The Trustees of Reservations Week, The Splendor of the Crane Estate

In 1949, the descendants of plumbing magnate Richard Crane bestowed their entire 2100-acre estate in Ipswich, 30 miles north of Boston in Cape Ann, to the Trustees of Reservations.  This includes their 59-room Stuart-style mansion, the grounds designed by none other than the Olmsted brothers, a 4.5-mile stretch of Atlantic beach, and a ten-room 19th century cottage and connected tavern which is now the Inn at Castle Hill. Unlike the unheralded properties I visited yesterday, the Crane Estate is the crown jewel of the Trustees sites, especially Crane Beach, beloved by New Englanders.

House tours of the Great House on Castle Hill start today for the season. Already there are 70 weddings booked this summer. Once you tour the house and then peer down at the undulating Grand Allee, a sweeping half-mile long front lawn that leads to bluffs overlooking Crane Beach, you’ll want to be married here too. The Trustees does an exemplary job recreating the exact look of the estate when Richard Crane lived here in its heyday in the roaring 20s. A portrait of Richard Crane’s father, painted by Anders Zorn, is the latest addition, thanks to the generosity of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Also look for the symbolist paintings by Richard’s daughter-in-law that hang in his son’s room.
The grounds have never looked better, thanks to the replanting of Norway spruce, white pine, and cedar trees along the Grand Allee. New this summer is work on the Casino, a marble-studded pool that hasn’t seen the light of day since the acquisition. Even if you don’t get married here, take a house tour, walk the grounds, and stay for a Thursday night concert. This summer’s performers include Latin music from Grupo Fantasia and rock by The Fools.
Better yet, spend the night just below the Great House at the Inn at Castle Hill. Few inns in America can look out from their wraparound porch onto miles of uninterrupted salt marsh and beach and call it their own. Overstuffed couches rest on polished pine floors in front of two grand fireplaces.  Walk upstairs past the whimsical trompe l’oeil painting and sunlit window seats and you’ll reach rooms like Cornelius (Richard’s son), with its custom-made king-size bed and sweeping view of the coastline.
Breakfast, included in the price, uses the eggs and milk farmed just down the road at the Trustees’ 1000-acre Appleton Farms. Open to the public, Appleton is the oldest continuously operating farm, in existence since 1638. Stroll or horseback ride on grassy trails past rows of veggies to the Appleton Old House. Both Appleton Old House and the Great House on the Crane Estate are part of the Trustees’ Free Home Sweet Home Open House Tour taking place on May 31st. Or consider taking a cooking class at Appleton, including cheesemaking, fish cookery, or gluten-free living.
Guests spending the night at Inn at Castle Hill also receive a voucher to visit Crane Beach. Go at sunrise or sunset, before the crowds arrive or after they leave. Walk the white crescent sand at your leisure and appreciate the incredible gift the Crane family gave to the people of Massachusetts. This is philanthropy at its best.