THE ESTATE GARDENS, DESIGNERS, GARDENERS, NURSERIES
AND NORTH SHORE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY
Formal garden designing as we know it started in 1660s with the French Court gardeners; some of whom moved into other royal courts throughout Europe. Here in America, wealthy plantation owners like George Washington on Mount Vernon incorporated some of these European garden designs on their estates. Through the following centuries, wealthy estate owners hired landscape architects to create beautifully designed grounds. To maintain these beautiful gardens, teams of highly skilled gardeners were employed. Some of these gardeners maintained greenhouses to grow exotic plants. Local plant nurseries were started by some of these gardeners.
Here in Manchester, we were no exception. Beautiful gardens were designed and maintained at the summer estates. Highly skilled gardeners and nursery workers helped to keep Manchester in bloom all season. We hope you enjoy learning about a few of these wonderful garden treasures in Manchester and the people who were responsible for them.
Cover of 1924 edition featuring Glasshead garden on Tuck’s Point Road
SOME OF THE GARDENERS
DENIS CONLON – GARDENER/CARETAKER AT HIGHCLIFFE
Born in 1884 on Island Eddy (County Galway) Ireland, Denis (sometimes spelled Dennis) Conlon came to Lynn in 1910. He became a gardener, working in Nahant under another Irish gardener from Connemara, Ireland. While there, Denis introduced seaweed as a fertilizer, the knowledge of which came directly from Island Eddy.
He moved to Craft Ct., Manchester in 1918 during the influenza outbreak and around 1920 became the caretaker/gardener for the Stocktons on the “Highcliffe” estate on Summer St. Philip Stockton was the president of the First National Bank and Margaret Head Stockton was the wealthy daughter of the president of Head Investments – part of the Old Colony Trust. The Stockton’s main home was in Boston at 342 Beacon St. “Highcliffe” was their summer house. Weekly Denis Conlon had to bring produce and flowers from the estate to their Boston residence when the Stocktons were in Boston.
His gardening responsibilities included care of the gardens – produce, mushrooms and flowers as well as caring for the service animals – horses and ponies. He lived in the caretaker’s house that had an attached barn and carriage stalls. He and his wife, Kate (Gallagher), raised 8 children there – all who helped around the estate.
Denis stayed on as caretaker of the estate until his death in 1947. Son, John, took over the job of caretaker for a short time.
BRUNO TOSI – ESTATE SUPERINTENDENT FOR APPLE TREES AND COOLIDGE POINT
Born in Italy, Bruno Tosi moved to the United States and lived in Beverly. He spent many years working for the Crosbys at Apple Trees on Jersey Lane. Starting at age 15, he walked and took the bus to Manchester every day. He eventually was in charge of the formal gardens that flowered continuously through the spring as well as the greenhouses where camellias, orchids and a special nectarine tree were grown.
In 1957, when the Crosbys sold Apple Trees, Bruno and his family moved to Coolidge Point where he lived and worked for many years maintaining the formal Italianate Gardens and greenhouses. Bruno was also a long-time member and an officer of the North Shore Horticultural Society. He won many floral awards at the annual flower shows.
EDWARD S. KNIGHT – NURSERY
Knight’s Florist began in 1884 and was located behind 38-40 School St., where the Knight homestead had been established in the 1700s. There were three greenhouses, two 100’ long and one 60’long. The business lasted about 40 years, and the greenhouses were torn down in 1917.
AXEL MAGNUSON, GARDENER AND FLORIST
Axel Magnuson was born October 10, 1876 in Sweden. As a young man, he apprenticed as a gardener in England and France where greenhouse horticulture was well advanced in comparison to the United States. With a promise of work, Axel sailed to New York and then traveled to Stockbridge, Massachusetts where he was employed as a gardener at Shadowbrook – the “100-room Berkshire cottage” of Anson Phelps Stokes with gardens designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. While there Axel worked under Ernst Lunberg, the head gardener. The Stokes’ nursery earned many prestigious flower awards, including one for Stokes’ Gold of Ophir Rose.
Mr. Magnuson came to Manchester sometime after 1901 and worked on another Olmsted-designed garden, Kragsyde, the summer home of George Nixon Black. It is there that he met his future wife, Alice Rose Rainville. Her parents lived on School Street where they were married in 1907. She was an organist at the Baptist Church and taught piano.
In 1907, he and a partner established a greenhouse business at 32 Bridge Street, “Magnuson and Hylen.” Axel’s greenhouse training and experience put him in high demand by the other Manchester estate gardeners. By 1916 the business became “A. Magnuson Florist and Landscape Gardener”.
In the 1920’s, Axel Magnuson established a second greenhouse at 33 Vine Street. In 1985, the business was sold to John Donoghue, an employee, and then to Chapman’s Florist. It is now the site of new homes. Mr. Magnuson died October 29, 1949. His sons Herman and Phillip ran the business until 1985.
THE WETTERLOWS – GARDENERS AND NURSERY OWNERS
Wetterlow Florists was located on Brook St. for about 50 years owned and operated by three generations of the family who worked in the greenhouses. Eric H. Wetterlow gained prominence in exhibiting at numerous fairs as Superintendent of the Lester Leland Estate on Boardman Avenue. He was in charge of the Leland Estate for 35 years. In 1932 Eric H. Wetterlow established the greenhouses on Brook St. known in the trade as E.H. Wetterlow and Son.
Eric H. Wetterlow Sr. was born in Sweden, lived in Malden briefly, and came to Manchester in the early 1900s. He became one of the founders of the North Shore Horticultural Society along with his contemporary Herman Magnusen, also born in Sweden. In 1922 Wetterlow was given a patent for a begonia, “Frau Helen Harms” from Breck Seeds, which is still in business today. A second patent for Wetterlows was issued for the achimenes called “Wetterlow’s Triumph”.
Rick Wetterlow III, Eric’s son, worked at Wetterlow’s until 1996 when it was sold. He continued in the florist business at Ward’s in Beverly and is more recently a gardener for the Singing Beach Club.
FREDERICK LAW OLMSTED AND HIS SUCCESSORS TO HIS FAMOUS LANDSCAPE DESIGN COMPANY
Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) is recognized as the founder of American landscape architecture and the nation’s foremost parkmaker. With his partner Calvert Vaux, he became famous for co-designing the Golden Gate Park and Elm Park, in Worcester, MA, considered by many to be the first municipal park in America. During the next century, his sons and successors continued and expanded Olmsted’s design ideals, philosophy, and influence.
After supervising the design and construction of such landmarks as Central Park and the US Capitol Grounds, Olmsted moved his family from New York City to Brookline, MA. His home served both his family and his office, the world’s first full-scale professional practice of landscape architecture.
Thousands of projects, from conception to completion, are reflected in the vast amount of design records housed at the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site; Olmsted’s client correspondence, for the most part, is located at the Library of Congress.
Olmsted’s array of projects includes America’s familiar landscapes such as Acadia National Park, Yosemite Valley, the Biltmore Estate, Belle Island Park in Detroit, whole park systems in Buffalo, Seattle, Louisville, Montreal, and Boston (the Emerald Necklace Park System). The Olmsteds also played an influential role in the creation of the National Park System, due to their being early and important activists in the conservation movement.
Frederick Law Olmsted’s sons John Charles and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. continued their father’s work, doing business as the Olmsted Brothers. The firm lasted until 1980.
The firm’s principles encouraged the full utilization of the natural occurring features of a given space; design that did not call attention to itself; design which worked on the unconscious to produce relaxation; and purpose over ornamentation. More importantly, when the horticulturalists, landscape designers, and the estate owners all worked together, the natural beauty of each location was enhanced and intensified.
Local examples of Olmsted designs could be seen at estates once owned by E.S. Grew and his son Henry S. Grew, the Towne estate on Eaglehead, the George R. White estate, the Dr. J.H. Lancashire estate, the Frederick T. Bradbury estate, along with many others in Manchester-by-the-Sea.
PLANS DONE BY THE OLMSTEDS OF MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA PROPERTIES:
E.S. Grew, 1902-1904
W.B. Walker, 1896-1926
Town of Manchester, 1906
G.M. Lane/Richard H. Dana, 1902-1913
Mrs. James McMillan, 1903
Prescott Bigelow, 1892-1894
George R. White, 1898-1929
G.N. Black, 1882-1884
Towne Estate (on Eaglehead), 1893-1896
Bullard Estate, 1896-1897
Old Neck Beach
J.O. Weatherbee, 1899-1900
M/M Frederick T. Bradbury, 1903-1927
Masconomo Park, 1906-1945
Manchester Town Common, 1919-1945
Dr. J.H. Lancashire, 1912-1914
Mrs. H. L. Higginson, 1916-1916
Isaac Mann, 1919
C.C. Walker/Mrs. J.B. Shannon, 1919-1938
Stedman S. Hanks, 1930-1931
Mrs. William J. McKenna, 1931-1934
W.B. Williamson, 1936-1937
M/M Alan Cunningham, 1963-1966
M/M Francis B. Lothrop, 1975-1977
M/M Edward L. Stone, 1978
PROPOSED OLMSTED PLANS FOR TOWN OF MANCHESTER
(These plans were never implemented)
Masconomo Park (1916) Town Common (1920)
OTHER LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS IN MANCHESTER
Other prominent landscape designers who worked here in Manchester included Fletcher Steele and Martha Brookes Hutcheson, one of the earliest female members of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Hutcheson is known locally for designing what we now know as Maudslay State Park. Originally named Maudesleigh, Hutcheson designed the grounds around the main house, entry drive, and formal gardens (1904–1906). In Manchester she designed Crowhurst and Undercliff (later named Graftonwood).
Crowhurst (Ocean St.)
Though the grand house has been razed, some of Crowhurst’s gardens are still intact.
Graftonwood (formerly Undercliff)
NORTH SHORE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY
The North Shore Horticultural Society began as a series of social meetings among North Shore gardeners who would meet along the granite wall outside of the Manchester Public Library. What started out as an informal club among professionals soon grew, convincing the gardeners to establish an official group.
On October 27, 1899, a small meeting was held at the town selectmen’s office where it was voted to form an association. A constitution and bylaws were approved a month later on November 10, which declared that all “gardeners and florists professional and amateur, and all persons interested, shall be eligible to membership in this society.” The Society secured a headquarters on March 7, 1900 when they rented out “Lee’s Hall”, the property of a J.A. Lee (located on the corner of School and Union St.), for an annual fee of $200. By the end of the year, on November 17th, it was voted to name this new organization the North Shore Horticultural Society of Manchester.
Each season, the Society organized flower shows, with roses and chrysanthemums being the most common shows held annually in the summer and fall. The flower show awards attracted not only the gardeners but also the estate owners who took pride in their gardens. Many estate owners’ name appear on the trophies and plaques along with their gardeners.
The Society continued to make use of Lee’s Hall until July 16, 1915, when they were informed that Lee had decided to sell the property. The search for a new headquarters went into the fall when R.C. Allen, a Manchester civil engineer, offered to sell a portion of his property for the Society’s use. The cost for building the hall ended up costing over $20,000. The newly completed Hall was dedicated on August 30th, 1917. The ceremony was attended by dignitaries from across the town and the state, among them being Lieutenant Governor Calvin Coolidge, who delivered the principal address.
The new Hall consisted of two floors and a balcony. The main floor on the upper level held a stage while the lower floor had a smaller hall. A number of Flower Shows were held each year using both levels of the hall for exhibition. Over the years, the hall and its kitchen would be rented out for meetings and parties by the town groups like American Legion and the high school football team.
After the United States entered into World War I, the Society offered the building to the Navy Department for use. The Red Cross set up workrooms there during the war, returning soon after to treat the victims of the Spanish Influenza in 1918.
In addition to its use by the Society, the Hall was put to use by the community in a variety of ways. The Hall hosted dances, high school graduations, wedding receptions and entertainment shows, including movie screenings on the weekends, and it was here that the town would vote on election days. The Hall was put to use until 1963, when it was torn down and replaced with apartment housing that remains today.
Despite losing their hall, the North Shore Horticultural Society continued and still does today. Their Annual Flower Shows were held for many years at the North Shore Mall. Their members still hold lectures on gardening and share gardening tips with each other as the founders originally had done.
Many hands helped to make this exhibit come together. Many thanks to: Katherine Abbott, Leslie Beatty, Cindy Brockway, Cole Caviston, Nancy Coffey, Pat Conlon, Martha Elder, Sigi Lindo, Axel Magnuson, North Shore Horticultural Society, Susan Parker, Steve Rosenthal, David Tosi, Christine Virden, Beth Welin & Rick Wetterlow