Sunday Drive: The Inn at Castle Hill – Taking the Road Less Traveled
This past weekend, four generations of the Wilson/Kelsey clan gathered at the Inn at Castle Hill in Ipswich for a weekend of fun and relaxation.
The weather was so delightful, much of it was spent on the Inn’s large wrap around porch that overlooks the backside of Crane Beach and island.
While many of you may have visited Castle Hill to see the beautiful summer home and grand allée designed by David Adler for the Crane family, on this visit my objectives were different – jettison the car and walk.
But before we walk together, let’s spend a few moments at the Inn. The Crane family purchased the property in 1910, ultimately accumulating 2,100 acres of land including Choate Island, located in the salt marshes behind Castle Island. The family lived in the inn (known as the Brown House) while the estate was being built on the top of the hill. Two structures were actually built, the first being done in the Italianate style. David Adler was retained to design both the exterior and interior of the second English style structure we see today. The family continued to occupy the inn thru the 1950’s. Ultimately, much of the property was deeded to the Trustees of Reservations. In 1998, the Ipswich based architectural firm, Carpenter MacNeill, was retained to help guide the renovation and conversion of the Brown House into a small luxury inn. It’s accommodations are wonderfully warm and elegant. Listen carefully, you can hear echoes of the house’s rich history.
The cozy lounge. We would all linger here in front of the warm fire after returning from dinner.
It’s welcoming foyer.
The view toward the sunny breakfast room.
The breakfast room.
But as I said, my objective was to walk slowly to see what the grounds revealed. Honestly, I only scratched it’s surface…
I began by following the resident flock of turkeys as they crossed the yard in front of the Inn.
When you follow a flock of turkeys, you definitely slow down…
I found myself admiring the root structure of several old, old beech trees, thinking, “There’s a custom rug here.”
The tree’s folds of bark reminded me of the skin of a wise old elephant and I thought,”If this tree could talk, the stories it could tell.”
I found myself on my hands and knees, admiring tiny fall asters in all their glory.
The counterpoints to the detail and intimacy were the vistas that would slowly unfold before my eyes, the change in scale making them all the more beautiful and breath-taking.
Fox Creek behind the Hill. (I’ve had some amazing striped bass fishing in this little creek in the spring.)
Overlooking the old garden plot and farm buildings.
The garden called to me and I heeded it’s call. Aspects of the garden reminded me of Ashintully Gardens and Naumkeag, other Trustees of Reservations properties Sally and I had visited earlier in the summer. Note the trellis on the right and small tower structure in the far right corner of the garden.
Loved the rustic stone cobble columns!
The trellis was made of cedar trees, carefully trimmed to fit. Note the copper cap on the column. Such attention to detail!!!
The small niche in the top of the back wall receive/hold the cedar logs in their proper place.
Of course, there is a fountain!!!
The old Lion’s head… Such wonderful patina!!!
At each end of the Garden were towers built into the garden’s retaining wall. I’m sure back in the day, they afforded spectacular views of the surrounding country side.
Tower stair… Elegant in it’s functionality and simplicity.
Mmmm, rustic gate and hinges…
The trail continued to beckon and tease…
The Italian Gardens are currently under restoration.
I was drawn to the play of light and shadow on the trellis.
Across the road, the Rose Garden awaits it’s return to former glory.
Take the time to look closely. Close your eyes… Smell the roses…
Just around the corner, you cross the property’s Grand Allée that leads to the ocean. Look to the right, tucked into the hillside is the restored Casino. Earlier in the summer Sally and I attended the kick off concert for Castle Hill’s resurrected Summer Concert Series in the Casino. Wonderful, intimate, romantic. We will do more next year. Originally, where you see grass in the middle, there was a swimming pool and grass was where the stone walk way is today. The cost of that portion of the restoration was prohibitive… It must have been magnificent!
I leave you with the beautiful picture Sally took, looking back over her shoulder after walking the same circuit I had done. The sun shining gloriously, fall foliage coming into it’s prime. Food for the Soul…
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