It’s not unreasonable to think American Poet Laureate Robert Frost was imaging a pastoral setting like Highfield Hall in Falmouth, Massachusetts when he wrote “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. The poem’s 16 lines evoke a picture of space and time dusted with New England charms.
In 1878, after earning a fortune supplying blankets to Union soldiers during the Civil War, the Beebe family of Boston designed Highfield Hall as part of a 700 acre Gilded Age retreat to be filled with every sort of fun and entertainment. Famed masters of landscape and architecture Ernest Bowditch and Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. were commissioned to compliment the woodland compound by adding gardens and carriage trails to the estate. The unlikely fusion of tastemaker’s passions punctuated the landscape by harmonizing blinged-out garden statuary with pristine pastures.
In time, life took the Beebe family away from enjoying the four season delights of Highfield. Its woodlands were blanketed in quiet. The Victorian Queen Ann Stick-Style homestead slowly lost its Gilded Age charms. By 1994 the destiny of Highfield and its magical carriage trails was to be claimed by a real estate developer.
A grass roots effort was developed to save the dusty grand-dame and spare the woods from being hot-topped. Ambitious community members sparked by Highfield’s legacy raised eight and a half million dollars and began to reimagine the property as a cultural center and entertainment destination.
What emerged from their efforts is an eclectic museum that mirrors the style of the Gilded Age while reflecting the artful eccentricities of today’s tastemakers. Highfield’s glory days have returned with an unexpected rhythm! An out-door music-garden created by Grammy-award winning Richard Cooke encourages people of all abilities to play on 5 towering instruments that chime into the winds with the ensemble sounds of xylophones and pianos. Highfield’s Executive Director Peter Franklin said, “I haven’t run across anyone who could resist playing them.”
Everyday from dawn to dusk guests are welcome to stop-by the renaissance’d retreat of ecologically engineered woods imagined more than a century ago. Visitors eager to experience a modern-day mix of unorthodox distractions and simple pleasures mixed with a collection of period antiques are invited inside the manse where artisans synthesize a mastery of original talents.
Highlighting what’s best of the winter season the museum hacks into the cold months with a special series of inspired musical programs, festive natural and nautical decor and culinary classes designed to bring comfort and joy to all-ages. Stopping by the woods on an evening dusted by New England snow to enjoy these special activities is a prelude to another twist of good-fortune awaiting the Victorian mansion this spring.
Scoring a coup for the region, in June internationally famed stick-house sculptor Patrick Dougherty, who was recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, will enlist a community of volunteers and thousands of twisted vines to construct free-formed Stick-manse along the woods of Highfield Hall. Inside the museum’s educational room visitors can learn more about Dougherty’s 30 years of building whimsical sculptures in public spaces around the world. The over-grown celebrations of charmed imagination are constructed of saplings that evolve into monumental works of poetically transient art. Dougherty promises to punctuate Highfield’s landscape, yet again, with statuary that celebrates its special space and entertaining times in New England’s in history.
Highfield Hall’s trails, gardens and permanently installed inter-active Music Garden are open to the public, free of charge, year-round on 56 Highfield Drive, Falmouth, Massachusetts.
The Museum is open Tuesday- Friday 10-4, Saturday & Sunday 10-2, Admission is $8.00 for adults, $5.00 for seniors and free for members and children. Highfield Hall is wheel chair accessible and handicap parking is available.
For information about upcoming special events visit: highfieldhallandgardens.org or call 508-495-2878. ext.2.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.” Robert Frost.
Diane Kilgore is a journalist in the Greater Boston Area. She is a Cultural Contributor for NewBostonPost and creator of the lifestyle blog ‘To Di For’.