Glen Magna Farms

History


Glen Magna Farms, survives unrivaled as an estate exemplifying North Shore summer living. It typifies the golden age of American gardens when eclecticism and historicism dominated landscape as well as architecture.

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During the War of 1812, Joseph Peabody, the wealthiest Salem shipping merchant, bought a twenty acre Danvers property with dwelling house described as “in every respect well calculated for a gentleman’s seat.” From this initial twenty-acre purchase, the property grew to over three hundred and thirty acres, enduring as the summer retreat for the family for one hundred and forty-four years.

1893, she hired the Boston architectural firm of Little, Brown and More to design the expansion of the Mansion to its classic colonial revival form. In 1926, the year before Ellen Endicott died, she received the Hunnewell Gold Medal, a prestigious honor granted by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

Her son, William Crowninshield Endicott, Jr. continued to lavish attention on the Farms, upgrading and enhancing the estate until his death in 1936. He was instrumental in bringing the Derby Summer House (built in 1794) to the property in 1901. The two-story Adamesque building has been listed as a National Historic Landmark since 1968.

In 1963, the Danvers Historical Society purchased the central eleven acres of the property and has worked to restore the gardens and grounds to its early 20th century appearance. The Massachusetts Historical Commission and the Massachusetts Horticultural Society have recognized the garden preservation efforts.

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The Mansion

This magnificent National Historic Register of Historic Places Mansion, ensconced amid its 11 acres of formal grounds including the National Historic Landmark 1792 Derby Summer House designed by Samuel McIntire, was the summer home of the William Crowninshield Endicotts (father and son) at the height of their national and international prominence.

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A scion of one of the oldest and most notable Massachusetts families and a direct descendant of John Endecott, the first Governor of Massachusetts, William Crowninshield Endicott, Sr., was, most notably, Secretary of War in President Grover Cleveland’s First Administration from 1885 to 1889.

In 1888, at a ball at the British Embassy in Washington D.C., Endicott’s daughter, Mary, met, and, six weeks later married, the great British Statesman and politician, Joseph Chamberlain, who would serve as the head of the British Colonial Office (Secretary of State of the Colonies) at the height of the British Empire when Great Britain ruled a quarter of the world’s population.

Mary’s wedding to Joseph Chamberlain led her to becoming one the few people befriended by Queen Victoria in the later years of her widowhood. One Endicott family story is that Queen Victoria used to remark, and, perhaps even entered in her diary, that if she should ever visit America, the only place she wanted to see was Glen Magna Farms.

At the hub of British politics, as step mother of Austen Chamberlain who would serve as British Foreign Secretary in the 1920s (Austen was also a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize) and Neville Chamberlain who would serve as British Prime Minister in the 1930s, Mary would continue her friendship with the Royal family during the succeeding reigns of Edward VII, George V (who wished to bestow a peerage upon Mary – she declined), and Queen Elizabeth.

Mary and Joseph summered here at Glen Magna Farms a number of times. In fact, the formal garden enclosed by the hedge at the left of the Great Lawn was designed by Joseph and has since then borne the name of the Chamberlain Garden. It was in this garden that a failed assassination attempt was made upon Joseph by a radical Irishman opposed to the British policy in Ireland. It was recorded that the assassin, upon realizing that Mary was seated by Joseph on the garden bench, would not murder Joseph in the presence of his wife. Security personnel seized the assassin moments later. The bench remains in the garden to this day.

After Joseph’s death in 1914, Mary would continue to travel from London to stay at Glen Magna Farms numerous summers until her death, at the age of 93, in London, in 1957.

In 1896 John Singer Sargent painted Joseph Chamberlain’s portrait (now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery, London). In 1901, Sargent painted Ellen Peabody Endicott’s (Mary’s Mother, Mrs. William C. Endicott, Sr.) portrait, and, in 1902, Mary’s portrait (both portraits now hang in the National Gallery, Washington, D.C). In 1903 Sargent painted Mary’s Sister-in-Law Louise’s (Mrs. William C. Endicott, Jr.) portrait (now in a private collection). Sargent also painted a portrait (now in a private collection) of Mary’s husband, William C. Endicott, Jr.

The Mansion’s beautiful woodwork, including that carved by Samuel McIntire, as well as many of the fireplaces were taken as mementoes from other family properties and incorporated into the Mansion’s fabric over the years.

In 1814 the Old Fashioned Gardens in the Great Lawn off the veranda on the south side of the Mansion were designed and planted by one of America’s earliest and greatest landscape designers, the Alsatian, George Huessler.

In the 1890’s, in conjunction with the redesign and expansion of the Mansion, the driveways and walks were laid out by Frederick Law Olmstead (Olmstead, Olmstead and Eliot) the designer of Boston’s Emerald Necklace and New York City’s Central Park. Olmstead’s partner, Charles Eliot, the pioneering Massachusetts conservationist and founder of the Trustees of Reservations, rejuvenated the gardens with plantings of a variety of new annuals and perennials. The Arboretum and Shrubbery Gardens (beyond the onion domed gazebo) were designed by Joseph Chamberlain in consultation with Charles Sprague Sargent, the founder and first director of Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum.

The Gardens
A Chronicle of the historic and award winning Gardens and Grounds of Glen Magna Farms.

In 1926, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society awarded Ellen Peabody Endicott with the Hunnewell Gold Medal for the beautiful gardens of Glen Magna Farms. When you walk the 11 acres in 2017, the past still resonates with every fragrant blossom and with each step through the winding garden paths. Today at Glen Magna Farms, the horticulturist’s role is to restore the gardens to the 1920s landscape. One of the challenges and privileges of horticultural restoration is balancing past methods of gardening with the needs of a 21st century world.

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Restoration horticulture must be responsive to cultural concerns. For example, in recent years a movement has started to plant native species in our gardens and parks. This push of planting native species is in direct response to many of our old time favorite garden plants escaping cultivation and finding themselves on the invasive species list. One example is the oriental bittersweet, an ornamental garden plant from Asia planted in American gardens in 1879. The oriental bittersweet has become an invasive species and has spread outside cultivation into New England forest, out competing local flora. Another old-time favorite, growing in the Glen Magna Farms garden is Bishop’s weed. At one time this plant, from Eurasia, was considered a wonderful garden plant and was intentionally planted in American gardens. In todays garden it is considered an invasive exotic. To this day, it is a constant struggle to keep this one-time favorite garden plant from completely taking over the flower gardens at Glen Manga Farms.

New environmental concerns are now arising that must be faced. Horticulturists are well aware of our ever changing world, and our practices must be versatile to handle these changes. One current concern is water use in the garden. No longer is it possible, or wise, to garden with the mindset that water is a infinite resource.

A new horticultural restoration project has been underway at Glen Magna Farms for the past three years, prioritizing new cultural and environmental concerns while maintaining a strong link to the past. A simple method of putting this into practice has been creating a database of plants that are drought, disease, and insect tolerant, while also maintaining historical accuracy. With no surprise, many of these drought tolerant plants turn out to be native to North America. The use of soil building and on site materials, such as leaf mold and bark mulch, plays a key role in using less water (leaf mold can hold 500 times its own weight in water). Also the removal of invasive shrubs, trees, and vines will create new habitat for non-invasive plant species.

This horticultural restoration project is still underway at Glen Magna Farms and will be for many years to come. Horticulturists must be adaptable and creative to move with the cultural and environmental concerns of the future. With this changing world, the hope is that the garden will be a constant. A place of not only of sight, smell and touch, but also of feeling. A place to go back to again and again.
— Matthew Martin, Building & Grounds Restoration Manager

 

Events / Programs / Tours

Glen Magna Farms gardens & grounds, 29 Ingersoll Street, are open to the public from 9 AM until dusk, Monday – Friday. In addition, we are open Saturday and Sunday, 9 AM – Noon, unless closed for a private function.

The mansion and gardens are available for weddings and functions. Please call 978.774.9165 or visit glenmagnafarms.org for more information.

The interior of the Derby Summer House is not available for tours. Visitors are welcome to tour the Gardens from 9 AM until dusk, Monday – Friday. Saturday & Sunday from 9 AM to Noon, unless otherwise posted for a private event.

Suggested Admission: A $2.00 donation is appreciated for self-guided tours of the grounds only.

Seasonal group guided tours (20 or more) are available by appointment. Please call 978.774.9165 for reservations and prices.

Seasonal guided lunch tour (10 person minimum) of the Endicott mansion and gardens is offered May – October, and includes a boxed lunch. Reservations are required by the previous Friday. Please call 978.774.9165. The cost is $20 per person. Wednesdays only, 11 AM, rain or shine.

There are many other special events and tours going on at Glen Magna Farms—check them on our calendar!

 

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