Cape Cod Museum Trail – Highfield Hall and Gardens

Holidays at Highfield

By Chelsea Colson | Photos by Pat O’Connell

Holidays at Highfield a Cape Cod museum
Holidays at Highfield

One of Falmouth’s most treasured historical sites, Highfield Hall and Gardens is  one of Cape Cod’s most visited sites. The Hall and Gardens is a center of cultural and community life in Falmouth. Highfield has welcomed over 125,000 visitors since opening in 2006 after 5 years of renovation. One of the most interesting features of Highfield is it’s extravagant history.

Fairy Houses on a Rock Wall
Fairy Houses on a rock wall.

Highfield Hall and Gardens’ rich history begins with its construction. It was one of the earliest summer mansions on Cape Cod and was built by the Beebe family of Boston in 1878. It is one of the few remaining examples of Stick-style Queen Anne architecture in the Northeast. At the time of its construction, the mansion was one of the first expansive summer retreats on the Cape and was surrounded by park-like gardens, a stable, carriage trails, a caretakers cottage and almost 700 acres of woodlands.

James Beebes, one of Boston’s merchant princes, gifted the funds for his children to create and live in the home. While residing in Falmouth, Pierson, Franklin, and Emily Beebe lived lavishly. Servants quarters were located on the upper floor.  The servants assisted the siblings when they threw many extravagant parties on the property. In 1932, Franklin Beebe James’ only surviving child, passed away, leaving no heirs to the Beebe fortune and estate.

Beebe Woods Conservancy nature trails.
Beebe Woods Conservancy nature trails.

After being bought and sold several times, the estate had been transformed and re-purposed from a private home into a hotel. In 1972 Josephine and Josiah Lilly purchased the entire estate and generously donated the nearly 400 acres of Beebe Woods to the town for permanent conservation as green space. The local arts organization received the buildings and acreage around the mansion. Unfortunately for two decades, the property was vandalized and neglected until 1994. At that time, Highfield Hall Inc. saved the property from demolition. After several years of wrangling to keep the building standing, Town Meeting Members authorized Falmouth Selectmen to lease the property to Historic Highfield. In 2001, $8.5 million was raised through donations to renovate the hall and the 6 surrounding acres. Private individuals made a majority of the donations. The funds went towards replacing the roof, repairing the foundation, repairing, flooring, windows and doors. In September 2006, Highfield Hall had its grand reopening when the 1st floor was completed. By April 2007, the Hall’s 2nd and 3rd floors were completed and the building finally was fully renovated. The landscape restoration came after, lasting from 2010 – 2012.

Now that you’ve learned the summary of Highfield Hall & Gardens’ intricate history, it’s time to come back to the present. “Arts on the Hill”, a collective of non-profits that operate the estate, hosts a variety of classes, lectures, theatre presentations, concerts and gallery shows.  They also offer estate tours. Visitors can stop by to browse the current art shows or visit when there is a theatre show scheduled. When the weather is permitting one can take advantage of Beebe Woods and enjoy a calming nature walk. Two of the most recent additions are the restored “Sunken Garden”, a cutting garden and a labyrinth.

On your next visit to the Palmer House Inn, make sure you don’t miss this Falmouth treasure. It is a short 3 minute drive up the hill, or a 13 minute walk from the Inn.

www.highfieldhallandgardens.org


Cape Cod's Stowe Room, A
Harriet Beecher Stowe room
Cape Cod's Emily Dickinson Room Five
Cape Cod’s Emily Dickinson Room Five

While all of our guest rooms have their own charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day exploring gardens and Cape Cod museums, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room, the Theodore Roosevelt room or the Emily Dickinson room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, jacuzzi-style tubs and a relaxing stay before and after your day.

Highfield Holidays

Doll Collection

Highfield Holidays and the Palmer House Tree

Doll Collection
Doll Collection
Highfield for the Holidays
Highfield for the Holidays

This year’s Holiday exhibition at Highfield Hall features dolls from around the world. Although the dolls are owned by different people, most of them belong to Mary Lou O’Rourke. Ellen McLaughlin a relative, began the collection almost sixty years ago. It represents three generations of collectors. Ellen started the collection when she was a young woman teaching abroad. Throughout her life, as she traveled the world, she added to the collection. She visited over one hundred and twenty countries. The dolls come from every continent and each doll is labeled with the name of its country of origin. I found many of them to be easily identifiable even without the labels. There is an entire Asian doll section and all of the European countries are represented. Much of the clothing is intricately designed. The hairstyles, jewelry, shoes, buttons and fabrics are very detailed and appropriate to each region. As one might expect, there are a variety of dolls that represent each region of the United States.  One of my favorites is an Amish doll without facial features. She is dressed in the classic Amish bonnet and smock. In addition there is a lovely African-American doll with intricately sculpted facial features.

In addition to the doll display there is also an extensive decorative Santa collection. A number of Falmouth residence have combined their collections to create this impressive display. The exhibit combines more than one hundred Santa Claus figures that vary in size, shape and color.

Deirdre's Doll Ornament
Deirdre’s Doll Ornament

It is difficult to believe but this is Highfield Hall’s eighth holiday season. Each year it becomes more extensive and more beautiful. Since the first year Bill Hendel’s extraordinary cheche display has been presented. In addition there is a gift shop filled with hand crafted items. That is where the grandmother in me comes out. There is also a little tea shop where one can stop and enjoy a hot drink and freshly baked pastries.

Each Christmas season at the Palmer House Inn, I unpack our family Christmas treasures. We have dolls and toys that belonged to Bill and me when we were children and of course we have toys that belong to our daughters and grandchildren. There is a spinning top and a jack-in the-box from the 1950’s and Cabbage Patch dolls from the 1980’s. When it was time to distribute the items from my parents house, some of the items that I chose were my grandmother’s cookie cutters. I decided to make tree ornaments out of them. I tied burgundy ribbon around the handles and hang them on the tree. There is one doll that I particularly enjoy finding a special spot. When our youngest daughter, Deirdre was five, I gave this doll to her because she looked so much like her. When I place the doll on the tree each year, the memories of our dear little girl, who has become a wonderful woman, fill my head. Our middle daughter Lauren is a designer and one could see that in her future by looking at the intricate ornaments she created. I think of her making the beautiful cut and folded paper designs as I place them on the tree.  We also still have the first ornament that we gave to our oldest daughter on her first Christmas. These are the reasons that Christmas has always had a special time at our home.

Highfield Hall is located just a short walk from the Palmer House Inn. They have many festive events planned for the holiday season.


Cape Cod's Stowe Room, A
Harriet Beecher Stowe room
Cape Cod's Roosevelt Room, B
Cape Cod’s Roosevelt Room, B

While all of our rooms have their own individual charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day of holiday adventures on Cape Cod, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room, the Theodore Roosevelt room or the Emily Dickinson room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, jacuzzi-style tubs and a relaxing stay before and after your day.

Cape Portals and Passageways Exhibit

Gypsy's Staircase by Amy Ragus, part of the Portals & Passagways Exhibit at Highfield Hall through September 2014, in Falmouth, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA.

The Cape Portals & Passageways Exhibit is an environmental sculpture and art exhibition on display at Highfield Hall and Gardens through September.

Cape portals and passageways exhibit - Gypsy's Staircase
Cape Portals & Passagways Exhibit at Highfield Hall.

The show features the art of twenty-five artists from this region.The installations include a variety of disciplines that include fiber art, landscape design, bronze sculpture, glass blowing, painting and photography. The exhibit is a walking tour that starts inside the mansion and continues outside through the grounds.

Linda Hoffman’s “Tree Om” was the inspiration for the show and can be viewed on the lawn. Alfie Glover’s twelve-foot tall aluminum sculpture, ” The spirits of the Garden” can be seen in the center of the sunken garden in front of Highfield Hall.

One of the most interesting sculptures is the “Fragment House”. It is a small steel framed house and its walls are made of sea glass that is woven with wire.

Celestial Passage Walking Labyrinth:” Spirit, Space and Time” comes next. The creator and installer is Dan DiNardo who is Highfield’s director of facilities. It is located behind the mansion and it is forty feet in diameter and is a meditative walking labyrinth that is based on the geometry of the classic seven-circuit labyrinth and is complete with hewn wood seats placed at the four compass points. The seats were created by tree specialist Matt Inman in collaboration with David Chapman. Inman also created a large-scale arbor of woven sticks.

“Crystal Vision Earth Portal” was created by Cynthia Rose. It is nestled on the grounds on the “Beach Tree Path” and provides a haven for renewal and reflection. The circular rock formation with accents of crystal is designed to promote contemplation and recognition of the earth’s energy that is released through this portal.

Angela Tanner created, “A wind in the Door”. It is designed to be a fairy tale door that announces the presence of things unseen. When the door is open it allows humans and other earthly creatures to pass. When it is closed fairies and spirits and other wind born creatures can move through it. The doors panels tinkle and shimmer as evidence of their presence. The garden gate leads to the “Rhodie Dell”.

Jon Moore, a photographer who created a portal to the past. He applied vintage images of the Beebe family to stones along the path of “Rhodie Dell” for his installation titled “Spirits in the Stones, Past Presence”.

Gypsy's Staircase by Amy Ragus, part of the Portals & Passagways Exhibit at Highfield Hall through September 2014, in Falmouth, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA.
Gypsy’s Staircase by Amy Ragus.

Connecting Tanner’s gate and  Moor’s “Past Presence” is the beautiful stone “Gypsy’s Staircase” that was designed by Amy Ragus.

In the “Rhodie Dell”, is  the very lovely, “Water study in Silk and White Pine” by Sarah Peters and “Asylum Grove”  by John Cira.

After the “Rhodie Dell”, viewers enter the “West Garden” where they are told that they  “Only Have to Change Utterly to Enter “. There they walk under Sally Mavor’s “Hither and Yon” sculpture and on to the “Beach Tree Path”. There they see “Whose Woods These Are”, by Andrea Tompson,  “Pan’s Portico” by Ben Silva and “Invasives” by Basia Goszczynska.

This is an enchanting show and one only needs his or her imagination to enjoy it completely.

The Cape Portals and Passageways Exhibit can be found at:

Highfield Hall (5 minute walk from the Palmer House Inn)
56 Highfield Dr, Falmouth, MA 02540
tel. (508) 495-1878
www.highfieldhall.org

 


Cape Cod's Roosevelt Room, B
Cape Cod’s Roosevelt Room, B
Cape Cod's Emily Dickinson Room Five
Cape Cod’s Emily Dickinson Room Five

While all of the bedchambers at the Palmer House have their own charming retreat before and after the most wonderful day of adventures exploring the portals and passageways of Cape Cod, we recommend the Emily Dickinson roomthe Harriet Beecher Stowe room, or the Theodore Roosevelt room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, cozy fireplaces, and soothing jacuzzi-style tubs for a relaxing stay before and after your day.