs have been added to invite new audiences to explore and appreciate these cultural assets.

These accomplishments have been possible thanks to the innovative leadership of President and CEO Barbara Erickson who took the helm of The Trustees in 2012. Shortly after her first few months on the job, she saw an immediate opportunity for The Trustees to evolve beyond its success as a renowned land trust and conservation and preservation organization and become a more prominent leader as a cultural institution as well. The Trustees has achieved great success in building membership and philanthropic support for this campaign under her leadership. In just three short years, the organization has raised $22.4 million in what was originally intended to be a five-year initiative, with the remaining $4.2 million expected to be raised by year-end.

The “Bringing Our Stories to Life” campaign has focused on multiple projects categorized into four major elements. The first has centered on building on The Trustees’ technical and curatorial leadership by hiring senior level curators, archivists, interpretative experts, and horticulturalists to document, archive, digitize, interpret and restore important site features and collections. The second has focused on improving The Trustees’ stewardship of buildings and architectural hardscape features with transformative capital improvement projects. The third has focused on enhancing visitors' experiences and welcoming new audiences by sharing the compelling stories found at the organization’s cultural sites and offering more diverse program choices, free entry opportunities, and amenities. The final element has focused on adding entrepreneurial opportunities such as events and revenue generating programs to help support The Trustees’ mission and continued growth. Throughout the state, visitors have already, and will continue to see the substantial impacts resulting from the investment made possible by this campaign.

“Without the financial support of many friends, both old and new, The Trustees would not have been able to celebrate the progress made to date and look forward to additional accomplishments,” adds David Croll, chairman of The Trustees’ Board of Directors. “Several large donors have shown remarkable leadership to this Campaign, which has in turn inspired over 300 additional donations, both large and small, by people delighted to participate in an effort that brilliantly restores and brings to life our special places.”

While the impact of the campaign is already noticeable around many Trustees properties around the state, it is still a work in progress at others. The Trustees are planning for investments at a several additional locations, with more new programs to be introduced for different audience interest groups. Additional restoration projects, visitor services, and outdoor contemporary art installations at selected sites are also planned. The Trustees’ transformation is ultimately about exciting new audiences, drawing more visitors to its incredible collection of landscapes and landmarks, and enriching the lives of Massachusetts residents and visitors by connecting them to history and culture through place. It is an exciting time in the organization’s history and The Trustees want to invite more people to Find Their Place. For more highlights of campaign accomplishments, please contact

The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) “hold in trust” and care for properties, or “reservations,” of irreplaceable scenic, historic, 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 land trust and one of Massachusetts’ largest conservation and preservation nonprofits. Supported by more than 100,000 members and donors and thousands of volunteers, The Trustees own and manage 113 spectacular reservations – from working farms and historic homesteads and landscaped gardens, to community parks, barrier beaches, mountain vistas and woodland trials – located on more than 26,000 acres throughout the Commonwealth. 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