Sharon, MA – September 17, 2013 – History buffs, historic home enthusiasts, and explorers: Take a trip back in time at nine historic homesteads owned by The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) on Sunday, September 29th from 1–3 PM, during our free "Home Sweet Home" open house program. Located all around Massachusetts, several of these historic properties are rarely open to the public. They range from the Colonial era to the “Downton Abbey-esque” Gilded Age to the Modernist era of “Mad Men.” Get out, enjoy a drive along back roads brilliant with fall foliage, and see up close how people lived long ago, including the furnishings, decorative arts and architecture that surrounded them.
“Fall is the perfect time to plan an adventure or special educational outing with family, scout groups or friends,” says Trustees President and CEO Barbara Erickson. “Our mission is to preserve and protect historic, cultural and natural resources around the state for the public to learn from and enjoy. With entry fees that generally range anywhere from $5-15 for non-Trustees members, we are excited to share these historic gems with Massachusetts residents and visitors for free.”
The Ashley House, Sheffield MA
History buffs take note! The oldest house in Berkshire County is where the seeds of the American Revolution were planted by former owner, Col. John Ashley, who drafted the Sheffield Resolves in his upstairs study and sent them to Boston in 1773 to support the Patriots’ struggle against British tyranny. The link between the home and independence did not end there. Less than ten years later, in 1781, Elizabeth Freeman (nicknamed and formerly referred to as "Mum Bett") who was enslaved by the Ashleys, successfully sued for her freedom under the new state constitution, helping to end slavery in Massachusetts. A key anchor site on the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail (AAHT), The Ashley House features an interpretive exhibit about Freeman designed by local graduate students from UMass Amherst and is filled with original antique furnishings. After your tour, consider stopping by The Trustees’ Bartholomew’s Cobble property next door for some great hiking and, for the energetic, a climb up the 1,000-ft. Hurburt’s Hill for a beautiful view of the fall foliage. Interested in learning more? Tune in to the second in a six-part series on PBS, The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross, on October 28 at 8pm to learn more about the important role the Ashley House and Elizabeth Freeman’s story played in African American history.
Naumkeag, Stockbridge MA
A magnificent National Historic Landmark located just half a mile from downtown Stockbridge in the picturesque hills of the Berkshires, Naumkeag is a rare, surviving example of a Gilded Age Berkshire “cottage” that still contains all of its original furnishings. Designed and built in 1885 as a summer retreat for the Choate family from New York by esteemed architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, Naumkeag features stunning millwork and architecture, as well as original 19th- and 20th-century furniture, art, and personal family and household items that make house tours fun for all ages. The home is surrounded by world-famous gardens designed by Fletcher Steele, the father of modern American landscape design, which are currently in the middle of a transformative restoration. The gardens, which contain Steele’s famous “Blue Steps,” are a rare surviving example of Steele’s work open to the public and are visited by thousands of garden, landscape and history enthusiasts from around the world each year. Children will be enchanted by the water features, the Chinese Garden, and the garden rooms.
The Mission House, Stockbridge MA
Just down the street from Naumkeag is the Mission House, built in 1740 by John Sergeant, first missionary to the Stockbridge Mohican Indians who were the original settlers there. The home was moved from nearby Prospect Hill and restored on its present site in 1928 by Miss Mabel Choate, then owner of nearby Naumkeag who bequeathed both properties to The Trustees. Also a National Historic Landmark, the Mission House contains an outstanding collection of 18th-century period furnishings and decorative arts, as well as a small Native American museum that tells the story of the Mohicans. The house also features a Colonial Revival garden designed by Fletcher Steele, as well as a kitchen garden divided by crushed stone walkways containing 100 herbs, perennials, and annuals that had culinary or medicinal value to early colonists. A replica of an old cobbler shop serves as the entrance to the property and provides a glimpse into Colonial history and the Native American tribe that lived here during this historic area.
The Folly at Field Farm, Williamstown MA
Up the road in picturesque Williamstown is a must-see, award-winning architectural gem. Designed in 1965 by noted modernist architect Ulrich Franzen, The Folly at Field Farm is set in a stunning natural landscape of 316 beautiful conserved acres surrounded by sculptures, gardens, and four miles of hiking trails overlooking Mt. Greylock. The Folly is a three-bedroom, pinwheel-shaped guest cottage situated next to The Trustees’ Guest House at Field Farm (one of two B&Bs owned and managed by the organization), which still contains original contemporary furnishings designed by Franzen. Tours of the Folly are only offered to B&B guests June through October upon request, so the Open House is a true treat for all who attend. To extend your visit, book a room at The Guest House at Field Farm or take a walk among the scenic hiking trails and sculpture garden, which features work by Richard M. Miller, Phillip Pavia and Herbert Ferber.
The William Cullen Bryant Homestead, Cummington, MA
Moving over into the heart of Massachusetts’ Highlands you'll find another National Historic Landmark and boyhood home of one of America's foremost 19th-century poets and newspaper editors, William Cullen Bryant. Bryant served as editor and publisher of The New York Evening Post for 50 years and was also a passionate abolitionist, conservationist and horticulturalist who used his editorials to rally support for Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park and help elect President Lincoln. In 1865, Bryant converted the two-story farmhouse into a rambling three-story Victorian cottage and expanded the sprawling red barn to store apples and pears from his orchards. Inside the house you’ll discover colonial and Victorian pieces from the poet’s family, as well as exotic memorabilia from his extensive European and Asian travels. Once outside, you can follow Bryant’s footsteps on this 195-acre pastoral estate exploring 2.5 miles of hiking trails around the property and pondering how the landscape portrayed in his poetry 150 years helped inspire the 19th-century land conservation movement that involved Frederic Law Olmsted and his protégé Charles Eliot, founder of The Trustees of Reservations.
The Old Manse, Concord MA
Situated near the banks of the Concord River, the Manse is located next to the old North Bridge where the famous battle of April 19, 1775, took place and is a must-see stop on your visit to historic Concord. A National Historic Landmark built in 1770 just before the Revolutionary War by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather, patriot minister William Emerson, the Manse became the center of Concord’s political, literary, and social revolutions over the course of the next century. Minutemen and Redcoats fought the Battle of Concord in nearby fields and woods. In the mid-19th-century, leading Transcendentalists such as Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller discussed the issues of the day here, with the Hawthorne and Ripley families. Generations of Emersons lived in the handsome Georgian clapboard home, as did newlywed Nathaniel Hawthorne, for whom Henry David Thoreau planted a vegetable garden on the property, which is still cultivated today. Emerson would draft his famous essay “Nature” from an upstairs room, and Hawthorne would write a tribute to the homestead called Mosses from an Old Manse. Once outside, explore rolling fields edged by centuries-old stone walls and graced by an orchard. From upstairs, you can look out over the North Bridge.
Old House at Appleton Farms, Ipswich MA
The 1638 Old House is an icon on Boston’s North Shore situated on the nation’s oldest continually operating farm. Formerly owned for generations by the Appleton family, the recently renovated energy-efficient "green building" houses farm offices and a visitor center that is open to the public. Learn how you can incorporate similar green renovations into your own home, tour the Appleton family museum room furnished to represent the family's life in the mid-1800s and a peruse the new Appleton Family Portrait exhibit. Afterwards, visit the on-site dairy store to purchase cheese, yogurt and milk made from the farm’s own Jersey cows, as well as grass-fed beef and other local products. More time left:Tour the farmstead to visit the chickens and cows and take a leisurely walk along the Appleton Farms Grass Rides, with miles of easy and scenic walking trails amidst woodlands just filling up with color during the fall.
Paine House at Greenwood Farm, Ipswich MA
Dating back more than 350 years, Greenwood Farm is a former saltwater hay farm offering spectacular views of marshlands and coastal islands. Situated on 216 beautifully preserved acres on the edge of the Great Marsh, the farm’s centerpiece is the Paine House (1694), a yellow clapboard saltbox and fine example of First Period architectural design and craftsmanship that is rarely open to the public. See a rare 18th century colonial dairy built into the house. Afterwards, meander along the 2.5 miles of trails through pasturelands and salt marsh.
The Stevens-Coolidge Place, North Andover MA
Formerly known as Ashdale Farm, Stevens Coolidge Place served as the summer home of John Gardner Coolidge – a diplomat who was descended from Thomas Jefferson and was nephew to Isabella Stewart Gardner – and Helen Stevens Coolidge from 1914 to 1962. This 18th-century farm evolved into an early 20th-century country estate boasting some of the finest architectural and landscape work of Colonial Revival architect Joseph E. Chandler. The interior of the home is rarely open to the public, so join us to learn how the house’s colorful and eclectic decoration reflect the Coolidges’ wide-ranging interests – and their frequent trips abroad. View Chinese porcelain and other Asian artifacts as well as beautiful American furniture and American and European decorative arts. The delightful entry hall wall mural, painted by Spanish artist Joseph Remidas, brings outdoor elements inside. You also won’t want to miss the dramatic split staircase and delft-tiled dining-room fireplace. As you move outside, consider a tour of the property’s magnificent gardens (open year round from sunrise to sunset with our pick-your-own flower garden open Saturdays from 10AM-5PM through October 12), including the perennial garden, a kitchen and cut-flower garden, a rose garden, greenhouse complex, and a potager garden (or French vegetable garden) with a brick serpentine wall.
For those who can't make the free open house day, please visit www.thetrustees.org to find historic home visitation hours and/or to schedule a special school or scout outing.
More about The Trustees of Reservations
The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) “hold in trust” and care for properties, or “reservations,” of scenic, cultural, and natural significance for the general public to enjoy. Founded by open space visionary Charles Eliot in 1891, The Trustees are the nation’s oldest, statewide land trust and one of Massachusetts’ largest conservation organizations. Supported by more than 100,000 members and donors and thousands of volunteers, The Trustees own and manage 111 spectacular reservations – including working farms with Community Supported Agriculture programs, historic homesteads and gardens, community parks, barrier beaches and mountain vistas – located on more than 26,000 acres throughout the Commonwealth.
Trustees’ historic homesteads span the Colonial Era to the Modern Movement – five of which are National Historic Landmarks – representing a preserved timeline of architecture and design over the past 300 years. The Trustees’ legacy of preservation and care for these historic and cultural resources is one of the things that make the organization so unique and provides a compelling platform to engage more Massachusetts residents in our rich history and culture.
The Trustees work closely with permanent affiliates including Boston Natural Areas Network and the Hilltown Land Trust and community partners preserve and protect these special places for current and future generations, offering hundreds of outreach programs, workshops, and events annually, designed to engage all ages in their mission. Accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, The Trustees are an established leader in the conservation and preservation movement and model for other land trusts nationally and internationally. To find out more or to become a member or volunteer, please contact www.thetrustees.org.