The Shirley–Eustis House is a National Historic Landmark
located in Boston, Massachusetts
A Midsummer Afternoon of Gardening Delights
The July 28th Shirley Place Historic Landscape Lecture and Tour was a great success! Guest speaker, Roxbury native, long time Dorchester resident and Massachusetts Master Gardener Mary Lou O’Connor skillfully chronicled the evolution of the landscape of Shirley Place. Although the current estate consists of only a fraction of its original 33 acres, it serves as a beautiful and informed historic interpretation of what was, from its beginnings in 1745 to the death of Caroline Langdon Eustis in 1865, a major presence during Roxbury’s heyday as an agricultural and gardening community.
Ms. O’Connor shared fascinating stories about the many former owners and neighbors of Shirley Place who were highly influential and successful “Gentlemen Farmers”. She made special note that Caroline Eustis was equally adept at managing a working estate and that Madam Eustis had the distinction of being the first woman to exhibit, under her own name, at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Following her talk Ms. O’Connor conducted a guided tour of the three gardens and the fruit orchards of Shirley Place and described how each represented a particular period.
“Dahlia’s Garden” proprietor and floral artist Estela Marina Rosario, who manages SEHA’s Burrell Street Garden Seed to Table Community Learning Laboratory, offered a flower arrangement demonstration. Her two stunning centerpieces, including the Federal styled “Madam Eustis”, were awarded to audience members in a Lucky Draw. A reception with horticulturally themed desserts and beverages concluded the program.
This unique educational event was developed and coordinated by SEHA Vice President Paula M. Merek and Secretary Mary T. Flynn. Their inspiration is owed in large part to Governor Frederic C. Detwiller’s (AIA) Historic Structure Report and Landscape Architect Patrice Todisco’s Shirley Place Historic Landscape Study. Both documents served as guiding lights for the restoration of Shirley Place’s grounds during the early 1980’s and late 1990’s. Going forward SEHA hopes to increase its landscape related programming in an effort to not only spotlight its importance but also allow more opportunities for public enjoyment.
Much thanks goes to the many individuals, organizations and contractors who, in addition to Governors Paula Merek and Mary Flynn, helped make the event possible: Massachusetts Master Gardener Association volunteers Mary Lou O’Connor, Dyan Blewett, Marian LeMay, Althea Wagman-Bolster, Amy Wilson and Linda Woodbury; Estela Marina Rosario; The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department Community Works Program/Sheriff Steven Tomkins, Assistant Superintendent Heather McNeil, Deputy Sheriff Michael O’Day, Sergeant Micah Brinson and the program’s work crews; The Beacon Hill Garden Club; Event Volunteers Denise Breiteneicher, Suzy Buchanan, William Kuttner, Kathleen Murray, Steven Pendery, Peter Stott, Jeanne Richardson, Tina Rodocker, Sophia Vitello, Stephen Vitello and Eileen Woodford and our landscaping service GreenOp.
Photographs below courtesy of Frederic C. Detwiller, Tina Rodocker and SEHA archives.
Learn more about our historic mansion, Gardner Carriage House, grounds as well as Shirley Place’s nearly 300 years of rich history.
Cover photography by Ulricke Welsch