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Doyle Community Park & Center | History

Doyle Estate: historic photo

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The Doyle Estate

The former Doyle Family Estate is now part of the Trustees of Reservations’ Doyle Community Park which includes the Doyle Center and Pierce Meadow. The grounds and hiking trails are open daily to the public. For more information call 413.532.1631 x10.

The land and buildings of the former Doyle estate cover about 125 acres. The “Estate Core,” approximately 10 acres in size, consists of the former Doyle family home, formal landscaped grounds, and several additional buildings. These include a historic gymnasium and attached garage, a small barn used for maintenance, a small kennel, a garden shed, and the “Cape House,” a former residence. The open fields, woodlands and estate buildings along Lindell Avenue help define the rural and scenic character of the neighborhood.

The Estate House, bought by Bernie Doyle in 1908, was originally a Victorian style farm house. Over the years it was remodeled twice by Bernie and once by his daughter Louise.  Her lifelong interest in architecture and history led her to spend many years working with landscape architects, decorators and other artisans to create an elegant and comfortable home. The wood frame has three stories and a full basement and has been meticulously maintained over the years. Consisting of 7450 square feet of livable space, the house has 6 bedrooms and 5 1/2 bathrooms. The formal ground floor spaces (living room, parlor, two sunrooms, dining room, study and formal entry hall) occupy the front of the house while the more domestic spaces (kitchen, pantry laundry room etc.) occupy the back of the house. The second floor has the same layout: formal bedrooms and baths at the front with domestic rooms at the back. The attic and basement are both large and open. The house was the residence of Louise Doyle until 2007. 

The vintage Gymnasium was added to the garage by Mr. Doyle in the 1920’s undoubtedly a manifestation of the “Physical Culture” movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The remarkably intact, all wood interior (with basketball court lines painted on the floor) was completely outfitted with leather basketball hoops, elaborate pulley systems for rope climbing and weight training, as well as intact sets of wooden barbells and other exercise accessories.  

The Kennel is a “Hodgson House,” a prefabricated building of the type used by Admiral Byrd for expeditions. The E. F. Hodgson Co. of Boston was one of the earliest manufacturers of prefabricated buildings. The simple low laying building, purchased in 1936, is a wood frame and wood shingle roof structure of approximately 380 square feet that Louise Doyle used for her beloved dogs.

Quiet and private during the 95 years she lived in the main house, Louise Doyle demonstrated her commitment to the city, its people, and conservation by donating the entire 170-acre property to The Trustees. The bulk of that gift – 120 acres of gardens, meadows, and forest, along with several structures including the main house – came to the organization upon Miss Doyle’s passing in 2007. Miss Doyle, a practicing Buddhist who remained single all her life, was an extraordinary philanthropist who supported causes ranging from Little League to the Museum of Fine Arts to the work of Mother Teresa.

Pierce Meadow

Pierce Meadow was formerly part of the estate of Harry L. Pierce, a prominent Leominster businessman. Grayling Hall was the centerpiece of the Pierce Estate and it consisted of a 2 ½ story, 21 room mansion constructed in the Mission Revival style. The Estate contained a greenhouse, dairy barn, cow barn, wagon shed, stables, farmer’s cottage, and a hennery. The New York firm Siebrecht & Son designed grounds that included tennis courts and a swimming pool. Many of the original plantings have been retained and provide the simple elegance present at the park. The Pierce estate extended to what is now the Doyle Center and the original stable is part of the Boys and Girls Club facility.  The aerial photo above shows the extensiveness of Grayling Hall and its landscape.

In 1914, Graying Hall was sold to Frank Ewing of the Minute Tapioca Company who owned the property until the early 1930’s. The Sisters of Notre Dame purchased Grayling Hall and 17 acres of the property and utilized the structure as a rest home for nuns with tuberculosis. In 1941, the Sisters opened Julie Country Day School in what was formerly the stable and slowly added to the school facility.  The Sisters sold Grayling Hall to The Trustees in 1999 after it had remained vacant for a number of years.  In 2000, The Trustees razed Grayling Hall and slowly restored the grounds of the former Estate. In 2001, The Trustees opened the 10 acre Pierce Park and it is now part of the 170-acre Doyle Center & Community Park. After the school closed in 2006, Louise Doyle purchased it for The Trustees, who then sold it in 2010 to the Boys and Girls Club of North Central Massachusetts.

Doyle Center

In 1981, Miss Doyle took the first concrete step toward realizing her dream of protecting the family home and promoting conservation by donating four acres of land and a house to The Trustees, establishing the organization’s presence in Central Massachusetts. She continued to donate land and, in 2004, her vision took a major step forward with the dedication of the LEED-certified Doyle Center, situated on 50 acres of the estate. In 2007, upon her passing, she left the remaining 120 acres to The Trustees, along with several structures including the house she had always called home.

Louise Doyle’s simple challenge to The Trustees to “do something important” with her gifts has led to the creation of Doyle Community Park and Center. This facility will enrich the lives of generations to come, advancing sustainable living in her hometown and far beyond its borders.

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© 2019 The Trustees of Reservations
The Trustees is a 501c3 nonprofit organization
Est. 1891