Nestled near Topsfield’s Bradley Palmer State Park along the Ipswich River is the Willowdale Estate, a stone mansion whose understated, unpretentious elegance is evident even as you proceed up the driveway. This week, were very lucky to go on an incredible tour of Willowdale. Despite the cloudy weather, the property still emanated its classic charm and grace.
Constructed in 1901, Willowdale was the summer home of Bradley Palmer. Seeking to create a personal oasis, Palmer bought up as much land around Willowdale as possible (even walking up to random farmers and offering to buy their properties on the spot, as we learned on our tour of the estate. We admire his gumption). Today, Bradley Palmer State Park encompasses 720 acres. Willowdale itself sits on 4 acres. We assume there were many happy farmers in Topsfield at the turn of the century.
Upon his death in 1944, Palmer left the house and land to the state so that they may be turned into a park. The mansion, unfortunately, fell into disrepair over the years. An eight-year renovation began in 1999 under the mansion’s new curator, Boston architect Gerald Fandetti and his wife Charlotte Forsythe who were awarded the lease from the Massachusetts Historic Curatorship Program to ensure that Willowdale’s historic charm be preserved and maintained. Their daughter Briar Forsythe opened Willowdale Estate for business in 2007 as a venue for weddings and events in all seasons.
Today, Willowdale is a gem in the crown of the North of Boston. It serves as a beautiful backdrop for weddings and other special occasions. Inside, the mansion reflects the Arts and Crafts style with its odes to medieval and Gothic Revival and recalls the English countryside. The house features stained glass and beautiful decorative tiles (not to mention, in our opinion, some of the prettiest bathrooms on the North Shore). Outside is an ethereal wonderland with glorious butterfly-attracting gardens (maintained by the amazingly talented Kim, who we met on our tour) , a spacious tented patio, and the nearby Ipswich River (which serves as a beautiful backdrop for wedding photos).
Planning your event at Willowdale could not be easier. Their warm and helpful staff will assist you in planning your event or celebration, ensuring that everything runs smoothly. They hold themselves to the highest standard of hospitality and will help to make your dream event into reality Willowdale also offers on-site catering – their expert Executive Chef and catering team, dedicated to creating the best meals, will create a delicious spread to perfectly complement your special event.
The team at Willowdale manages the estate under three core principles: dedication, passion, and spirit. These principles are evident as you wander through the house, enjoying the unspoiled beauty and details of your surroundings and meeting the friendly and helpful staff.
Looking to visit Willowdale? Check out one of their fantastic upcoming events:
June 17 – 6-7pm – Historic House Tour
Enjoy a free tour of Willowdale, including notes on architecture, history, and use of the estate in the past and today
July 8 – 7-9m – Entertaining 101: Becoming the Perfect Host
Try new cocktails, get tips on decorating, and start to think about what your guests need to have a good time at your party. Free event.
August 12 – 6-8pm – Wedding Open House
The perfect event for recently-engaged couples! RSVP and receive a gift bag to help you get started with your planning. Free event
September 18 – 7:30-10pm – Tuscany Under the Stars (Italian Farm to Table Dinner)
Have an unforgettable 3-course dinner in the Garden Courtyard at Willowdale Estate. Sixty-Five Dollars – Tickets Required.
For more information on Willowdale, please visit www.willowdaleestate.com