Earlier this month, we introduced you to one of the North of Boston region’s best hidden treasures – its numerous gardens! As we get further into the spring and closer to the peak garden season, here are three more floral gems to visit as you navigate the region’s living history…
Ropes Mansion Garden
318 Essex Street, Salem
Gardens open year-round
Behind the Colonial Revival-styled Ropes Mansion in Salem’s McIntire Historic District lies a not-so-hidden secret: a formal garden. Originally built in the Georgian style in 1727, the mansion underwent a Colonial Revival-inspired renovation in 1894. In 1912, a garden was laid out to reflect the home’s new style. Surrounding a central sundial, the paths of the garden lead you through grounds displaying a vast array of roses, hydrangea, and delphinium, as well as plenty of benches to relax on and a stocked koi pond. Fun Fact – Don’t be surprised if the Ropes Mansion looks a little familiar upon your visit. It was filmed as one of the characters’ homes in the movie “Hocus Pocus.” (Thank you to the Salem Inn for additional information on this garden).
390 High Street, Newburyport
A popular backdrop for weddings, proms, and family photos, the gardens at Atkinson Common are a Newburyport staple. In the 1870s, an open field off of High Street was left to the City of Newburyport. The local families of the Belleville neighborhood worked to convert this blank canvas into a public park and garden and thus the Belleville Improvement Society was born. For over 100 years, the Society has continued to preserve, maintain, and improve Atkinson Common, with its winding walkways, elaborate gardens, historic gazebo ,and lily pond.
The Common also features a Civil War statue and Soldier and Sailors Tablets to commemorate Newburyport’s Civil War veterans as well as a 50-foot stone observation tower.
137 Andover Street, North Andover
Gardens open daily, year-round, 8am-sunset.
Home closed to public with the exception of special tours and events
Inspired by the luscious gardens of Europe, the property formerly known as Ashdale Farm transformed into a chic, elegant estate under the care of Helen Stevens. In the family since the early 1700s and farmed for generations, the property was inherited by Ms. Stevens and underwent a long transformation after she and her new husband, John Gardner Coolidge, made the farm their summer home around 1914. Stevens, from one of North Andover’s founding families, and Coolidge, a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and the nephew of Isabella Stewart Gardner, were inspired by their travels around the world. The country house, redesigned by Joseph Chandler (who, as we mentioned in our earlier post, had previously laid out the Seaside Gardens at the House of the Seven Gables), featured art and furniture from the couple’s trips around the world (Coolidge served as a diplomat in Mexico, Nicaragua, Europe, and Asia). For the gardens, though, Helen Stevens and Joseph Chandler looked specifically towards France.
Featuring numerous perennials, roses, informal shrubs, herbs, fruit trees, and potted greenhouse plants, the gardens recall a French Chateau. Organized into outdoor “rooms,” the gardens were meant to have a feeling of “…simplicity and an indescribable air of peace,” according to Chandler.
Upon Helen Stevens Coolidge’s death in 1962, the property was left to the Trustees of Reservations who renamed it the Stevens-Coolidge Place to honor its former owners. Admission to the property is free (on-site donations welcome). While visiting the gardens, you may catch a glimpse of the many butterflies and birds attracted to the wide array of plants and flowers. Foxes, owls, hawks, and frogs have also been known to visit the property as well. On Fridays and Saturdays, in July and August, visitors are invited to purchase bouquets in the pick-your-own Cutting Garden.