Highfield Hall Restoration Projects
Location: 56 Highfield Drive, Falmouth MA
Applicant: Highfield Hall and Gardens
Year/Article: November 2008, A45
The Beebe family had an elegant ice house built at Highfield Hall next to the kitchen garden to allow them to refrigerate their food and serve chilled drinks and ice cream. At that time, in the 1870s, Falmouth was harvesting ice for local use from Shivericks Pond, Crockers Pond, Mill Pond, Bournes Pond, and Ice House Pond. Elsewhere on Cape Cod ice was harvested, packed in ships, and sold throughout the world.
Highfield Hall, at 56 Highfield Drive in Falmouth, was one of the great 19th century Cape Cod summer estates. The James Madison Beebe family commissioned it to be built in 1878 according to a design by Peabody and Stearns, one of the most sought-after and influential American architectural firms of the period. Of the other buildings the architectural firm designed, only the St. Barnabas Episcopal Church rectory remains in Falmouth today. Highfield Hall demonstrates the transition from stick style to Queen Anne style. Ernest Bowditch, noted 19th century landscape designer, created the Highfield Hall gardens.
When Highfield Hall was threatened with demolition, the Town took the property by eminent domain in 2000 and leased it to the nonprofit Highfield Hall & Gardens formed by town people determined to rescue and preserve the estate as an historical museum and cultural center. To that end, over a number of years members raised $6 million from individuals, fundraising events, foundations, and state funds from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Restoration of the estate began in 2002 and is an ongoing effort.
In 2008 Highfield Hall and Gardens sought to restore the Ice House and requested $42,000 from the CPFund for the work. Town Meeting appropriated $20,000 for the project, and Highfield Hall and Gardens members and other donors provided the balance of the funding. The restoration was completed in 2015.
The Community Preservation Fund has supported the restoration and preservation of Highfield Hall and the gardens with four grants: (1) $250,000 in 2006 to install an HVAC system for the entire 20,000 square-foot building, essential to ensure long-term preservation of the building fabric; (2) $25,000 also in 2006 to develop a design for restoration of the theater, formerly the carriage house and stables; (3) $20,000 in 2008 for restoration of the Ice House; and (4) $17,450 in 2014 for the installation of a humidity distribution and control system in the Ball Room, repair of the underlying arch structure supporting the fireplace hearths in the Ball Room, and repair of the stone wall from the Hall to the Ice House.