Remembrances of the Hunnewell estates in Wellesley

A few years back, Mrs. Swellesley took a tour of the Hunnewell Estate on Rte. 16 in Wellesley (“A rare peek inside Hunnwell Estate in Wellesley”), and what do you know, 3 years later we got this great comment from a former resident of one of the homes.

Hunnewell mansion, 2015
Hunnewell Mansion 

It was enjoyable to read the description of Ms. Brown’s visit to the Hunnewell estate in Wellesley, MA. I had the fortunate opportunity of being raised with my sister and brother on one of the “Wellesley” estate home properties, “The Oaks”. I resided there through my college years. “The Oaks” property was located between Washington Street and the Charles River. The main house and property of “The Oaks” still are owned and maintained by a Hunnewell family cousin.

As a family member, I had access to most of the estate properties. It was a special childhood to be raised in such a beautiful, rural setting just 16 miles west of downtown Boston. I attended a local public elementary school in Wellesley up through the 6th grade. Then it was off to 6 years at a local private boarding school that was located just outside of Boston in a southwestern suburb.

Following my high school graduation, I completed my college education in Cambridge, MA. Then I moved away from Wellesley and the Boston area to conduct my post-graduate studies in Florida. From that point on, I would only return to Wellesley for occasional family July 4th reunions.

So the “Wellesley” estate holds very special childhood memories for me. I had many acres of woodlands to wander and hike through as well as swimming, sailing and skating on Lake Waban. Although my father constructed a 100′ W x 400′ L skating pond for our family and my cousins on “The Oaks” property next to the Charles River so that we could learn to skate and play hockey there. My father purposely constructed the skating pond to be shallow so that it froze up by the late Fall or early Winter. Sometimes, we could skate as early as Thanksgiving weekend, but those days have passed with climate change. Now, one would be lucky to skate on it by early January.

I remember one winter blizzard in the late 1950’s where more than 30″ to 36″ of snow had fallen. The Wellesley Public Works Department asked my dad for assistance in clearing some of the local roads. Dad took me with him on his Catepillar D7 bulldozer. We cleared Dover Road from Washington Street to Grove Street and then down Grove Street to Charles River Road in Needham. However, there was an unfortunate side effect of using a tracked D7 bulldozer to plow snow. The metal tracks tore up the the asphalt pavement surface which became quite evident later that Spring when the snow was melted away. Dover road had became a very bumpy road surface to drive on that year which would require repaving. Needless to say, Public Works was not happy about that.

I experienced Hurricane Carol in the main house of “The Oaks” in 1954. A lot of trees were damaged and had to be cut down following that storm. It was followed by Hurricane Edna about 10 to 11 days later which did more tree damage and caused additional local flooding. That was a double whammy strike. but mother nature wasn’t finished with us. The next year, 1955, brought Hurricane Diane which created the worse flooding that I was to experience during my lifetime in Wellesley. The Charles River rose from its banks and flooded across Washington Street to Hunnewell Farm. The view from “The Oaks” was all a water-covered wetland west from Pond Road to well into South Natick. The flooding included the Stigmatine Fathers Seminary that was located on the property now belonging to the Massachusetts horticultural Society. It is located on the south side of the Charles River in Dover, MA.

i could go on forever, but I think that just would bore other readers. Needless to say, it was a wonderful place to have spent one’s childhood.


A. S. H.

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