Tour 10 Historic Properties for Free This Weekend

Hang out in huge mansions and lush gardens across Massachusetts.
trustees open house day

Photos provided by the Trustees

Maybe you’ll never live in a mansion with sprawling acres of beautiful gardens, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hang out at one for free. Thanks to the Trustees, grand homes and rolling green lawns will be yours to explore on May 20 for “Home Sweet Home” open house day.

The organization is waiving admission fees for 10 properties across the state as part of their annual Preservation Month celebration. This year, Home Sweet Home’s theme is “the Language of Nature,” which is meant to highlight Trustees properties that are sources of inspiration for writers. Since the Trustees of Reservations was founded in 1891 by Charles Eliot, the organization has sought to preserve scenic and historic sites in Massachusetts for public enjoyment.

Many of the Trustees historic sites—more than 100 in all—were former homes of writers and artists, as well as politicians, prominent business leaders, and historical figures. The Old Manse, for example, was built by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather, and is where Emerson drafted some of his greatest works.

Whether you’re an amateur history buff, architecture lover, or avid horticulturalist, the Trustees invites visitors to experience the art, beauty, and history contained within the walls of each home. The houses span a 300-year timeline of architecture, from the Colonial era to the Modern movement, and contain preserved natural landscapes, landscape design, art, and artifacts. As part of this year’s literary theme, there will be little free libraries at seven of the estates, as well as journaling and poetry activities, story hours, book treasure hunts, and more.

Here are the 10 places you can celebrate the Home Sweet Home open house day—good luck choosing just one.

Fruitlands Museum photo provided by the Trustees

1. Fruitlands Museum, Harvard

New to the Home Sweet Home lineup this year, the Fruitlands Museum is situated on 210 verdant acres in Harvard. It was originally founded as a utopian community in 1914, and today holds collections of American, Shaker, and Native American artifacts. There are two miles of trails on the property as well as a historic farmhouse that was once home to the family of Louisa May Alcott.

102 Prospect Hill Road, Harvard, thetrustees.org.

Photo provided by the Trustees

Castle Hill photo provided by the Trustees

2. The Great House at Castle Hill, Ipswich

The venue for the now famous “Roaring Twenties Lawn Party,” the Great House at Castle Hill is well… great. Built in 1928, the 59-room Stuart-style mansion is chock full of period antiques. Outside, visitors can marvel at the “Grand Allée,” a half-mile long stretch of green grass that ends in a bluff overlooking Ipswich’s Crane Beach. There will also be complimentary tea, a book art exhibition, the opportunity to write poems, and more.

290 Argilla Road, Ipswich, thetrustees.org.

Photo provided by the Trustees

Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate photo provided by the Trustees

3. The Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate, Canton

This Georgian-style mansion is a country retreat that sits only 15 miles outside of the city. Surrounded by 90 acres of gardens and fields, the estate’s nature trails boast panoramic views of the Blue Hills. While the wildflowers and berries in the gardens are a treat, the house isn’t usually open unless there’s a wedding. Take advantage of the guided house tours first, then do a self-guided trail walk.

2468B Washington Street (Route 138), Canton, thetrustees.org.

Photo provided by the Trustees

Stevens-Coolidge Place photo provided by the Trustees

4. The Stevens-Coolidge Place, North Andover

Get your fill of European garden design at the Stevens-Coolidge Place, a Colonial Revival home that has a French-inspired yard. Behind the house are several garden “rooms,” including a rose garden, a cut-flower garden, a greenhouse, and a “potager” (also known as a French kitchen garden) with a ribbon-shaped brick wall. There’ll be a story hour in the perennial garden, lawn games, and a plant sale, too.

137 Andover Street, North Andover, thetrustees.org.

Photo provided by the Trustees

Old Manse photo provided by the Trustees

5. The Old Manse, Concord

This one’s for history lovers. The Old Manse was built by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather in 1770, and sits right next to the spot where the Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775. To those suffering from writer’s block, both Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne penned literary greats in the house. Tour highlights include the opportunity to sit in an exact replica of Emerson’s Windsor Chair Desk, where he wrote the poem “Nature.”

269 Monument Street, Concord, thetrustees.org.

Photo provided by the Trustees

Ashley House photo provided by the Trustees

6. The Ashley House, Sheffield

The Ashley House is the oldest house in Berkshire County, meaning it boasts quite a bit of history. In 1781, Elizabeth Freeman, a slave at the property, sued for her freedom under the new state constitution. Usually the home is only open a few days during the year, so take a self-guided tour and check out the exhibit about Freeman.

117 Cooper Hill Road, Ashley Falls, Sheffield, thetrustees.org.

Photo provided by the Trustees

Naumkeag photo provided by the Trustees

7. Naumkeag, Stockbridge

If you’ve ever dreamt of a taste of the Gilded Age in the Berkshires, Naumkeag is your spot. Named for the Native American tribe of the area, the estate contains a 44-room, shingle-style “cottage” and acres of impressive gardens designed by the father of modern American landscape design, Fletcher Steele. Tour highlights include the Blue Steps, a stairway path of blue fountain pools.

5 Prospect Hill Road, Stockbridge, thetrustees.org.

Photo provided by the Trustees

Mission House photo provided by the Trustees

8. The Mission House, Stockbridge

Built in 1742, the Mission House presents an extensive collection of 18th-century period furniture and art, as well as an exhibit about the Mohican tribe that lived in the area. Gardens on the property provide herbs, perennials, and other plants that proved to be valuable to the colonists. The property is also located down the street from Naumkeag and contains a Fletcher Steele-designed garden.

19 Main Street, Stockbridge, thetrustees.org.

Photo provided by the Trustees

The Folly at Field Farm photo provided by the Trustees

9. The Folly at Field Farm, Williamstown

The pinwheel-shaped structure that is the Folly was designed in 1965 by post-modernist architect Ulrich Franzen. It’s New England’s youngest house museum, and happens to contain all of its original furniture. The midcentury modern construction sits next to the Guest House at Field Farm, a bed and breakfast managed by the Trustees. This home is also only open on certain days during the year, so peep the sleek-looking furniture and then check out the sculpture garden outside.

554 Sloan Road, Williamstown, thetrustees.org.

Photo provided by the Trustees

William Cullen Bryant Homestead photo provided by the Trustees

10. The William Cullen Bryant Homestead, Cummington

William Cullen Bryant was a notable 19th-century poet as well as a longtime editor of the New York Evening Post. He converted this home from a two-story farmhouse to a three-story Victorian cottage in 1865, and wrote extensively about the natural landscape surrounding the property. Inspect the memorabilia from Bryant, his travels, and his family, and see for yourself why Frederick Law Olmsted was inspired by Bryant’s poems about the greenery.

207 Bryant Road, Cummington, thetrustees.org.

 

Home Sweet Home will take place Saturday, May 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 10 locations throughout Massachusetts. For more information, visit thetrustees.org.


Madeline Bilis Associate Editor at Boston Magazine @madelinebilis
mbilis@bostonmagazine.com


In This Section

View the Current Issue of Boston Home

View the Current Issue of Boston Home

Best of Boston Home 2017

Best of Boston Home 2017

Our 10th annual guide to the finest local designers and resources in the region.

Inspiration Galleries

Inspiration Galleries

Inspiration for your home: stunning local kitchens, solutions to combat cabinet clutter, and more!