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When Frederick Law Olmsted designed Moraine Farm, he didn't plot out an adventure-based ropes course. Or make room for school children to roam. Or imagine a farmer training program and local food hub based out of the prime agricultural soils!
But these are exactly the activities that have begun breathing new life into the historic Beverly farm, thanks to a groundbreaking partnership between The Trustees of Reservations, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, Project Adventure, and the Waldorf School at Moraine Farm – and thanks to the generosity and foresight of the family that owned the land since the late 1920s.
Originally designed in 1880, Moraine Farm has been hailed as "the finest existing example of Olmsted's approach to planning a country estate" by pre-eminent Olmsted scholar Charles E. Beveridge, and it was a testing ground for ideas the noted landscape architect would later execute on a grander scale at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina and at Brooklyn's Prospect Park.
In Beverly, Olmsted – an important mentor to Trustees founder Charles Eliot – combined the latest advances in farming and forestry with a landscape of leisure, all on 275 acres located along the shores of Lake Wenham owned by John C. Phillips. He created lawns, hedges, rustic stone walls, and a magnificent meadow – and collaborated with Boston architects Peabody and Stearns to design a massive stone terrace facing the lake, extending the shingle-and-stone house into the landscape. A former scientific farmer himself, Olmsted may have been especially proud of the working section of the farm, for which he designed an underground drainage system that turned seasonally flooded land into productive agricultural fields. The farm took its name from a low ridge of glacial debris, called a moraine, which Olmsted used to provide an elevated vantage point for the paths and carriage drives that looped through 75 acres of coniferous forest, passed lake and meadow views, and climbed to an overlook on the edge of the 40-acre farm.
The Trustees at Moraine Farm
Now 16 acres of that farmland is again in active use by New Entry to support their farmer training programs and local food hub. Including an additional eight acres on Wenham Lake, The Trustees received 37 acres of Moraine Farm from the Batchelder Family Trust in August 2010. Mimi Batchelder-Brown, whose late husband, George Batchelder III, lived on the property as a child, donated the land from the trust.
At this time, the portions of the property owned by The Trustees are not yet open for public visitation. With private landowners in the center of the property and many partners owning contiguous tracts of land, it is important that our visitors respect private property on the farm. The neighboring Phillips Preserve, owned and managed by The City of Beverly, is open for recreational use; parking for this property is at 801 Cabot Street.
Two other nonprofit organizations that share a stewardship interest in Moraine Farm are Essex County Greenbelt Association, which monitors the conservation restriction on the property, and the Friends of the Olmsted Landscape, a volunteer group dedicated to the preservation of the farm’s unique Olmsted heritage.