Canton connections abound at Eustis Estate

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The Eustis Estate in Milton is now open to the public for tours. (Rick Haddad photo)

The Eustis Estate in Milton is now open to the public for tours. (Rick Haddad photo)

Since opening to the public in May, the historic Eustis Estate in Milton has received a lot of attention. Amanda Crabb, museum shop sales clerk said, “People are excited about it. They have been driving past it for years.” The new Blue Hills area destination has also been the focus of media stories, including by WCVB’s Chronicle, the Boston Herald, and Boston Magazine.

It’s easy to see why interest level in this Gilded Age mansion is so high. Built of multi-colored stones and sporting a red-tiled roof, the house is a commanding hillside presence, easily spotted from Canton Avenue. Its Victorian eclectic design with arches, gables, and six chimneys also help draw attention.

What isn’t so obvious is that the house has several connections to Canton. Timberline Construction on Pine Street was chosen to execute renovation work on the house after it was purchased by Historic New England in 2012 from Freddie Eustis, a descendant of the original owners. The house had been lived in continuously since it was built, so it was in good condition. But work was needed in order to make it ready for members of the public to visit and also to restore it to its 1870s appearance, which included extensive re-painting.

There is also a historic connection to Canton. The house was built in 1878 as a home for W.E.C. Eustis, his wife, Edith Hemenway Eustis, and their children. Edith’s brother, Augustus Hemenway, would go on to become a well-known Massachusetts legislator and philanthropist who donated not only the grounds and original wing of the Canton Public Library in 1901 but also the original Canton High School in 1911. (Other beneficiaries of Hemenway’s many philanthropic donations included Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts.) Hemenway also served for a time on the Canton School Committee.

Three successive Eustis generations called the Milton estate home before Freddie Eustis sold it. With the estate just over the border with Canton, it isn’t surprising that there are Canton residents with ties to the family. A recent bus tour to the estate was led by one such Canton man. Peter Pineo said that his mother had known Freddie Eustis at Milton Academy, and she and his father attended class reunions at the Eustis Estate.

Pineo himself has a strong interest in historic houses and leads groups of people on motorcoach tours as tour director for American Landscape Tours, a spin-off of American Landscape, a division of Sharon View Nursery.

Several Canton residents joined Peter Pineo on the most recent American Landscape tour. Pictured from left to right are Carol Gomes, Ginger Berenson, Beverly Ritz, Linda Fortin, Peter Pineo, Jan Hagan, Ann Cameron, and Helen McHowell. Missing from photo: Peter and Bobbi Bright (Rick Haddad photo)

Several Canton residents joined Peter Pineo on the most recent American Landscape tour. Pictured from left to right are Carol Gomes, Ginger Berenson, Beverly Ritz, Linda Fortin, Peter Pineo, Jan Hagan, Ann Cameron, and Helen McHowell. Missing from photo: Peter and Bobbi Bright (Rick Haddad photo)

Visitors to the Eustis Estate are able to wander over the 80 acres that currently make up the property. (Originally 250 acres, the estate was reduced when a significant portion was taken by eminent domain for the Blue Hills Reservation in 1893.) Among the features of the property are the gatehouse, the powerhouse, a pond, an orchard, perennial gardens, and an enormous copper beech tree marking the main door. The estate originally included additional outbuildings such as a green house and several farm-related structures.

Inside the building, visitors are also free to explore and even sit down as most of the furniture is old but not historic and therefore available for use — not roped off as is typically done in historic buildings. The house was designed by William Ralph Emerson, prominent Boston architect and distant cousin of the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. The interior is highly patterned, with parquet floors, stained glass windows, richly carved woodwork, and tiled fireplaces. Some of its distinctive details were likely the result of W.E.C. Eustis’ wide-ranging interests. He designed the gatehouse himself, and as a mining engineer, he was an early adopter of new technology, such as a wind turbine to generate electricity. The house also used radiant tile heating and pocket doors and storm windows.

Beyond the artful design of the building and its interior, there are changing exhibitions. The current one features more than 100 pieces of jewelry from Historic New England’s collection. Visitors will also find that the estate offers a peaceful oasis from busy suburbia. Its location at the foot of the Blue Hills and acres of lawns edged by wide meadows create a buffer zone, making it seem much farther than it is from the road and even from life in 2017.

For more information, visit the Eustis Estate Museum page at www.historicnewengland.org.

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