The three-year landscape restoration of the Crane Estate’s Grand Allee at Castle Hill in Ipswich is complete, just in time to meet the public.
An estimated 15,000 area residents are expected on the grounds during the nine-week Thursday night picnic concert series that begins July 5, and those who attend will find Castle Hill’s signature feature restored to the look created by landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff, planted in 1913.
The Grand Allee is a half-mile slope of rolling lawn adorned by classical statues and banked by evergreens as it leads away from the estate’s mansion to the Atlantic Ocean.
In recent decades, much of the greenery had matured and grown out of scale, while falling into declining health, said Crane Estate superintendent Bob Murray.
“That final phase, cutting out the overmature trees and pushing back the adjoining canopy, really opened things up once again, and that general sense of grandeur really came back,” said Murray. “It’s been very dramatic, and we’re very pleased with the results.”
While the $500,000 landscape restoration is complete, the Trustees of Reservations, which manages the estate, is in the final leg of a fund-raising drive to restore the “casino,” an entertainment area situated one-third of the way down the slope of the Grand Allee. The total cost for the landscape-casino project is approximately $2 million.
The project included the removal of more than 700 trees and the replanting of more than 600, and incorporated sustainable landscaping practices including the reinvigoration of a 135,000-gallon underground rainwater collection cistern.
“All of the plumbing was still tied into it,” Murray said. “We just needed to rework some of the valves to get it working again.’’ We’re using a historic collection and storage system, but we’ve introduced a modern-day well pump and distribution system.”
Water from the cistern is being used to keep the new trees healthy, but once the trees are established, Murray hopes to use the cistern for irrigation elsewhere.
“This project really represents, in a lot of ways, what we’re trying to accomplish at the Crane Estate,” said David Beardsley, director of the Ipswich expanse and four other area properties. “It represents our commitment to stewardship of the property, and making sure we maintain it in an effective way, because we want it to be a valuable and important and vibrant community resource. We want it to continue to be a place where people gather, and a community comes together.”