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Posted by Katie Marshall, guest blogger of The Trustees of Reservations

The Trustees Celebrates Designed Gardens and Natural Landscapes with 5th Annual, Free Statewide “Home Sweet Home” Historic Open House Day

In honor of Preservation Month, garden season, and the opening of its historic houses across the state, The Trustees invites Massachusetts residents and visitors to celebrate the history of Massachusetts horticulture and design traditions at its 5th annual, free Home Sweet Home Open House day Saturday, May 18th from 10AM-4PM.
Over the past several years, The Trustees has been restoring many of the acclaimed gardens and landscapes that surround its historic sites, many of which are the former homes of historical figures, literati, titans of industry, political leaders, artists and more. The homes, which span a 300-year timeline from the Colonial Era to the Modern Movement, are an integral part of our local and national history, with fascinating stories to share. A few of the sites on the tour are only open to the public a few times each year.
The ten sites open for free this year include Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, the Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate in Canton, Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, the Stevens-Coolidge Place in North Andover, The Old Manse in Concord, The Ashley House in Sheffield, Naumkeag House & Gardens in Stockbridge, the Mission House in Stockbridge, Field Farm in Williamstown and the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington. Several sites can be visited in the same day, but The Trustees encourage all who are interested to plan ahead and visit for a full schedule and site-specific details.

Fruitlands Museum – Harvard
Fruitlands Museum, founded in 1914 by Clara Endicott Sears, takes its name from an experimental utopian community led by Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane which took place on this site in 1843. The Shaker Museum, the first Shaker museum in the country and home to the largest archive of Harvard Shaker documents in the world, housed in an historic building moved here from the Harvard Shaker community. The Native American Museum, which houses a significant collection of artifacts that honor the spiritual presence and cultural history of the first Americans including New England Native culture and a survey of culture in the Plains, Southwest and Northwest. The Art Museum, including a collection of over 100 Hudson River School landscape paintings and over 230 nineteenth century vernacular portraits, the second largest collection in the country along with a variety of rotating exhibits throughout the year.

Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate – Canton
This elegant, turn-of-the-century home just off Routes 128 sits on 90 acres of fields, woods and wetlands, and gardens and offers an oasis for all the moment they arrive. Visitors to this country retreat feel transported to another time of gracious living, elegant parties, summer teas, music and croquet. At the same time, the Estate’s nature trails boast expansive views of the Blue Hills and Neponset River Valley and call to naturalists, artists, and families to enjoy. Behind the Georgian-style main house is an Italianate-style, latticed-walled garden designed by architect and artist Charles Platt. From the garden, visitors may travel along a path lined with rhododendrons and wildflowers that ends at an orchard and kitchen garden, complete with the original fruit and berry plantings.

Castle Hill on the Crane Estate – Ipswich
Experience the grandeur of the iconic Great House of Castle Hill on the Crane Estate, a National Historic Landmark. Tour the elegant 59-room country house, designed by David Adler, and the surrounding complex of natural and designed landscapes. Take in the sweeping views of the undulating Grand Allée, a half mile emerald beauty concluding in a striking bluff overlooking Crane Beach. Nestled into the Allée and just a short walk down from the Great House, is the meticulously restored Italian-style Casino Complex, originally built by the Crane family for entertaining and now a hub for pool and croquet. Enjoy a stroll through the recently restored Italian Garden and see preservation in action at the Rose Garden which is partially open for the first time in years.

The Stevens-Coolidge Place – North Andover
Step back in time to the 1920s at The Stevens Coolidge Place a simple farmhouse turned elegant country estate. The Colonial Revival home has a wealth of antiques and interesting design elements. Outside, discover the beautiful garden “rooms” behind the estate, including a kitchen and cut-flower garden, rose garden, greenhouse complex, recently restored perennial garden, and French ‘potager’ (or kitchen) garden with a brick serpentine wall.

The Old Manse – Concord
Situated near the banks of the Concord River, the Old Manse is located adjacent to Concord’s Old North Bridge, where the Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775. The Old Manse is a must-see stop on any visit to historic Concord. This National Historic Landmark was built in 1770 by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather, the Reverend William Emerson (1743-76). This Minister’s House subsequently became a focal point of America’s political, literary and social revolutions over the course of the next century. Here, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-64) would draft some of their most famous works.

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead – Cummington
The bucolic setting of this homestead provided critical inspiration to one of America’s foremost 19th-century poets and newspaper editors, William Cullen Bryant. In 1865, Bryant converted the two-story farmhouse that once served as his boyhood, summer home into a rambling three-story Victorian cottage. Now a National Historic Landmark, you’ll discover colonial and Victorian pieces from the poet’s family, as well as exotic memorabilia from his extensive European and Asian travels. Outside, you can follow Bryant’s footsteps on this 195-acre pastoral estate, exploring 2.5 miles of hiking trails around the property and ponder how the landscape, portrayed in his poetry 150 years ago, helped inspire the 19th-century land conservation movement that involved Frederick Law Olmsted and his protégé Charles Eliot, founder of The Trustees. Mention children’s garden

The Folly at Field Farm – Williamstown
New England’s youngest historic house museum is an award-winning architectural gem. As its name suggests, The Folly is both a whimsical and daring structure, designed in 1965 by noted post-modernist architect Ulrich Franzen. Its three bedrooms dance around the form of a pinwheel-shaped guest cottage that still contains its original, contemporary furnishings. Situated on 316 pristine, conserved acres, The Folly is paired on the property with The Trustees’ Mid-Century Modern structure, the Guest House at Field Farm (one of two B&Bs owned and managed by the organization), and a sculpture garden featuring 13 modern sculptures, including works by Richard M. Miller and Herbert Ferber.

Naumkeag – Stockbridge
A visit to Naumkeag provides a stylish glimpse of life and design from a golden time. Just a stone’s throw from downtown Stockbridge, this National Historic Landmark is both a rare surviving example of a Gilded Age Berkshire “cottage” and host to several of the few, publically accessible landscapes designed by Fletcher Steele—the father of modern American landscape design. Naumkeag’s many gardens “rooms” and outdoor landscape features—including Steele’s famous Blue Steps—are a pure delight for all ages to explore. The Trustees are nearing the completion of a sweeping, multi-year restoration to return the gardens to their original brilliance for all to enjoy.

The Mission House – Stockbridge
Down the street from Naumkeag, the Mission House (ca. 1740) harkens back to an even earlier time, when John Sergeant built the structure in his role as the first missionary to the local Stockbridge Mohican tribe. This National Historic Landmark contains an outstanding collection of 18th-century period furnishings and decorative arts, as well as a small Native American museum that tells the story of the Mohicans. Outside, the property boasts a Colonial Revival garden designed by Fletcher Steele, as well as a charming and bountiful kitchen garden containing 100 herbs, perennials, and annuals that had culinary or medicinal value to early colonists.

The Ashley House – Sheffield
History buffs take note! The oldest house in Berkshire County is where Colonel John Ashley drafted the Sheffield Resolves in 1773, helping to plant the seeds of the American Revolution. Less than ten years later, Elizabeth Freeman (nicknamed and formerly referred to as “Mum Bett”), a slave of the Ashleys, successfully sued for her freedom under the new state constitution in 1781, helping to end slavery in Massachusetts. A key anchor site on the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail (AAHT), The Ashley House features an interpretive exhibit about Freeman designed by local UMass Amherst graduate students and is filled with original antique furnishings.

All images, photo credit: The Trustees