The newly minted 2nd year Fellows traveled to Massachusetts for this year’s Longwood Graduate Program North American Experience. Our first night was spent in the picturesque seaside city of New Bedford, former whaling port, and home to the largest Portuguese-American population in the US. The next morning we set off for Westport Town Farm, one of the ten Trustees of Reservations properties we are visiting on this tour.
The beautiful esturine landscape of Westport Town Farm belies its poignant history, the place having been a ‘poor farm’, an asylum for the poor and destitute, for nearly 100 years. The extensive stone walls that cross the estate’s meadow lands are testament to the backbreaking work of generations of farmers who cleared the rocky land for cropping and grazing. These days, a farmer’s market is held every Saturday during the warmer months, helping to forge new connections with the local farming community and residents of the Westport Town area.
Just up the road from Westport Town Farm is the most recent addition to the Trustees of Reservations portfolio, the Allen C. Haskell Public Gardens. The Gardens are the former nursery and garden of well-known horticulturist and designer Allen C. Haskell, offering six acres of precious green space in the city of New Bedford. The Garden is obviously a plantsman’s garden, with a striking range of Hosta, Acer and Magnolia, as well as eye-catching variegated plants contrasting with an array of purple beeches and other assorted woody perennials and trees.
The Master Plan for the Gardens includes plans for a Growing Program, aiming to engage the surrounding community in local food production. It is hoped that its 30,000 square feet of greenhouse space can be utilized to some extent in this endeavor. Meanwhile, the massive task of cataloging the living collection, the artifacts, and the building structures continues.
The last stop for the day was the Archives and Research Center, The Trustees of Reservations’ new facility, which supports research across the organization’s 114 places and specialist storage for archives, objects, and artifacts. A wealth of information about the history of the Trustees of Reservations and its properties is held in the documents, letters, photographs, maps, plans, books, scrapbooks, and ephemera contained within the Archives.
The property now housing the Archives was once a farm, becoming the Sharon Sanatorium for Pulmonary Diseases in 1891. Patients with tuberculosis were exposed to the ‘good clean country air’ that was thought to be so essential in the healing process, until antibiotics were discovered and TB could be cured with a course of penicillin. In the early 1950’s the property became a whaling museum, and in 2007 was gifted to the Trustees.
Day one of our North American Experience was completed with an overnight stay in Boston, and a growing appreciation of the work of the Trustees of Reservations in the State of Massachusetts.