This Saturday, The Trustees of Reservations will host its fourth annual “Home Sweet Home” Open House Day. For the event, 10 historic homes, spread from Greater Boston to the Berkshires, will open their doors to the public for tours of the rooms and gardens, plus centuries-old lawn games, book treasure hunts, and nature walks. And it’s all free.
Last year, the event drew a record 3,500 visitors. The theme of this year’s event is “The Language of Nature.”
“We really wanted to tie some of the literary history that’s very rich in many of our properties,” said Kristen Swanberg, director of programming at The Trustees of Reservations, “and really highlight not just the literature, but also the landscape that inspired people to write the books.”
The 10 sites taking part in the program are Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, the Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate in Canton, The Stevens-Coolidge Place in North Andover, The Old Manse in Concord, The Ashley House in Sheffield, Naumkeag House & Gardens in Stockbridge, The Mission House in Stockbridge, The Folly at Field Farm in Williamstown, and the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington. (Learn more about three of the homes here.)
Book lovers are in for an extra-special treat: Some properties will offer rare glimpses into valuable book collections, Swanberg said, and at Naumkeag, guests will be asked to wear white gloves before handling the delicate books.
A Little Free Library neighborhood book exchange will be set up at seven locations (all except The Ashley House, Naumkeag House & Gardens, and The Folly at Field Farm). Visitors will be encouraged to leave a book and take a book.
They’ll also be able to spend time in the study where Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote his famous essay, Nature, at The Old Manse in Concord. At the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington, guests will be able to write a postcard from the property to friends and family that the Trustees will stamp and mail. And at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, participants will be able to search for hidden books across the property.
“It’s a fun, family event,” Swanberg said. “Many people don’t think about bringing kids to historic houses, but we really try to make it family-friendly.”
Guided nature walks and hikes on some of the properties have been designed to show visitors exactly where iconic writers such as Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and William Cullen Bryant found their inspiration. Swanberg said that many of the properties will even offer 19th-century lawn games, such as Jacob’s Ladder, Graces, and Cup and Ball, and space for visitors to lay out picnics.
“We love our historic houses and our cultural sites,” Swanberg said. “We hope people will come and love them as much as we do, and sort of get a peek into the lives of people who lived there. And we hope they find inspiration in the gardens and natural landscape and have an opportunity to enjoy and relax.”