Tour 10 Historic Properties for Free This Weekend
Hang out in huge mansions and lush gardens across Massachusetts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.