Castle Hill on the Crane Estate
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Castle Hill on the Crane Estate Ipswich, MA
165 acres

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
Note: The Great House and the Castle Hill Café will be closed on July 4.
Grounds: year-round, daily, 8am to sunset; historic landscape tours May 22 through October 25. Great House: guided tours May 20 through October 12. A wide range of public programs are offered throughout the year; please visit our events calendar for upcoming programs. Allow a minimum of 2 ½ hours (including Great House or landscape tour), 6 hours if also visiting Crane Beach and the Crane Wildlife Refuge.

Facilities

  • Public restrooms in the Great House (open during tours) and in the visitor parking area.
  • BACK AGAIN IN 2014: Castle Hill Café! Open Tuesdays-Saturdays, May 20 through Oct 25, 11AM-2PM. On the terrace of the Great House overlooking the Grand Allée. Featuring light lunch items by Ferreira Foods of Salem. See the menu.
  • The Inn at Castle Hill offers overnight B&B accommodation.

Regulations & Advisories

  • BACK AGAIN IN 2014: Castle Hill Café! Open Tuesdays-Saturdays, May 20 through Oct 25, 11AM-2PM. On the terrace of the Great House overlooking the Grand Allée. Featuring light lunch items by Ferreira Foods of Salem. See the menu.
  • 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.

Directions

The Crane Estate
290 Argilla Road
Ipswich, MA 01938
Telephone: 978.356.4351
E-mail: castlehill@ttor.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:
Members: FREE. Nonmembers: $10 per car; $2 per bicycle; $4 per motorcycle. Ipswich residents FREE on weekdays; same admission fees as nonmembers on weekends. All vehicles receive 50% admission discount after 3PM, year-round, every day.
Tours: See below for fees.

WHEN TO VISIT
Note: The Great House
and the Castle Hill Café will be closed on July 4.
Grounds:
Year-round, daily, 8AM to sunset; historic landscape tours (see details below) May 22 through October 25. 
Great House: Open May 20 through October 25 for guided tours (see details below). A wide range of public programs are offered throughout the year; please visit our events calendar for upcoming programs. Allow a minimum of 2 ½ hours (including Great House or landscape tour), 6 hours if also visiting Crane Beach and the Crane Wildlife Refuge.

TOURS

The Great House: Revealed
(1-hour house tours, starting every half hour)
:
May 20–October 25
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Thursdays | 10AM–4PM (last tour starts at 3PM)
Fridays & Saturdays | 10AM–2PM (last tour starts at 1PM)
Members: Adult $7; Child (12 and under) FREE.
Nonmembers: Adult $12; Child (12 and under) FREE.
Combined Great House & Estate tour admission: Members: $12. Nonmembers: $22.
To arrange tours for groups of 15 or more, call 978.356.4351 x4049.

Castle Hill Estate Tours: The Designed Landscape
(1-hour landscape tour)
:
May 22–October 25
Thursdays & Saturdays | 11AM & 1PM
Members: Adult $10; Child (12 and under) FREE.
Nonmembers: Adult $15; Child (12 and under) FREE.
Combined Great House & Estate tour admission: Members: $12. Nonmembers: $22.

View all upcoming tours and events at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate >

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.

TOURS

The Great House: Revealed
(1-hour house tours, starting every half hour)
:
May 22–October 12
Wednesdays & Thursdays | 10AM–4PM (last tour starts at 3PM)
Fridays & Saturdays | 10AM–2PM (last tour starts at 1PM)
Members: Adult $7; Child (12 and under) FREE.
Nonmembers: Adult $12; Child (12 and under) FREE.
Combined Great House & Estate tour admission: Members: $9. Nonmembers: $18.
To arrange tours for groups of 15 or more, call 978.356.4351 x4049.

Castle Hill Estate Tours: The Designed Landscape
(90-minute landscape tour)
:
May 23–October 26
Thursdays & Saturdays | 11AM–12:30PM
Members: Adult $5; Child (12 and under) FREE.
Nonmembers: Adult $10; Child (12 and under) FREE.
Combined Great House & Estate tour admission: Members: $9. Nonmembers: $18.

Conservation and Stewardship

Restoring a National Landmark

Nearly 100 years after their planting, the trees that form the rolling, grassy lawn known as the Grand Allée at Castle Hill showing their age: they were meant to form a tall hedge, but they have since outgrown that original design. The trees have also weakened with age.

In 2010, The Trustees launched a three-year effort to restore the Allée. The goal is to reveal the spectacular originally created by landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff a century ago, and to ensure the health of the trees and the landscape for next 100 years.

Read about this ambitious project and see photos of Phase One >>

 


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.


View Castle Hill management plan.

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

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. 

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

Tell Us What You Think

We’d love to hear about your visit! Here are three easy ways to let us know what you think:

  1. Take our visitor survey. If you have a question for us, you can ask us in the survey and we’ll get back to you.

  2. Post a comment about your visit on our Facebook page.

  3. Share your experiences with other visitors on our website. Simply fill out the form below, and we’ll post your comment right here on this page.


Submitted by Kerry on: October 26, 2011
Crane Estate is steeped in nostalgia for me and my husband. We took many a day trip to the estate through all seasons and we developed our relationship and memories during these visits while we were dating 18 years ago when we lived in the area. We've since moved away but recently decided to renew our love, vows and promise to each other as a couple on September 25, 2011 in the Italian Garden of the estate. It's a private and intimate place. We could not have asked for a better location to show each other our love and commitment, the Garden just exudes romance. We will always love your setting. It's beautiful and romantic, it's calming and serene, it's a dream come true for us. Thank you, and please continue to keep this place as it is. It's a wonderfully amazing and magical place.



Submitted by Bmac on: July 8, 2010
I'm a local member and I've wanted to do the house tour for quite some time now. Finally got around to it thanks to some out of town company and we were all very impressed. Loved hearing about the house and the family. Of course we expected to see and loved the decor and the moldings and architecture but thought that the trustees should think about putting together a tour for the "guys" that would show off all the cool things about the house that made it so "modern" for its time. The fire prevention, the coal burners, the steam tables, the cistern that's being modernized, the key system. Its obvious that the Crane's lived a charmed life but the support system that it took to create that life is interesting on its own merits.



Submitted by Dennis on: October 2, 2009
On Saturday, September 26, my friend and I visited the Crane Estate. A perfect day of visiting the Castle Hill and enjoying the grounds was more more perfect by the tour guide in the mansion, Ally. She was bright, energetic, personable, and knowledgeable. My friend is already a support of the Trustees of Reservations. I plan to join soon. Thank you



Submitted by Lisa on: September 28, 2009
This place is so awesome.



Submitted by Chucky on: August 21, 2009
Hello. I attended the Beatles function last night and I have to write this and let you know about a remarkable experience I had. One of your workers named Bill Mikardy was not only extremely professional but he was very kind. His cell phone and radio constantly went off and at the same time he was running around helping everyone. The place was very crowded and yet he managed to take the time and help me find my car. My elderly mother was so appreciative and thought he was a wonderful man. Please let him know how grateful we are. You are very lucky to have such a dedicated worker indeed! Thank you so much! Charles Steinway



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Announcements & Alerts

On Sunday, July 27, beginning at 12Noon, access to Castle Hill will be limited to Roaring 20s ticket holders and guests of the Inn. For more information about the Roaring 20s Lawn Party, click here.

BACK AGAIN IN 2014: Castle Hill Café! Open Tuesdays-Saturdays, May 20 through Oct 25, 11AM-2PM. See the menu.

Learn about the Allée restoration project: A Grand Undertaking

Rent Castle Hill for your wedding or other special event.

Quest Detective

Advisory: Authorized bow hunting is allowed on portions of this reservation. See Regulations and Advisories at left for more information.

Upcoming Things To Do


Saturday, July 26
The Great House: Revealed

Other Trustees Properties You Might Like:

Crane Beach on the Crane Estate
Ipswich, MA

Appleton Farms
Ipswich, MA

Long Hill
Beverly, MA


Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in the News

Hip Cats on the Lawn
Jul 1 – Boston Common Magazine

Explore New England By Going Questing This Summer
Jun 28 – Boston.com

Eco Elegance - Make your wedding elegant, personal, and sustainable
Jan 10 – North Shore Magazine