In 1793, Theodore Lyman, a wealthy ship merchant who lived in Boston’s elite Beacon Hill neighborhood, wanted to build a country estate that his family could escape to in the summer. He wanted to ensure the family could travel back and forth between the homes easily and all within one day, so he started to buy land little by little until he amassed close to 400 acres in the very rural town of Waltham. The thought of Waltham being a “country escape” is fairly ironic to those of us in Massachusetts today, as it is a bustling city and home to over 62,000 people, of which the majority work in Boston every single day, sitting in traffic for over an hour each way to make the 12 mile commute into Boston. How times have changed!
Today, the Lyman Estate is one of Historic New England‘s premier venue for events, meetings & weddings and after a visit there one can see why! The Lyman Estate’s Greenhouse & Landscape would be perfect backdrop for a spring, summer or fall wedding, and the interior is full of gorgeous details – and, close to Boston! Win/win/win.
- Theodore Lyman was married twice, both times marrying into wealthy and influential families, after he had already established himself as a wealthy ship merchant, even expanding his business into the fur trade in China. After the death of his first wife, he married Lydia Pickering, of the influential family in Salem, MA. Theodore, Lydia and their eventual four sons and three daughters enjoyed the Waltham Estate, nicknamed “The Vale” due to valley it sat in, the proximity to ponds, and the rolling hills the estate lands contained. It was built in the Federal style, by famed architect Samuel McIntire from Salem, MA – likely an influence from his wife Lydia.
- George Lyman, eldest son, inherited the home upon Theodore’s passing in 1839. He was also a successful businessman, however embarked in different businesses than his father and became successful with the growth of textile mills in Boston. As George and his wife had three sons and three daughters, it was important to him to keep the family close and after the children had grown, gave land to each of them to build summer homes on the hill nearby, one of which, Stonehurst, is still there today and open to the public! It’s beautiful, and so different from the Lyman Estate.
- Arthur Lyman, George’s second eldest son, was the next to inherit the estate upon the passing of his father in the early 1880’s. At this point, the home had never had renovations and in order to accommodate their own six children, and now much needed house staff, an expansion and renovation were necessary. These renovations, which for the majority is how you see the home today, included updating the kitchen, bumping out the second floor “front columns”, adding servants quarters, relocating & creating the show-stopping main staircase, and also installing up-to-date bathrooms. These renovations were well thought thru, as they wanted to maintain the original Federalist style architecture while including elements of the Queen Anne style, which were so popular at that time.
- Eventually the home was inherited by Arthur T. Lyman Jr. in 1915, who became very active in politics and became the Mayor of Waltham in 1896.
- It wasn’t until 1951 that the remaining five Lyman Children who inherited the house determined that they wanted to preserve it for future generations to enjoy, and donated it to Historic New England. The estate now consists of the home, greenhouses, carriage house, gardener’s cottage, and still has over thirty acres of gardens and grounds for all to enjoy!
The Grand Staircase
Far and away, this staircase took the cake at the Lyman Estate. Once we got inside for the start of the tour, my husband got us signed in and I snuck off to use the bathroom (and to get a sneak peek, let’s be honest). I’m pretty sure I skidded to a halt when I same to the bottom of the stairs. The insane paneling, the curved “pulpit” on the second floor, the detail on the balusters, the newels, the handrails – there was so much detail, and so much to look at! Not to mention the coffered ceiling, the window – ah! So gorgeous. Job well done, Arthur & Ella!!
Since starting this project, I’ve realized that for one reason or another I am always drawn to the “behind the scenes” rooms – they have a quiet type of beauty to them, vs. the screaming over-the-top beauty you may find in the attached dining room. This room in particular was just so pretty, and one I would looove to replicate in my home (a girl can dream). It was bright, full of pretty things, and everything had a place.
I’m sure there was a more formal name for this room, but we’re sticking with Party Room! This is one of the symmetrical outcrops, all the way to the right if you look at a photo of the home from the outside. Unlike the mirror image on the left side of the house, this room is a fully two stories, giving it a very grand feel. The marble fireplace and chandelier continue that feeling, and the huge, gorgeous windows allow in so much natural light. Previously these windows would have opened all the way to allow for ease of access to the outside. I’d love to go to a party in this room! (Hint, hint).
There’s just something about a round room, isn’t there? This sunny, oval parlor on the first floor would have been used for entertaining, and similar to the party room allowed for a combination of indoor & outdoor entertaining. Not only are the windows almost floor to ceiling, the middle window was a door that allowed for easy access to take a stroll right from this room, or likely be able to smell the oranges on a warm summer evening. And by the magic of carpentry, even the doors are rounded! Lovely.
- The wood work and details in this house are truly it’s shining moments. It’s everywhere. EVERYWHERE. And I loved it all!
- There is a library on the first floor, and the detailed tile & sunflower patterned firebox surrounding the fireplace are so intricate! A great place to snuggle up in front of the fire with a good book.
- Take the time to check out all the historical photos of the home, they have great documentation of the home throughout the stages of renovation, the changing landscape, and even the changing decor in the different rooms which is really neat to see!
- The furniture that you see in the home is not original, however are all historic pieces from Historic New England archives. While it’s always great to see original furniture, it is nice to be able to touch & sit on items – typically not allowed if it’s original!
- Make sure that you check the website prior to visiting! Since this property is used as an event venue, I’m sure there are many weekends or dates that you may assume it’s open, but that it’s actually closed due to a private event!
- Make sure to allow for ample time to visit not only the mansion, but also the Greenhouse & Grounds!