The Wellesley Conservation Council on Thursday April 28 at 7:30pm will host a powerpoint lecture The Baker Estate – “Fairyland of the Beautiful and Bizarre” by Gloria Polizzotti Greis, Executive Director of the Needham Historical Society. Gloria will talk about the history of the Baker Estate and illustrate her lecture with the extensive collection of Baker Estate photos in the Needham Historical Society.
In the 1860s, William Emerson Baker retired from his sewing machine business with a vast fortune and purchased nearly 800 acres in Needham – the famous Ridge Hill Farms. Widely regarded as America’s first amusement park, Ridge Hill Farms embodied Baker’s extraordinary passion for social and economic reform, experimental agriculture, bad puns and practical jokes. Every attraction had its sharp point – and he used it to needle politicians, soldiers, scientists, and priests. After Baker’s death, several attempts were made to keep the attractions going; but fires and lack of funds eventually doomed the effort, and today there are few traces left of Baker’s “Fairyland of the Beautiful and Bizarre.”
Today Guernsey Sanctuary, a 25 acre woodland maintained in its natural state, is a part of the original Baker Estate. Guernsey Sanctuary was a gift to the Wellesley Conservation Council in 1961 by Mr. and Mrs. William G. Guernsey.