Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fabulous Historic Homes and Mansions in New England

Good morning, Happy Mansion Lovers!

Are you feeling motivated this morning? I certainly hope so. I know that I am!

Last week, I had the pleasure of hanging out in Concord's Colonial Inn. While there, I spotted a brochure for Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts. This historic home was built in 1938 after Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, came to Harvard. The home is a modest one that combines traditional New England building materials with the efficiency, simple design and heavy use of glass that exemplified the Bauhaus. The home is furnished with both family possessions and Bauhaus furniture designed by Marcel Breuer.

I haven't visited Gropius House in almost 40 years, and I was glad to find this reminder of that delightful example of European styling in rural Lincoln, Massachusetts. The house is located at 68 Baker Bridge Road and can be seen from October 16-May 31 on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. through 4 p.m. Tours start on the hour and are limited to 10 people. The house is closed on major holidays. Adults pay $10, seniors pay $9 and children from 6-10 pay $5. Historic New England/SPNEA members and Lincoln town residents are free.

It was that last reference to Historic New England that inspired this blog entry. I didn't know the organization, but you can find its Web site at www.HistoricNewEngland.org/. One reason I didn't know the organization is that Historic New England is the new name (since June 1, 2004) of the venerable Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA).

Historic New England operates 35 house museums and landscapes that exemplify New England styles over four centuries. These properties house over one million items.

Historic New England also contains occasional listings of historic properties that can be purchased. So if you've wanted to live in a New England landmark, here's your chance. I was particularly intrigued by Exton Farm in New Canaan, Connecticut, located on 17 lovely acres. Here is the listing information: http://www.historicnewengland.org/about/Extown_Farm.pdf

If you plan to visit many of the properties belonging to Historic New England, you would be smart to purchase a membership. For an individual, the price is only $35. A household can join for $45 (two adults and all children under 18).

The historic homes are described at http://www.historicnewengland.org/visit/homes/

You will probably be surprised to see that Connecticut has only one home represented. Massachusetts has a generous total of 19, all but one of which are in the greater Boston area. That may be because the organization is based in Boston. Maine has six, New Hampshire has five and Rhode Island has four. Vermont is not represented.

For those who love mansions, consider trips to:

Hamilton House in South Berwick, Maine (http://www.historicnewengland.org/visit/homes/hamilton.htm);

Castle Tucker in Wiscasset, Maine

Nichols-Sortwell House in Wiscasset, Maine

Sayward-Wheeler House in York Harbor, Maine

Beauport in Gloucester, Massachusetts

Codman Estate in Lincoln, Massachusetts

Quincy House in Quincy, Massachusetts

Rundlet-May House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Governor John Langdon House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Please be aware that many of these homes are only open for tours in the summer and early fall. So check the listings above before visiting to see if tours are still available now.

For that reason, you may want to wait until May to join the organization so that you can begin enjoying the sites in June when most open again. But if you join now, you can begin learning about the sites and planning your summer 2006 journeys to visit.

Can a billionaire do better? I doubt it.

The market value of these properties and their contents is probably over $200 million. But it would take decades to assemble a comparable set of buildings and contents. Then there would probably be another $100 million in renovations required.

I think you can do better by just spending $45 for an annual household membership. You will enjoy properties and contents sooner . . . and for a lot less money.


N.B. As you can tell, I'm experimenting with color. Let me know what you like and what I should change about my use of color. Many thanks to Linda Grace for her suggestions which I am following!

<>Please let me know what else you would like to learn, and I'll do my best to help in future blog entries.

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Copyright 2005 Donald W. Mitchell


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