This story originally appeared in Northshore magazine in September 2021.
In 1915, writer Ellery Sedgwick and his wife Mabel bought a 114-acre parcel atop a hill in Beverly. The first thing they did was plant a purple beech at the center of the property, a signal of their determination to turn the land from a patchwork of cow pastures into a welcoming summer home surrounded by scenic vistas and inspired gardens.
Today, the beech tree is a towering presence, with thick gray roots rippling out of the ground, practically begging children to come play in the shade. And the farmland surrounding it has transformed as well, becoming over the past century an idyllic estate featuring orchards, meadows, rambling gardens, formal plantings, and wooded trails.
Last summer, Long Hill, which is now owned by the Trustees of Reservations, took another step in its ongoing evolution, debuting an outdoor wedding venue, adding new formal gardens, and opening the historic home to visitors. It’s all part of an effort by the Trustees to shine a light on a property that has been something of a hidden gem in the organization’s portfolio.
“It is a really tremendous and very special property,” says Long Hill director Jared Bowers. “There’s lots to see and do here.”
When the Sedgwick family bought the property, Ellery was well known as the editor of the renowned Atlantic Monthly (today known simply as The Atlantic). But, says Cindy Brockway, director of cultural resources for the Trustees, the story of Long Hill really belongs to his wives: first Mabel, an accomplished horticulturist, and later Marjorie, a rare plants expert.
Mabel, the author of the 1907 book The Garden Month by Month, envisioned a landscape that merged formal gardening with native and wild growth.
“Her idea was to build a garden underneath and within the landscape that was already there,” Brockway says. “That’s why it’s hard to tell where the garden ends and the woods begin.”
The Trustees acquired Long Hill in 1976, and the property served as the headquarters of the organization until four years ago. Because of its administrative function, the property was not heavily promoted to visitors, though those who discovered it quickly became devotees of the wooded paths and lush, meandering gardens.
Over the past two years, the Trustees have executed major renovations and restorations—both indoors and out—intended to turn the property into a more prominent destination and a resource for gardeners of all levels.
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