Tuesday

An English Country Estate Overlooking Massachusetts' North Shore - Castle Hill at the Crane Estate in Ipswich

If you're a guest of the historic Hawthorne Hotel who also happens to be a fan of the hugely popular British drama "Downton Abbey" and you've been hankering to visit a real country estate like the one on the show but can't quite swing a jaunt across the pond, you're in luck as a mere 16-1/2 miles away to the northeast lies the Great House of Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ispwich.

Entrance Sign to the Crane Estate

The Crane Estate, which is maintained by The Trustees of Reservations and is the crown jewel of their 106 holdings in Massachusetts, is made up of three different properties - Crane Beach, the Crane Wildlife Refuge, and Castle Hill - which cover 2,100 acres of rolling hills, quiet woods, white sand beaches, open meadows, dynamic salt marshes, and spruce-covered estuary islands in the eastern part of Ipswich where the Castle Neck and Ipswich Rivers flow into Ipswich Bay. The heart of the estate is Castle Hill, a 165-acre section of the property that contains both formal and natural landscapes which surround the centerpiece of it all - a 59-room Stuart-style Great House that rises on the Massachusetts horizon like something out of BBC's Country File magazine!

The Great House at Castle Hill
Welcome to Castle Hill Sign

The Great House may not be quite as glamorous as Highclere Castle, home of the real-life Earl and Countess of Carnarvon and the fictitious Lord and Lady Grantham of Downton, but it is awfully darned nice and definitely not what one might expect to find overlooking the Atlantic Ocean north of Boston! To be honest, I half-expected (hoped!) to see a shirt-soaked Mr. Darcy walking around the property while Nathaniel and I were there exploring on a beautiful September Saturday but alas, such was not the case. I was a touch disappointed but Nathaniel was good with it!

Nate and the Driveway View of the Great House

Image Credit: The Trustees
By now you may be asking, "Exactly how did an English country manor end up on the shores of Massachusetts - in Ipswich of all places?"  Good question and one that Nathaniel and I are happy to answer for you! The Great House, which is one of the best surviving examples of a landscaped estate of the “Country Place Era” (a period from about 1890 to 1930 when wealthy Americans constructed houses in the countryside as retreats from their homes in crowded, industrialized cities) was the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Teller Crane, Jr. of Chicago along with their two children, Cornelius and Florence.

Crane, Jr., remembered as "A Man Who Had Endeared Himself to All", made his fortunes as the President of the Crane Company, manufacturers and sellers of brass goods and plumbing supplies as well as one of the leading manufacturers of bathroom fixtures until 1990. Formerly known as R.T. Crane Brass & Bell Foundry in Chicago when his father Richard and uncle Charles first founded the company in 1855, Crane, Jr. took over the Presidency of the company upon his father's death in 1912.

Like many other industrialists of the era, he sought to establish himself as one of the new American gentry by building a large country estate complete with extensive landscaping and gardens that would emulate the European gardens that American Captains of Industry such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Crane, Jr. himself had seen during their European travels.

The Great House Plaque
The Great House at Castle Hill

The story of the property overlooking the Atlantic doesn't simply begin when it came into the Cranes' possession in 1910 after Crane, Jr. first viewed and fell in love with the area though as the history of the land goes back much further to the Algonquian peoples who first lived in the area and called it “Agawam” in reference to its large abundance of fish. The first white men to inhabit the area did so in 1633 when John the Plaque on the Wall at the Great House
Younger - son of John Winthrop, one of the founders and first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony - settled in Agawam with permission from the General Court of Massachusetts. On August 5, 1634, Agawam was incorporated as Ipswich, named after one of England's oldest towns located in the county of Suffolk. According to John Winthrop's Journal: "History of New England, 1630-1649", the name was chosen "in acknowledgment of the great honor and kindness done to our people which took shipping there."

In June of 1637, John the Younger threatened to leave town so as an enticement for him to stay, Maskonomet, the sagamore of the Agawam tribe, deeded all of the tribal land which extended from Cape Ann to the Merrimack River, as far inland as North Andover and Middleton, Massachusetts, and as far to the southwest as the Danvers River, to John Winthrop the Younger as well as his heirs and all the settlers of eastern Essex County in exchange for "wampampeace & other things" as well as twenty pounds, about 100 dollars. This deed included the drumlin (an elongated hill in the shape of an inverted spoon or half-buried egg) of Castle Hill which had been named for a promontory of the same name in Ipswich, Suffolk, England.

In 1644, John the Younger deeded Castle Hill to Samuel Symonds, Deputy Governor of Massachusetts, who in turn deeded it to his son-in-law, Daniel Epps, in 1660. A succession of farmers followed and by 1745, the land belonged to the Brown family with the last owner of the family being John Burnham Brown. In the 1880s, J.B. Brown transformed Castle Hill Farm from an agricultural holding into a gentleman’s farm as he improved the roadways and plantings and renovated his modest 1899 farmhouse into a rambling, shingle-style cottage.

Image Credit:  The Trustees
J.B.Brown's "cottage" is the oldest building on the property and now operates as The Inn at Castle Hill.  Winner of "The Best Hotel on the North Shore" in Northshore Magazine's 2012 readers' poll, the 10-room bed-and-breakfast style inn is a property of The Trustees of Reservations from which all proceeds go to support the land conservation and historic preservation work of The Trustees, Massachusetts' biggest preservation group.

Following John Burnham Brown's death in 1910, the property caught the eye of Richard T. Crane, Jr. who bought it and hired the successful Boston-based architecture firm of Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge to design a massive 60+ room, red-tiled roof, Italian Renaissance-style villa. In 1912, Crane. Jr's new summer home was constructed on the highest of the hills in the area overlooking the ocean and the salt marshes.

In addition to the villa, twenty-one outbuildings were constructed on the property including an opulent casino complex. Italian for "little house", the casino complex consisted of a ballroom, accommodations for single male guests that were staying at the estate, guest cabanas, and a large saltwater swimming pool. For the rest of the grounds, Crane hired The Olmsted Brothers, who had inherited the landscape architecture company of their famous father, Frederick Law Olmsted, to design a landscape of terraced gardens and ornate plantings, a Bowling Green, and a maze.

Arthur A. Shurcliff, a neighboring friend of Crane, Jr. and former member of Frederick Law Olmsted’s firm who branched out on his own and later went on to lay out the design of Old Sturbridge Village, Colonial Williamsburg, and numerous other properties, was hired to create a massive "front lawn" that would lead from the terrace of the villa to the distant ocean cliffs. To that end, Shurcliff designed and planted a 160-foot-wide, half-mile long tree-lined "Grande Allée" which was also lined with statuary and urns. Connecting the Great House to the ocean with the casino complex in the middle, it took 15 years for the 700+ trees that Shurcliff used in his design to reach maturity and was one of the largest landscape features that he created during his career.

As beautiful as the Renaissance-style villa was, though, Florence hated it. Calling it "the Italian fiasco", as well as "too cold and drafty", Mrs. Crane said that it didn't suit her style and she wanted her husband to tear it down and build something else. Crane, Jr. himself quite liked his Italian villa in the Massachusetts countryside but - good husband that he was - he told his wife that if she didn't change her mind and love it as much as he did in ten years, he'd bulldoze it over and build a new house to her specifications.

Front of the Great House

Ten years came and went along with a couple more and in 1924, the villa was razed. Keeping his word to his wife to have a new mansion built, Crane, Jr. brought in Chicago architect David Adler to design Florence a new house which was based on the formal English country houses of the seventeenth century.  When it was completed in 1928, the new design - Adler's largest undertaking ever - was the house of Florence's dreams and is the house that still stands on Castle Hill today.

Richard Teller Crane, Jr. died suddenly in 1931 at the age of 58, a mere three years after the second house was completed.  For 18 years after her husband's death, Florence continued to love the house and spent summers there, as well as some winters, until her own death in 1949.  In 1945, the family had donated 1,000 acres to The Trustees of Reservation so that they would be looked after and preserved and when Florence died she left another 350 acres to The Trustees - complete with the Great House and it's outbuildings. Most of the contents of the house (approximately 1,302) were auctioned off by the family to benefit the Art Institute of Chicago in 1950 but since then, the Trustees have acquired many of the original furnishings both on loan and through purchase. Inside the Great House the wallcoverings, paint colors and damask draperies have been painstakingly restored and replicated while outside, the gardens and statuary have been meticulously preserved.

In 1957, Miné Crane, Cornelius’s wife, donated the land which is now the Crane Wildlife Refuge. Nathaniel and I will get to that in another post along with the beautiful Crane Beach, one of the Northeast’s most spectacular beaches that has trails and boardwalks that meander through a landscape of sand dunes and salt marsh, but for now, back to Castle Hill which is an amazing place and a must-see if you find yourself on the North Shore!

Since acquiring the property, The Trustees have been working diligently to bring the grounds back and preserve them in their original glory which has been quite the undertaking as its no small piece of property! Restoration of the Bowling Green, with a design based on the Villa Borghese, the second largest public park in Rome after the Villa Doria Pamphili, is still ongoing and promises to be beautiful when it's done.

Restoration of the Bowling Green Plaque
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Nate and One of the Cranes at the Crane Estate

Over the 100 years since it was first designed by Arthur A. Shurcliff,  Castle Hill's Grande Allée - the only known designed landscape of its size and kind still in existence in North America and one of only a few remaining worldwide - had lost a lot of its luster as its clean lines were blurred by the overgrown Norway spruces and shrubs that had started to encroach on and cover the twelve classical statues that lined the lawn leading to the ocean. The restoration of the Grande Allée was completed in June of 2012 at a cost of $2 million and three years of labor as the restoration was performed in three stages removing the more than 700 overgrown trees while replacing them with new spruce and pine trees.

In an effort to be as sustainable as possible, as the old trees were removed via the use of cranes, they were recycled into lumber, wood chipped for energy production, or composted as mulch used in the project. To complete the restoration, the classical statues were cleaned and repaired before once again lining the popular site for open-air concerts, weddings, historic house and landscape tours, community events, a children’s summer camp, and other recreational activities that are held year-round at the Crane Estate.

View of the Grande Allée
Restoring the Grande Allée Plaque

The Grand Allée restoration project - the biggest that The Trustees has ever undertaken - was completed in memory of David Crockett, a former member of The Trustees of Reservations’ Board of Governors and Ipswich resident whose tireless efforts on behalf of Castle Hill and the Crane Estate were critical in preserving the property.  For further reading about the restoration project, you can view the 30-page online book "A Grand Undertaking: The Grand Allée at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate" which contains the history of the Grand Allée along with an explanation of the restoration process accompanied by lots of photos.

Restoration Plaque
View of the Grande Allée

There are more photos of the Grande Allée coming up in this post but as Nathaniel and I chose to tour the Great House before hiking the half-mile to the ocean, let's pop in there first, shall we?  While the grounds are open year-round, tours of the house are only available from May to October, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10AM – 3PM; Fridays and Saturdays from 10AM – 1PM as well as on special occasions; you can check The Trustees website for dates and time as well as the types of tours available.

In addition to "The Great House: Revealed" which is the standard one-hour guided house tour, there is the "Hot & Cold Tour: Behind-the-Scenes of the Great House", a 90-minute guided tour which takes you from cellar to ceiling and requires pre-registration, and "Castle Hill Estate Tours: The Designed Landscape", a 90-minute guided tour of the grounds which explores the parts of the estate outside of the Great House.  Cost of the tours varies depending on the type you wish to take; prices can be found on the website or you can get more information by calling 978-356-4351 Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Like a lot of historic houses, photography of the interior is prohibited but I am happy to provide a few interior photos with the permission of The Trustees of Reservations.  Believe me, you really need to see for yourself in person how grand the rooms are as photos really don't do them justice and there are only three but perhaps they will whet your appetite for more!

Even though Crane, Jr. was quite happy and content with his Italian-style villa, when the time came to tear it down and start over in order to make his wife Florence happy, they decided to emulate the tradition of English country life which was much admired by wealthy Americans like the Cranes. David Adler, the Chicago architect that Crane, Jr. brought in for the job, was one of the most important architects designing homes and estates in the United States during the period known as that of the “great American house.” He was skilled at interpreting architectural tradition to suit the needs of his time and offered an enormous range of stylistic expression on the exteriors as well as a simpler definition of interiors than traditional European models allowed. In addition to the use of authentic detail, his designs had a great sense of scale and style, and he knew how to provide luxury which was what his clients desired.

Seventeenth-century England and particularly the works of Sir Christopher Wren, one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history, served as inspiration for the design of the Crane's new home along with the Belton House, near Grantham, Lincolnshire, England which is described as "the most complete example of a typical English country house."  Striking similarity, isn't it?

Image Credit: NationalTrust.org.UK 
One of the first stops on the tour is the vestibule which connects the east wing of the house to the Gallery which formed the nucleus of the Great House. On the ceiling of the rotunda is a mural painted by Abram Poole, an artist popular with East Coast and Midwestern society.  The only mural that Poole ever painted, it is based on a 15th-century Italian mural and depicts members of the Crane family including the children, Florence and Cornelius.  Poole also did the paintings above the gallery fireplaces which provided the backgrounds for the massive wall clock and the wind-indicator.

Image Credit:  The Trustees
Measuring 63-feet by 23-feet, the Gallery is the largest room in the house and offers gorgeous views of the  Grande Allée and the ocean beyond.  It is adorned with an eighteenth-century imported oak floor in a parquet pattern that mirrors the floors in the Palace of Versailles, sunburst fanlights above the double doors, antiqued Georgian paneling, and a pair of fireplaces and chandeliers that create intimacy as they balance out the seating areas of the room where both family and guests could relax.

Image Credit:  The Trustees
As he designed the house, Adler acquired materials from older homes in England that were being torn down to use in the rooms of the Crane home.  One of those rooms is the library which was designed using materials from the beautiful paneled library at Cassiobury House, the manor house for of the Earl of Essex for generations. Built in 1546 for Sir Richard Morrison, the house was demolished for its materials in 1927 after the death of the Seventh Earl left his widow with death taxes to pay and no other way to acquire the money.  Skilled in adaptive reuse, Adler created a library using most of the fittings of the Cassiobury House library including the original bookcases as well as antique paneling with carvings by Baroque sculptor Grinling Gibbons (1648-1720), a Dutch-British sculptor and wood carver known for his work in England which includes St Paul's Cathedral, Blenheim Palace and Hampton Court Palace. The high-relief over-mantel carving is one of Gibbons’ earliest surviving decorative works as well as one of only two known documented sources of his work in the United States. The room truly does look and feel like you've stepped into an English manor!

After touring the other rooms on the ground floor - some of which are used for weddings that are held at the very popular venue - it's time to ascend the grand staircase that was recreated on a larger scale from the one at a townhouse at 75 Dean Street in London which was built in 1732 and once believed to be the home of artist William Hogwarth (1697-1764), best known for his series paintings of 'modern moral subjects'. When the townhouse was razed, its interior fittings - carved fireplaces and surrounds, cornices and pilasters, paneling and staircase - were purchased by the Cranes for use in their new summer home. The staircase turned out to be too small for the 25-foot long Main Hall but its detailing could be used and Adler recreated an exact replica of the staircase - though on a much larger scale - which included the same intricate carvings, twisted shafts and Corinthian column newels at each landing.

Upstairs on the second-floor, a hallway which features Gothic-style vaulted ceilings leads to three guest rooms as well as the family's four bedrooms including my favorite - Cornelius' room - which is painted in a sand-sea-sky color scheme and pictured below. For the two master bedroom suites designed for Crane, Jr. and Florence, entire rooms from the 17th-century London townhouse on Dean Street were used; paneling and fireplaces from the two drawing rooms and small dining room were used to create both bedrooms and Florence's sitting room which is the largest of the three rooms.


Though the house was designed as an English country manor, Adler took advantage of Crane, Jr. being the president of a prosperous plumbing company whose mission was "to make America want a better bathroom" and he designed all of the bathrooms with that in mind. Using Italian marble and sterling silver fittings, the bathrooms are done in the Art Deco-style making them a bit more eclectic than the rest of the house but definitely "a better bathroom" by any standards! Florence’s bathroom contains a green marble tub area with a patterned marble floor, matching faux-marble painted woodwork and silver sconces that hang on the walls while Crane, Jr.'s bathroom is dominated by a central tub with silver fixtures and handrails along with a twelve-nozzled shower. There's even a heated towel rack - nice!

Even though I adhered to the rules of no photography IN the house, I have to admit to taking a few photos from INSIDE of the house looking out towards the grounds.  I hope that's okay because if not, I'm in trouble for having admitted it here!  The first photo is the view from Crane, Jr's bedroom suite looking out over the Grande Allée to the ocean in the distance; the second is from daughter Florence's bedroom looking north; third is from the bedroom window of Cornelius looking south (incidentally Crane, Jr's son was named for his  friend Cornelius Vanderbilt); and the last was taken from a hallway window looking east across the Grande Allée.  As you can see, there was a couple posing for a photographer - something you see a lot of but understandably so as it's a beautiful venue for a wedding or even engagement photos.

View from the second floor looking east View from the second floor to the north
View from the second floor looking south View from the second floor of the Grande Allée

Upon completion of our tour of the inside of the Great House, Nathaniel and I went back out into the sunshine and spent some time on the back terrace façade that Adler designed to not be dwarfed by the landscaping that was already in place - Shurcliff's Grande Allée.  As the style of the Allée was very similar to a garden design that Adler had used for the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles B. Pike in Lake Forest, Illinois in 1916, he found it fortuitous and had no problems working with the existing landscape.

Adler designed symmetrical two-story wings that jut out to form the north terrace while on the terrace side of each wing he placed a one-story porch to add balance to the design. Both the wings and the porches are embellished with thirteen stone and cast-concrete busts set in sandstone niches, the busts are believed to represent the Caesars.

Back View of the Great House

A pair of immense Art Deco-style Griffin statues grace both sides of the terrace. Sculpted by Paul Manship, one of the most prominent sculptors of the early 20th century, the crouching Griffins were gifts from Crane’s employees to guard his home upon its completion in 1928. A legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle's talons as its front feet, the Griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature known for guarding treasure and priceless possessions. As he was known for combining figurative art with modern elements, Manship obviously put his own twist on this pair of protectors which are quite popular with young visitors as well as 4-inch miniature historical guides!

Nathaniel and the Griffin Nathaniel gets himself into trouble with one of the Griffins Great House Griffin at the Crane Estate
Nate and a Griffin Nathaniel and the dedication plaque on the Griffen

After Nathaniel was done fooling around with the Griffin sculptures, we set off from the terrace façade to begin our trek across the Grande Allée to the casino complex and beyond.

View of the Grande Allée from behind the Griffins

Of course, having had such a good time with the Griffins, Nathaniel couldn't resist posing with the classical statues as we made our way past them down the first expanse of lawn.

Nate and one of the statues Nate and another of the statues Nate and a statue
Nate and statuary Nate and the statuary Nate and the foot of a statue
View of the Great House from the Grande Allée

Finally reaching the casino complex, we took a look back at the Great House shimmering in the afternoon sun before Nathaniel did a little more posing on the balustrade as we checked out what, when it was first built in 1914, was the entertainment heart of the estate. 

Nate on the Casino Complex Balcony
Nate and the Builder's Mark at the Casino Complex
Nate and one of the casino complex buildings
Nate and the Casino Complex
Nate and the Casino Complex
Casino Complex Signage
View of the Casino Complex

From this angle, it was easier to imagine what the casino complex looked like back when it still had an in-ground saltwater swimming pool and all of the accouterments of a life of luxury and leisure! 

View of the Grande Allée

Stopping again to take a sip of water (something you're going to need on a hot day and which is available in the small gift shop when the Great House is open for tours), I looked at the two undulating hills in front of us that made up the rest of the Grande Allée and had a sneaky feeling it wasn't going to be an easy hike for an out-of-shape sort like myself but Nathaniel insisted we push on.  After all, we'd made it this far, right? Easy for him to say as he was being carried the whole way but I was sure the ocean breeze once we reached the top of the last hill was going to be well worth the hike! 


The Great House and the Casino Complex

Halfway up the second hill, I turned around to take a photo of the casino complex with the Great House far behind and Nathaniel took advantage of the moment to pose with another statue. I was beginning to think that he was either turning into a camera hog or he really liked statuary! 

Nate and a statue on the Grande Allée

Alright then, onward and upward though first we had to walk a bit downhill having crested the middle hill! 

View of the Grande Allée

And then finally - we'd made it!  Though from where I was standing, the Great House didn't really look to be a half-mile away though that was probably an optical illusion with the way the landscaping was designed because it sure felt like I'd walked half-a-mile! 

View back to the Great House from the top of the Grande Allée

Hmm, perhaps from a different angle it would look more like half a mile?

Black & White Grande Allée

It was a nice surprise to find a bench waiting at the top of the last hill as it was a great place to sit and enjoy the breeze while taking in the view and preparing for the hike back to the house!  I kind of had to wonder about the chain though as having just made quite the trek to get there, I wondered who in their right mind would try stealing a heavy bench and lugging it all the way to the road? Still ... it was a nice bench ...

Bench overlooking the ocean at the top of the Grande Allée
View to the north from the top of the Grande Allée

As I enjoyed the view of the blue and green water ahead of me, Nathaniel found what looked to be a survey reference marker from 1941. 

Nate and the Geocode stone at the top of the Grande Allée

At this point I could have taken a path that led down to Steep Hill Beach (a direction that several other people had gone while Nathaniel and I were taking a break) but it was starting to get late and I knew there were some gardens that I wanted to get photos of before we called it a day. Rather than going back up the same way we came down from the house, I took a path that cut through the woods where wildlife obviously abounded!

Nate talks turkey at the Crane Estate

Good grief, if it wasn't Griffins or statues it was wild turkeys - Nathaniel was having quite the photo-op day indeed!

View out to the ocean from the top of Castle Hill

A short while later after reaching the top of the Grand Allée again and congratulating myself on the successful completion of a great workout (man, it was hot for September!), I took one last look back at the beautiful ocean view that the Cranes must have loved so well.  From this angle, it was quite easy to see how Richard Crane, Jr. had fallen in love with the place and decided to build his summer home there!

A short walk north of the house and down a graveled path lined with rhododendrons that had long since lost their blooms, Nathaniel and I found the Formal or "Italian" garden designed by the Olmsted Brothers that graced Castle Hill.

Nate and the Formal Gardens
Entrance to the Formal Gardens at the Crane Estate
Formal or
Pillars at the Formal Gardens Nate, the Italian Garden Pillars, and the Roofline of the Great House
Former Fountain at the Formal Garden

The Formal Garden was the first and most elaborate of the gardens to be planted on the estate.  With an Italian-inspired design, the garden contained ornate English plantings, fountains, teahouses, a pergola, and impressive statuary marking its entrance. 

Nate and the Formal Gardens
Tea Houses at the Formal Gardens
Tea House on the Crane Estate
Back of the Tea Houses on the Crane Estate

Across the road from the Formal Garden and past an entrance marked with two very large urns, is the entrance to the former Rose Garden which was designed by Andrew Shurcliff, designer of the Grande Allée. Shurcliff was able to bring to life Mrs. Crane’s vision of an elaborate, sunken Rose Garden which would eventually boast 600 varieties of the flower.  I really wish that I could have seen it during its glory days as I'm sure it had to be an amazing place ... now I'm afraid it looks more like a miniature Roman Colosseum. Which isn't a bad thing, mind you, as all of those pillars are quite intriguing but can you imagine the smell of 600 rose bushes in bloom?  That really had to be something!

Nate Between the Urns on the Crane Estate
Garden of Pillars on Castle Hill at the Crane Estate
A Garden of Pillars on the Crane Estate

Walking back to the parking area from the gardens, Nathaniel and I noticed that there was a truck pulled up to the Great House so I'm pretty sure there was going to be a wedding or other function there that evening which meant it was time to head back to Salem. Weddings and corporate events are quite popular at Castle Hill and after having walked a good part of the property, it was easy to see why.

Side View of the Great House

That said, we didn't walk anywhere near all of the property at Castle Hill as there was still the Farm Complex, the Vegetable Gardens and Towers Complex, and so much more to see that Nathaniel and I just didn't have time to get to.  I get the feeling that the best way to visit Castle Hill at the Crane Estate is to either come early and plan on making a day of it or perhaps help contribute to the The Trustees' preservation efforts and spend a night at J.B.Brown's former farmhouse.  I'm sure the folks at the Hawthorne Hotel wouldn't mind as long as you didn't make a regular habit of it!

Nate and the View Towards Essex from Castle Hill

Finally, for those of you who truly are "Downton Abbey" fans and are wondering whether there was a Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes or John Bates and Miss O'Brien to help run and maintain the standards of luxury at the Great House as well as the beauty of the grounds of Castle Hill, I can tell you that yes indeed, most likely their equivalents working there.  Even though it was a summer home and only open for the season (if I remember correctly, my tour guide said that the season lasted a mere five weeks which doesn't seem long at all), managing such a grand estate required 60 house staff and 100 gardeners.

Unlike today when the word "leisure" has a totally different meaning than it did in the early 20th century, the Cranes' lives were ruled by a strict daily routine that could be tracked as much by changes of clothing for different occasions - even for the servants – as it was by the clock. However, in spite of that, the Crane family loved opening their doors to both friends and neighbors as well as many dignitaries, including Presidents Taft and Wilson.

Richard Teller Crane, Jr, who was valued not only as a resident of prominence and wealth, but as a man who endeared himself to Ipswich, especially loved entertaining friends, neighbors, and local children at clambakes and other summer activities. He didn't just come in for the summer and leave again paying no attention to the town in which he built his summer home but he helped fund Cable Memorial Hospital, established a trust for schoolchildren to enjoy an annual outing to Crane Beach in celebration of Cornelius’s birthday (a tradition that continues today), supported the Ipswich Historical Society, and helped preserve important local monuments such as the Whipple House.

A genuinely nice guy who didn't consider himself to be above everyone else simply because he had wealth, Mr. Crane gave back to his town and he continues to do so long after his death through the auspices of The Trustees of Reservations who manage the estate that he built for his own summer enjoyment and which today is available to be enjoyed by many.  This amazing piece of land overlooking the north shore of Massachusetts which was added to the National Register of Historic Landmarks on August 6th, 1998, is well worth a day trip (or two) from the Hawthorne Hotel - even if  you have NO idea what on earth "Downton Abbey" is!  

Copyright © - Travels With Nathaniel/Linda Orlomoski/Hawthorne Hotel. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Travels With Nathaniel/Linda Orlomoski/Hawthorne Hotel is strictly prohibited.

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~ Nathaniel and Linda