My First Visit: The Eustis Estate

Once I settled on the idea of this challenge, I got to work trying to plan out a rough schedule of when I would be able to get to all the homes & sites. It seems as though I chose a fairly terrible time to start this, as most of the homes had just closed for the season, leaving only a few open through the winter months. But – I was thrilled to see that the Eustis House in Milton, MA was open so I headed out on a Saturday to explore.

By simply looking at the Historical New England website, I knew I was in for a treat with this home. It is right up my alley with seemingly tons of detail in the woodwork & decor.

One of my favorite things about this house? Anything that was not roped off you could touch or sit on. About two years ago I took at trip to Italy – a place full of historic places landscapes, and objects – and all I wanted to do was touch. Touch the marble sculpture, touch the brick ruin. Somehow that makes me feel more connected to it’s story. And all I did was get yelled at by security guards for touching, or attempting to touch. I was so happy that I could do that here!

Historical Highlights

  • One of the most fascinating things about this house is that a family resided there up until 2014. 2014!! That was only four years ago, and really, the only upgrade I saw that screamed 21st century was a lonely dishwasher in the kitchen (which was actually pretty funny to see). While the third floor is closed off to the public, the guides indicated even the bathrooms were not renovated much when the family was residing there full time. Historic New England bought the property from them and did some large scale renovations to restore the original wall colors to some of the rooms, re-applied gold foil to the fireplace arch ways, and much more – but I find it amazing that the previous owners not only lived in the house almost as is, but took such great care of it.
  • Apparently William Emery Channing Eustis, who built the house for his newlywed wife Edith Hemenway Eustis, was quite the smarty pants with varied interests. He was a Harvard graduate, specializing in Engineering, and throughout his life owned mines & a smelting company. He had a dark room in the basement as he is credited for most of the old photographs you’ll see when visiting the house, but also had a “tinkering” room in the attic (see the “Eye Spy” section below for where this room was located!). But perhaps the most impressive feat of W.E.C. Eustis, is that he figured out how to create his own power to bring to the house. While the actual physics behind it are well above me, the fact that he essentially made the home self-sufficient, by creating & utilizing such a technological advancement for the time, all on his own is amazing. W.E.C. Eustis was no fool – in the testing of the delivery of the electricity to the home, he first hooked up his own library to ensure it was safe. After delivering safe power to the rest of the house, he continued to have his library on some type of separate system so that if the power did go out, his library would not be affected. Smart guy.

My Favorite Spots

The Parlor

Just such a pretty, regal yet cozy room. Fireplaces & mantels are obvious focus points in homes of this age, and this one did not disappoint. The architecture of this home is classified as part of the Aesthetic Movement, therefore featuring imagery, colors & textures that you would see in nature and this certainly showcased in this room. The tiles surrounding the hearth are beautiful – greens, yellows, blues – and the ceiling features beautiful floral and greenery motifs. The surprise? These beautiful tiles serve another purpose as well, as they provide radiant floor heat. So surprising to find in a home of this age! Beauty and function – what is better than that?

The Dining Room

This room is just so darn pretty. So pretty that I honestly can’t imagine every using it – I wouldn’t want to ruin it. The woodwork in the fireplace, mantel & built in sideboard and so full of detail I could spend hours admiring it.

The Moon Window

The second floor is home to the unique Moon Window, a nod to Asian culture which was a popular part of decor in this time period. Not only is it a beautiful detail from the exterior of the home, once inside you realize it provides much of the light to the second floor landing & hallways. It also allows you to overlook the tree lined drive that leads away from the house. I’d love to grab a book, a glass of wine, and curl up in this little nook for the afternoon.

The Library

Also referred to as “The Man Cave”, this room was cozy and grandiose all at the same time. Another impressive fireplace, with the mantel rising almost to the ceiling to meet Tudor style beams over head, with tons of shelves for books and windows overlooking three different sides of the grounds.

Eye Spy

I’m a sucker for details. Here are some of my favorites from the Eustis Estate:

  • The crown adorning the top of the chandelier in the parlor room
  • The tube communication (used by the domestic staff in the home) and the electric bell system (used by the residents)
  • The metal bath tubs
  • The original 1879 stove, which would have been brand new when the house was first built & moved into. The fact that it is still in tact and in the condition that it is in is amazing! I’m told that there was also an electric stove that the residents in 2014 were using, which was removed during the restoration.
  • The “secret staircase” in the library, which W.E.C. Eustis concealed behind a curtain which lead up to his tinkering room. Sneaky!
  • The stained glass in this house is simply beautiful, and is a major feature when you visit. The two main doors to the house feature two panels of it, which keep with the Aesthetic Movement and feature natural elements such as water, flowers, grass, sun, and stone. There are two larger half-circle stained glass windows on the third floor hallway landing, which can be seen from the first & second floors. I was wondering how these glass panels were illuminated, and apparently William Ralph Emerson, the designer of the home, had sky lights installed in the adjoining attic in just the right spots to allow these interior stained glass panels to be illuminated without being exposed to the elements.
  • The exterior brick & stone work of this house is incredible. Before you even step foot into the house, or out of your car even, the intricate patterns, colors and multiple chimneys are an indicator of what’s to come inside.
  • The nursery rhyme themed tiles that surround the fireplace in the Day Nursery room on the second floor. They appear to be hand painted, and while some of the drawings certainly have a slight creepy air about them, I’m sure they were enjoyed by the Eustis twin boys, Frederic & Augustus, and their sister Mary.

Visiting Tips

The Eustis Estate is one of those homes that I could easily have wandered in for hours. After I left and was looking at my photographs, I wished that I had taken more advantage of the guided tour app and spent more time perusing the tablets & video components that Historic New England offers throughout the house, as these types of interactive elements are not available at every property. Also – the ability to choose between a guided or self-guided tour is nice, my favorite part being that you can wander around and spend longer in rooms or on details that catch your eye, although I likely would have learned much more from the guided tour. But – with the membership to the organization I can go back as often as I’d like for a year, and you bet I will!

Want to learn more about the Eustis Estate? Visit the Historic New England site for more details!

Top Photos

Here are some of my favorite photos from my visit – but there were so many to choose from! Make sure to follow The Historic New England Project on Instagram & Facebook, as more photos will be shared there regularly!

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