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The Crane Estate in Ipswich, Massachusetts, is comprised of three properties encompassing more than 2,100 acres. On this day, my focus was on the property known as Castle Hill – a National Historic Landmark upon which proudly stands The Great House.
The Great House
Sitting high above the Atlantic Ocean, The Great House stands majestically. Just as impressive are the 165 acres collectively known as Castle Hill. The incredible beauty of this location is continually displayed through the attention to detail. From the 17th Century Stuart style architecture of the 59-room mansion, to the rolling landscape and historic gardens, a visual feast exists. Expansive views include not only Crane Beach, but also the sandy shore of Plum Island’s Parker River National Wildlife Refuge across Ipswich Bay. It’s no wonder The Great House is a popular venue for weddings and corporate events.
The Great House is just as spectacular indoors as it is outdoors. In addition to period antiques, features include a grand staircase, a rotunda with painted ceiling, ornate woodcarvings and Italian marble. Needless to say, a guided tour is certainly not to be missed!
2012 Guided Tours Schedule:
May 23 – October 13
Wednesdays – Thursdays | 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Fridays – Saturdays | 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM (except July 4th)
Adults $12, Child $5 (8 years old min.)
Trustees of the Reservations Members: Free
The Grand Allée
Perhaps the most breathtaking landscape feature of Castle Hill is the Grand Allée. Measuring 2,060 feet in length and 100 feet wide, this “rolling carpet” leads visitors from the stately mansion to the scenic ocean vistas.
Statues & Accent Pieces
A stroll along the Grand Allée is never a lonely journey. The many statues standing tall along the way are always there to greet you and guide your way. Decorative accents adorn the walls and gardens.
Every detail and its placement has been carefully considered along the landscape. At the end of the Grand Allée, the ocean views delight. A cozy bench awaits your arrival, beckoning you to kick back, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the scenery.
Stone Structures & Outbuildings
In addition to the Great House, the Crane Estate at Castle Hill also features 21 outbuildings. Many of these buildings are attached to the stone walls surrounding the estate.
Step Into History
Clearly showcasing the estate’s historic past are gates such as these that seem to transition time before your eyes.
Hollywood Come Calling
Perhaps you’ve already seen the Crane Estate at Castle Hill without even realizing it. According to the Massachusetts Film Office, the location was used for filming on several well known projects that included “The Next Karate Kid” in 1993 and “The Witches of Eastwick” in 1986. Reportedly, a turn-of-the-century television pilot for ABC is currently being filmed there now.
Castle Hill is home to some diverse wildlife. From time to time deer and foxes my cross your path. Turn your eyes to the sky and a turkey vulture or red-tailed hawk may soar by. One thing I learned upon exiting the Crane Estate at Castle Hill is to keep an eye on the salt marsh and tall grass along the side of the road. You never know who might be a part of the scenery.
With an early spring knocking on our door, the grounds and gardens of the Crane Estate at Castle Hill will be flourishing before you know it. It’s hard to believe this was all built as a summer retreat for the Crane family back in the 1920s. If you’ve never been here, I suggest you add it to your list of “Places To Visit.” It truly is a sight to see.
~ Liz Mackney
Thacher Island is a 50-acre wonderland located approximately 30 miles north of Boston and one mile off the coast of Rockport, Massachusetts. Home to the nation’s last operating twin lighthouses, Thacher Island dedicates its northern 22-acres to the Thacher Island National Wildlife Refuge. With two majestic 124-foot granite lighthouses, migratory birds, scenic trails, boardwalk, picnic and camping areas, and even a helipad, Thacher Island is yours to explore all summer long.
Thacher Island is a shared treasure. The North Tower Lighthouse stands on refuge property that is owned and operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, while the South Tower Lighthouse and its keepers’ dwellings, small structures, Boat House and landing ramp are located on property owned by the Town of Rockport.
Known as the Cape Ann Light Station, Thacher Island was recently designated a National Historic Landmark.
Visitors are welcome to come and explore Thacher Island, rich with cultural, historical and scenic enjoyment. Full-time volunteer keepers reside on the island from June to October and are happy to interact with guests.
Access to Thacher Island is by boat only. A boat ramp is available on the west side of the island. Beginning June 1 (weather permitting), the Thacher Island Association offers boat rides out to the island from Rockport Harbor on Wednesday (9:00am and returning at 1:00pm) and Saturday mornings (8:00, 9:00 and 10:00am; returning 11:00, 12 noon and 1:00pm). These free trips run through September 10 and leave from Rockport Harbor’s T-Wharf. The boat to the island is limited to 12 passengers and requires a reservation. You can make one by calling the island keepers at 617-599-2590.
Kayakers and boaters are also encouraged to visit on their own. Moorings for boaters have been installed. Camping is allowed, but requires a reservation.
“Art & Photo Days on Thacher Island”
Every year, artists and photographers receive special treatment with an event called “Art & Photo Days on Thacher Island.” This year the event takes place on Saturday, August 6, and Wednesday, August 10.
On these days, the Thacher Island Association provides three trips each day at 8:00, 9:00, and 10:00am, returning at 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00pm. Both days also feature a special 4:00am trip for those photographers wanting to catch the sunrise on Thacher Island!
There is a donation for this special event of $25.00. This covers the boat ride out to Thacher Island, as well as beverages for the day. Reservations are required for this event and, beginning June 1, can be made by calling 978-546-2250.
Artists and photographers are also welcome to participate in the “Thacher Island Association Art & Photo Show & Sale” taking place September 1 – 5 at the Rockport Community House. For entry details, call 978-546-2250.
One more thing… If you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to visit Thacher Island this summer, keep your eyes open. You never know when you might run into a real life “Old Man and the Sea.”
~ Liz Mackney