Castle Hill on the Crane Estate
Ipswich, MA
165 acres
Bird Watching Cross-country skiing/Snowshoeing Hunting Mountain Biking Walking/Hiking (Moderate) Picnicking Dog Walking Not Permitted Quest Guided Tours Mobility-impaired Access Restroom Bed and Breakfast Gardens Regional Trail Link Historic House or Structure Private Function Rentals

About Castle Hill on the Crane Estate

Experience the grandeur of a seaside estate and its marvelously landscaped grounds, notable for a broad, undulating lawn running down to the shore.

What makes Castle Hill a special place?
Centuries before becoming a grand summer estate owned by one of America’s wealthiest families, Castle Hill was well known by Native Americans, who called the area Agawam, referring to its rich fishery. John Winthrop, Jr., son of the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, laid claim to Castle Hill in 1637. For more than two centuries, a succession of owners farmed the land. Beginning in the 1880s, J. B. Brown transformed Castle Hill Farm from an agricultural holding into a gentleman’s farm, improving roadways and plantings and renovating his modest farmhouse into a rambling, shingle-style cottage that is now The Inn at Castle Hill.

In the decades following Richard T. Crane, Jr.’s purchase of the property in 1910, Castle Hill came to exemplify the American Country Place Era with its farm and estate buildings, designed grounds and gardens, and diverse natural areas. The Cranes hired some of the century’s most notable architects and landscape architects. The first house built atop Castle Hill, an Italian Renaissance Revival villa designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, was razed and replaced in 1928 with the 59-room Stuart-style mansion designed by architect David Adler you see today. The Great House is furnished with period antiques.

Castle Hill is also home to a wide diversity of wildlife typical of northeast Massachusetts forests. Deer, fox, turkey, and a multitude of songbirds can be observed from the many trails and roads on Castle Hill. In addition, Castle Hill is home to several pairs of nesting great horned owls and red-tailed hawks. Due to its location on the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent Crane Beach, unusual species such as turkey vultures, migratory hawks, and even an occasional bald eagle can be seen soaring above the landscape.

Trails
Four miles of trails and roads. Moderate hiking. Castle Hill is a link in the Bay Circuit Trail.

When to Visit
GREAT HOUSE
Closed all Mondays except holidays.
April 14-May 20 WEEKENDS ONLY 10 AM-4PM (last tour at 3PM)
May 22-October 28 Tuesday – Sunday 10AM-4PM (last tour at 3PM)
November 10-25 WEEKENDS ONLY 10AM-4PM (last tour at 3 PM)
December 26-30 Wednesday – Sunday 10AM-4PM
Open on Patriots Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus & Veterans Day. Closed on July 4 & Easter.
Self-guided tours of the first floor are free with entrance to Castle Hill on days Great House is open. Guided tours are available first-come, first-serve at an additional cost.

GROUNDS
Open year-round, daily, 8am to sunset.

A wide range of public programs are offered throughout the year; please visit our events calendar for upcoming programs. Allow a minimum of 2½ hours (including Great House and Casino Complex, 6 hours if also visiting Crane Beach and the Crane Wildlife Refuge.)

Facilities

  • Public restrooms are available in the Great House (open during tours).
  • Grab & Go refreshments are located in the gift shop and are available on days the Great House is open. Click here for the menu.
  • The Inn at Castle Hill offers overnight B&B accommodation.

    Regulations & Advisories

    • Grab and go refreshments are located in the gift shop, when the Great House is open. Beverages, snacks, sandwiches and salads are included.
    • The Great House serves as offices for The Trustees of Reservations. The ground floor of the Great House may be rented for private functions, during which public access to the grounds immediately surrounding the Great House is restricted. Steep Hill Beach may also be rented for private functions. Find more information on private functions rentals.

    • Seasonal hunting (deer only) is permitted only as part of a deer management program administered by The Trustees of Reservations. Contact The Trustees' Northeast Regional Ecologist for details. Learn more about hunting on Trustees properties.

    • Mountain biking is permitted only on paved and dirt roads.

    • Photography is not permitted inside the house.

    • Photo Shoots / Engagement Photos (outdoors): Please view our Portrait Photo Agreement for rules and restrictions.

    • Dogs are allowed only on the beach below the high tide line. They are not allowed at Castle Hill.

    • Authorized bow hunting, only with written permission, is allowed on this reservation for a limited number of hunters, according to MasssWildlife regulations from mid October through December each year, from ½ hour before sunrise all day until ½ hour after sunset, Monday through Saturday. Hunting is not allowed on Sundays. Signage is posted at the property listing safety precautions, requirements, and rules for the benefit of all visitors. Learn more about hunting on Trustees properties

    The Trustees reserves the right to photograph or video visitors and program participants for promotional use, and usage of our properties implies consent. Find the full policy here.

    Directions

    The Crane Estate
    290 Argilla Road
    Ipswich, MA 01938
    Telephone: 978.356.4351
    E-mail: castlehill@thetrustees.org

    Latitude: 42.6827
    Longitude: -70.7774

    Get directions on Google Maps.

    From Rt. 128 North Exit 20A, take Rt. 1A North for 8 mi. to Ipswich. Turn right onto Rt. 133 East and follow for 1.5 mi. Turn left onto Northgate Rd. and follow for 0.5 mi. Turn right onto Argilla Rd. and follow for 2.3 mi. to entrance on left.

    Admission

    ADMISSION & FEES

    Grounds:

    Trustees Members: FREE.
    Nonmembers: $15 per car, $2 per bicycle, $5 per motorcycle.
    Ipswich Residents: FREE on weekdays. Nonmember admission rates on weekends.

    Great House
    Self-guided, first-floor tours of the Great House are free with grounds admission.
    Please see below for guided tour fees.

    When to Visit
    GREAT HOUSE
    Closed all Mondays except holidays.
    April 14-May 20 WEEKENDS ONLY 10 AM-4PM (last tour at 3PM)
    May 22-October 28 Tuesday – Sunday 10AM-4PM (last tour at 3PM)
    November 10-25 WEEKENDS ONLY 10AM-4PM (last tour at 3 PM)
    December 26-30 Wednesday – Sunday 10AM-4PM
    Open on Patriots Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus & Veterans Day. Closed on July 4 & Easter.
    Self-guided tours of the first floor are free with entrance to Castle Hill on days Great House is open. Guided tours are available first-come, first-serve at an additional cost.

    GROUNDS
    Open year-round, daily, 8AM to sunset.

    A wide range of public programs are offered throughout the year; please visit our events calendar for upcoming programs. Allow a minimum of 2½ hours (including Great House and Casino Complex, 6 hours if also visiting Crane Beach and the Crane Wildlife Refuge.)

    Facilities

    • Public restrooms are available in the Great House (open during tours).
    • Grab & Go refreshments are located in the gift shop and are available on days the Great House is open. Click here for the menu.
    • The Inn at Castle Hill offers overnight B&B accommodation.

    TOUR EXPERIENCES
    The Great House is closed all Mondays except holidays.
    No reservations are required. Please arrive 30-40 minutes before the tour time.
    Tours are limited to 12 people on a first-come, first-served basis due some small spaces and our ongoing effort to preserve the collection.

    Tours can be arranged for groups of 10 or more. Please call 978.356.4351 x3203 for reservations.
     
    Please note that the Great House is open for guided and first floor self-guided tours on Patriots Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day but closed Easter, June 25, July 4, August 5 & 6. 

    Guest of the Cranes
    Tuesday-Sunday through October 29 | 10AM-4PM (tours are on the hour, last tour at 3PM)
    November 12 – 26 | Saturday and Sunday | 10AM – 4PM (tours are on the hour, last tour at 3PM)
    December 10 – 17 | Saturday and Sunday | 10AM – 4PM (tours are on the hour, last tour at 3PM)
    December 26 – 29 | Saturday and Sunday | 10AM – 4PM (tours are on the hour, last tour at 3PM)
    Members: $5. Nonmembers: $15.
    It’s 1929 and you’ve just arrived after a long journey to see the famous Great House and visit your friends, the Crane family. A member of the household staff greets you at the door and introduces you to all the leisure and entertainment the estate offers during your stay.

    A Cupola with a View
    Saturday & Sunday through October 29 | 11:30AM & 1:30PM
    Tuesday-Friday through October 29 | 11:30AM
    Members: $10. Nonmembers: $20
    The climactic moment of this experience is climbing the spiral staircase to the Cupola and out onto the roof top. Take in the expansive view and learn more about the long and rich history of the land prior to the Crane ownership. Mae your friends envious by posting your rooftop selfies on social media.

    Help Wanted: Becoming a Servant at Castle Hill
    Wednesday through October 29 | 2PM
    Saturday through October 29 | 10:30AM
    November 10-26 & December 9-17 | Saturday & Sunday | 2PM
    Members: $10. Nonmembers: $20.
    Mrs. Crane is looking for servants to help her with the daily operations at the Great House in 1929. You have come highly recommended by the Vanderbilts and have been invited for a tour, with a maid or butler, before your final interview. Learn about your many duties and responsibilities while seeing the “back of the house” spaces and hearing what it is like to be a servant of the well-to-do Crane Family.

    Highlights on the Hill: Castle Hill Estate Tour
    Saturday & Sunday through October 29 | 12PM & 2PM
    Members: $10. Nonmembers: $20
    Join us for a leisurely tour of the Castle Hill grounds from our comfy electric golf cart. You will hear the rich history of the estate while enjoying the breathtaking views of the gardens, marsh, and water. This is the perfect way to get a comprehensive overview before diving in for more.

    The Cat’s Meow
    July & August | Friday & Saturday | 10:00AM
    December 26 – 29 | Tuesday – Friday | 10:30AM
    Members: $5. Nonmembers: $15. Children FREE. Backpack babies welcome.
    How do you like to spend your summer vacation? On this interactive tour for younger visitors and their families, join a member of the Crane’s household staff to explore what made this a relaxing summer home. Peak into some of their private rooms and discover the family cat’s favorite hiding places!

    For more public programs at Castle Hill and other Trustees properties, please visit our Things to Do calendar.

    Property History

    For centuries, this dramatic coastscape served as seasonal fishing grounds for Native Americans before European settlement turned it to agriculture. By the late-19th century it had evolved into a gentleman’s farm; Richard T. Crane, Jr., began its transformation into a sprawling summer estate during the early decades of the 20th century.

    Property Acquisition History
    Bequeathed by Mrs. Richard T. Crane, Jr. in 1949. Additional land given by Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Eliot II in 1980; Dr. Robert L. Goodale in 1980; Mr. and Mrs. David C. Crockett in 1981; Mr. and Mrs. David W. Scudder in 1981; and Mr. and Mrs. Richard H. Venn in 1982.

    Archival Collections
    Archival material related to Castle Hill on the Crane Estate is available to researchers at the Archives & Research Center in Sharon, Massachusetts.

    Castle Hill Collection
    (41.0 linear feet)
    Regarding the Crane Family, the Crane Company, Castle Hill Foundation, and the management of Castle Hill by The Trustees of Reservations, 1832–2007.
    Finding aid available at the Archives & Research Center.

    Anna Gustafson Anna Gustafson Erickson Papers
    (0.25 linear feet)
    Regarding Anna Gustafson Erickson, who worked for the Crane Family from 1912 to 1913.


    The Archives & Research Center welcomes donations of documents, manuscripts, records, photographs, maps and memorabilia that pertain to a particular property. Please contact us at 781.784.8200 or arc@ttor.org.

    Programs

    The Inn at Castle Hill offers luxurious overnight accommodations. The Tavern is available for rentals for business meetings and cocktail receptions.

    TOUR EXPERIENCES
    The Great House is closed all Mondays except holidays.
    No reservations are required. Please arrive 30-40 minutes before the tour time.
    Tours are limited to 12 people on a first-come, first-served basis due some small spaces and our ongoing effort to preserve the collection.

    Tours can be arranged for groups of 10 or more. Please call 978.356.4351 x3203 for reservations.
     
    Please note that the Great House is open for guided and first floor self-guided tours on Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day but closed Easter, June 25, July 4, August 5 & 6. 

    Guest of the Cranes
    Tuesday – Sunday through October 28 | 10 AM-4PM (tours are on the hour, last tour at 3PM)
    November 10-25 Saturday and Sunday | 10AM-4PM (tours are on the hour, last tour at 3PM)
    December 26-30 Wednesday through Sunday | 10AM-4PM (tours are on the hour, last tour at 3PM)
    Members: $5. Nonmembers: $15.
    It’s 1929 and you’ve just arrived after a long journey to see the famous Great House and visit your friends, the Crane family. A member of the household staff greets you at the door and introduces you to all the leisure and entertainment the estate offers during your stay.

    A Cupola with a View
    Tuesday through Friday through October 26 | 11:30 AM
    Saturday and Sunday through October 28 | 11:30 AM & 1:30 PM
    Members: $10. Nonmembers: $20
    The climactic moment of this experience is climbing the spiral staircase to the Cupola and out onto the roof top. Take in the expansive view and learn more about the long and rich history of the land prior to the Crane ownership. Mae your friends envious by posting your rooftop selfies on social media.

    Help Wanted: Becoming a Servant at Castle Hill
    Tuesday through Sunday through October 28 | 2PM
    Saturday and Sunday November 10-25 | 2PM
    Members: $10. Nonmembers: $20.
    Mrs. Crane is looking for servants to help her with the daily operations at the Great House in 1929. You have come highly recommended by the Vanderbilts and have been invited for a tour, with a maid or butler, before your final interview. Learn about your many duties and responsibilities while seeing the “back of the house” spaces and hearing what it is like to be a servant of the well-to-do Crane Family.

    Highlights on the Hill: Castle Hill Estate Tour
    Friday through October 26 | 1 & 2 pm
    Saturday and Sunday through October 28 | 12Noon, 1 & 2 PM
    Members: $10. Nonmembers: $20
    Join us for a leisurely tour of the Castle Hill grounds from our comfy electric golf cart. You will hear the rich history of the estate while enjoying the breathtaking views of the gardens, marsh, and water. This is the perfect way to get a comprehensive overview before diving in for more.

    The Cat’s Meow
    Friday & Saturday in July & August | 10:30AM
    Wednesday through Sunday December 26 – 30 | 10:30AM
    Members: $10. Member children FREE. Nonmembers: $20. Nonmembers children ages 6014: $10. Nonmember children 5 & under: FREE.
    How do you like to spend your summer vacation? On this interactive tour for younger visitors and their families, join a member of the Crane’s household staff to explore what made this a relaxing summer home. Peak into some of their private rooms and discover the family cat’s favorite hiding places!For more public programs at Castle Hill and other Trustees properties, please visit our Things to Do calendar.

    Conservation and Stewardship

    Management Planning for Our Properties
 


    Since 1891, The Trustees of Reservations have worked to protect special places in Massachusetts and maintain them to the highest standards. To ensure these standards are met, a program of careful planning and sound management is essential. Comprehensive property management plans are created for each reservation and are completely updated approximately every ten years. We often work with volunteers, property users, and members of the community to carry out this planning, which typically involves several steps:
 


    • Describing in detail the site’s natural, scenic, and historical resources; identifying management issues related to the protection of those resources. 

    • Describing how visitors use the property; outlining the opportunities that the property provides for people to become involved in the work of conservation and caring for their community.

    • Developing a detailed list of management recommendations, a work plan, and a description of financial needs for implementing the actions.

    • Developing a prescribed routine management program for the reservation that will guide staff work plans, volunteer involvement, and the allocation of human and financial resources.

    Maps and Resources

    A Visitor's Guide to the Crane Estate is a self-guided landscape tour booklet introducing visitors to Castle Hill, Crane Beach, and the Crane Wildlife Refuge. It is available from the Castle Hill gatehouse.

    Literature about events at the Crane Estate, other Trustees properties to visit in the region, and membership in The Trustees of Reservations is available from the gatehouse. We recommend that you download a trail map before you visit.



    Private Functions & Photography

    The Great House may be rented for private gatherings, weddings, or other celebrations.

    Steep Hill Beach (located at the western end of Crane Beach and at the base of Castle Hill) may be rented for corporate outings. 

    Photo Shoots / Engagement Photos (outdoors): Please view our Portrait Photo Agreement for rules and restrictions.

    Planning Your Visit

    Community Links
    Ipswich Online

    Before You Go
    We encourage you to visit as many Trustees properties as you can.

    Wherever your travels take you, please observe all posted regulations, follow special instructions from property staff, and keep in mind the Stewardship Code:

    • Protect wildlife and plants.
    • Guard against all risk of fire.
    • Help keep air and water clean.
    • Carry out what you carry in.
    • Use marked footpaths and bridle paths.
    • Leave livestock, crops, and machinery alone.
    • Respect the privacy of neighboring land.
    • Enjoy and share the landscape with others.

    Click on links below for further visitor information:

    Before Setting Out

    Enjoying Trustees Reservations

    Safety

    About Hunting on Trustees of Reservations Land