Home Sweet Home: Celebrate Massachusetts’ Mavericks & Preservation Month with The Trustees of Reservations’
History buffs and explorers can experience places where history was made by some daring individuals during The Trustees of Reservations’ (The Trustees) annual Home Sweet Home Open House event. In honor of Preservation Month and the organization’s diverse collection of historic properties and landmarks, this day-long open house being held on Sunday, May 31, 2015, from 10am- 5pm and includes free admission to many of The Trustees’ most exceptional and off-the-beaten-path cultural sites across the state, including five found here in western MA. This year’s theme celebrates our “Massachusetts Mavericks” – the independent minded, the free-spirits, the non-conformists, and the eccentrics whose legacies and stories infuse Trustees’ properties and have helped to collectively shape our country’s history.
“Our vision for Home Sweet Home is to provide Massachusetts’ residents and visitors with the opportunity to experience some of the Commonwealth’s most treasured and historically important sites in our care,” says Barbara Erickson, Trustees’ President and CEO. “We are committed to helping address our society’s decreasing attachment to its history, nature, and culture. Our hope is that by opening the doors to some of our most unique historic properties across the state free of charge, we can share their important place in our history in a way that is fun, fresh, and family-friendly.”
The Trustees’ collection of historic properties across the state range from the Colonial era to the Downton Abbey-esque Gilded Age, to the Modernist retro era of Mad Men. Filled with unique collections of art, artifacts, and furnishings, as well as exquisitely designed gardens and stunning natural landscapes, several sites are also National Historic Landmarks designed by renowned architects. From the Berkshires to Greater Boston, there’s a Home Sweet Home open to you. Tours, events, walks, talks, games, refreshments and more will be offered. Here’s what’s coming up in western MA:
The William Cullen Bryant Homestead, Cummington, MA
The bucolic setting of the William Cullen Bryant Homestead, a National Historic Landmark, inspired one of America’s foremost 19th-century mavericks. Discover where this poet, lawyer, and editor spent his youth, eventually becoming a well-known advocate for organized labor and the abolition of slavery. 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.
The Ashley House, Sheffield, MA
History buffs take note! The oldest house in Berkshire County is where Col. 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”) who was enslaved by the Ashleys, successfully sued for her freedom under the new state constitution in 1781, setting a precedent that helped to end slavery in Massachusetts decades before the Civil War. A key anchor site on the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail (AAHT), The Ashley House features an exhibit about Freeman and is filled with antique furnishings. After your tour, consider stopping by The Trustees’ Bartholomew’s Cobble property next door, a National Natural Landmark, for some great hiking and, for the energetic, a climb up the 1,000-ft. Hurburt’s Hill for a beautiful view. Tours provided throughout the day.
Naumkeag, Stockbridge, MA
Framed by dramatic vistas of the Berkshires, the house and gardens of Naumkeag are designed to surprise. Featuring an unconventional set of connected garden “rooms” that are a delight to explore, the landscape is the product of many years of experimentation by maverick gardener Ms. Mabel Choate and forward-thinking landscape architect Fletcher Steele, considered the founder of modern American landscape design. The 44-room “cottage,” an architectural gem designed by McKim, Mead & White, was built as a summer residence for the family of Joseph Hodges Choate, lawyer to titans of industry such as the Rockefellers and U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Outside, the house displays the personalities of two different architectural styles; inside, collections of artwork and furnishings reveal how deeply Ms. Mabel Choate was inspired by her world travels. A National Historic Landmark, Naumkeag is a place where you, like the Choates, can find inspiration in beauty. Enjoy a bite to eat from the Red Lion Inn at Naumkeag’s Oak Café and spend the day in the Berkshires.
The Mission House, Stockbridge, MA
Moving to the frontier may seem like an unlikely choice for a recent Yale graduate. But that is exactly what 24-year-old John Sergeant did in 1735, when Mohican Indians living in the Housatonic Valley petitioned the colony of Massachusetts for a minister and school. Sergeant went on to learn the language of the local Stockbridge Mohicans, and developed a multi-cultural settlement that remained harmonious for many years. The Mission House, built for the Sergeant family in 1740, is now a National Historic Landmark that 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, explore a Colonial Revival garden designed by renowned modern landscape architect Fletcher Steele, which features herbs, perennials, and annuals that had culinary or medicinal value to early colonists. Tours provided throughout the day.
The Folly at Field Farm, Williamstown, MA
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). To extend your visit, book a room at The Guest House at Field Farm or take a walk among the scenic hiking trails and sculpture garden, which features work by Richard M. Miller, Phillip Pavia and Herbert Ferber. Tours provided throughout the day.
Visit www.thetrustees.org/homesweethome for all the details.
– Submitted by Mark Wamsley