Oh, the joy of discovering a historic property! Castle Hill, located in Ipswich, Mass., and originally situated on 2,000 acres, probably is one of the grandest of the grand homes built during the end of the Gilded Age. It has been beautifully preserved, thanks to The Trustees of Reservations.
Interestingly, this is not the first grand home on this property. Richard Teller Crane Jr. purchased the property in 1910 as a summer residence to add to his family’s real-estate portfolio that already included a townhouse in Chicago and a mansion on Jekyll Island, Georgia.
Crane built an Italian villa-style home designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge of Boston. As one of the titans of industry of his time, the immense wealth came from the family business, Crane Co., an industrial manufacturer of various brass fittings and more commonly known for being the leader in plumbing supply fixtures until 1990.
It was after the completion of this first home that Mrs. Crane told her husband it was “the Italian fiasco.” Florence Crane wanted the home torn down and a new one built that would be more fitting for the area. Richard, who actually enjoyed his Italianate mansion, promised his wife that if after 10 years she still did not like it, he would bulldoze the home and build whatever she wanted…and so it goes…
Enter David Adler, a leading architect to the carriage trade who hailed from the Chicago area, where he had perfected the design of the English Country house for the wealthy. He designed the house of Florence’s dreams, a 59-room Stuart-style mansion with all the latest conveniences.
W. & J. Sloane of New York executed a great deal of the interior work. Being able to afford the best meant having the ‘opportunity’ to save interiors from country houses in England—such as Cassiobury House and a 1732 London townhouse—and have them installed at Castle Hill.
Of course, the family’s successful plumbing business afforded them bathrooms that were beyond opulent. Many of the baths were of the Art Deco theme—a diversion from the classical interiors throughout the rest of the home, but the result was so show-stopping, one hardly notices. Marble walls, imported tiles and sterling silver faucets all harmonized together to make each bathroom an individual work of art.
The exterior grounds were originally built by renowned landscapers of the time, the Olmstead Brothers. When the new house was constructed, much of the original flora and fauna remained untouched, and complimented the new architecture.
The grand allee—the only one of its size still existing in North America—rolls from the rear of the home to the sea. A renovation was completed in 2012, bringing it back to its original glory. More than 700 trees were removed and replaced with new spruce and pine trees; and in order to be ‘green,’ the old trees were recycled, chipped or composted and used in this project when possible.
Sadly, Richard passed away in 1931, and only enjoyed his wife’s dream home for three years. Florence continued to live in the home up until her death in 1949.
For more information, visit thetrustees.org.