Borderland State Park Mansion
The sprawling, eccentric estate of Ames and Ames, a brilliant botanist, and a genius inventor and artist.
This ivy-covered, three-story stone mansion is the former home of botanist Oakes Ames and his feminist artist and inventor wife Blanche Ames Ames. (No relation prior to their nuptials, just an interesting coincidence).
The Ames’ lives speak volumes: Blanche Ames Ames, daughter of a prominent Lowell, MA family, co-founded the Women’s Birth Control League and created radical inventions including a disease-resistant turkey, a new color palette, a flushing toilet, and a device to trap low-flying aircraft used during World War II. Oakes Ames was a world-traveling orchid hunter and Harvard professor who wrote what is still the definitive paper on orchid identification, illustrated by his lovely wife Blanche.
The eccentric pair, wealthy, artistic bohemians and grandparents of George Plimpton, used their country estate solely for their own enjoyment and therefore designed paths and grounds that can be explored for days, including a comfortable hunting lodge where one is sure to find a fire blazing and a cup of hot chocolate.
The mansion holds many surprises, including an Ames Ames designed (and then abandoned) swimming pool with pipes so complicated that the secret of their operation died with her. The mansion, tucked away in the suburbs of Boston, can be a bit hard to find – but wandering the paths that the Ames’ built as their personal pleasure grounds uncovers a formerly untold history as wonderful and multi-valenced as these orchid hunters’ lives.
Built and designed primarily by Blanche, the mansion features artist’s studios, dark wood paneling, heavy tapestries, and incredible landscapes that wind through man-made ponds, dams, and paths, leading the visitor languidly over 1.780 acres of rural environment. The furnishings inside the mansion have remained mostly unchanged since the 22,212-sq.-meter house was finished in 1912.
Ames Ames’s paintings grace the walls, and the heavy, dusty wooden library is covered in wooden engravings of serpents and fantasy animals. The large rose garden in back looks out onto a glorious field surrounded by azaleas and elder bushes, while the abandoned swimming pool lies overgrown with flora that seems to overtake the lush gardens and rolling hills of the estate.
Brilliantly designed, beautifully old-fashioned, the Ames Mansion serves as a dusty reminder of a fabulous past.
Know Before You Go
Borderland is located approximately three miles from the center of Sharon, Mansfield and North Easton, Massachusetts; the park is twenty miles from Boston and thirty miles from Providence, RI.
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