Yesterday, a perfectly sparkling September Sunday, we hiked around the Coolidge Reservation in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, encompassing 66 acres on the Atlantic on a point that looks back (south, west) on both Salem and Boston, and Cape Cod beyond. Owned, operated, and opened to the public by the venerable Trustees of Reservations, the reservation encompasses two parcels of land: Bungalow Hill, offering woodland and vista, and the expanse of “Ocean Lawn” on Coolidge Point, where the Coolidge family’s grand mansion once stood, facing the sea. In between there is Clarke Pond, once stagnant but now re-opened to the sea (and stocked with mosquito-eating fish called mummichog–why don’t we have them in every body of water?) by the Trustees.
From the pond it is an easy walk to the point, which was acquired by Thomas Jefferson Coolidge, the great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson, in 1871 for the site of a summer residence. His son replaced the first Coolidge summer house, apparently a simple clapboard structure, with a “Marble Palace”, designed by Charles McKim and completed in 1904. Not to be confused with the Vanderbilt’s Marble House in Newport (much less the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg), Marble Palace was a brick Georgian structure embellished with marble foundation and columns–it was visited by such luminaries as Presidents Taft, Roosevelt (Teddy), and Wilson and Prince Olav of Norway, but replaced (again) by a smaller building after World War II. This house was torn down in the late 1980s, leaving Ocean Lawn free of human constructions (except for an old fire hydrant): the Coolidge Family donated the property to the Trustees in the early 1990s, though at least one member lives nearby and the family’s presence is also maintained by the adjacent Thomas Jefferson Memorial Center.
Ocean Lawn, Coolidge Point, with only the surviving fire hydrant and an outline of the Marble Palace foundation. The front (seaside) and back entrance of Marble Palace, remains on the rocks, the view of Kettle Island, the modern house next door, looking north (east), the view to the south (west).
September 16th, 2013 at 7:35 am
This is one of our favorite hikes and when I read your title I just knew that it was going to be about the Coolidge Reservation. I always feel like it’s absolutely beautiful but I have a strange sense of loss when I’m there. I think the outline of the house foundation causes it. Your photos are wonderful and I enjoyed seeing the homes that once stood in that beautiful place.
September 16th, 2013 at 7:37 am
It does have that feeling–I know just what you mean! Even before you get to the foundation outline.
September 16th, 2013 at 8:24 am
Very enjoyable Donna. Walked it easily alongside you!
September 16th, 2013 at 9:08 am
Looks very nice!
September 16th, 2013 at 5:43 pm
But why did they keep tearing down the houses? c
September 16th, 2013 at 6:26 pm
A great question! I don’t really know, but I suspect Coolidge Jr. wanted bigger and grander, and then that house became too big and too grand.
September 18th, 2013 at 7:43 am
Lovely! When I was growing up my cousins lived across the street and we used to run over to play on that big lawn with the mansion foundations. What a great memory. I haven’t been there in years. There used to be wild swans on the pond, and we avoided them when they had cygnets- very nasty protectors!