Why is the Hillside Estate architecturally significant?
The Hillside Estate in Boylston, Massachusetts is a unique example of the connection made in the mid-1800s between structure and landscape. From an architectural point of view, the site is as significant as the house.
Important landscape features, within 12 acres of the estate, have been protected by a Preservation Agreement between the people of Boylston andthe Massachusetts Historical Commission.
In addition to the house, the preservation area includes a tree-lined drive, stone walls, unique plantings and views of Boylston, rolling hills and pleasure grounds, a partially submerged gas house, a carriage house and horse barn, and the remains of an orchard.
Hillside offers a genuine and treasured example of a mid 19th century experimental farm planned and designed as a country estate.
The structure is a rare example of early Italianate architecture. It was cited in a 19th century journal as one of a trinity of beautiful homes in Massachusetts. The unusually tall windows, of which there are 80, allow sunlight to flood the interior.
The house itself sits close to the earth and appears to blend into it. The front of the house sports a spectacular piazza that encourages communication with nature. The oldest part of Hillside, dating back to 1848, is crowned with a belvedere that permits light to drift down the elegant spiral staircase.
The stairs, which seem to reach up to the sky, have been seen as symbolic of Gough's rise from the depths of despair to the height of fame.
The diffusion of light and heat throughout the building is amazing. The elegance of the marble fireplaces, the spectacular plaster medallions and the impressive height of the ceilings creates a scene of beauty and elegance.
John Salem, architect of the restoration project, offers this insight:
The site is particularly important to the Italianate style, and especially so for the Gough house. Boylston is fortunate that so much of the original site remains-the view that's still essentially as Gough first saw it in spring of 1848, the tree-lined drive, the 5-acre lawn that Gough called his "park," and some of the outbuildings. While many of the farm buildings have been removed over the years, the important thing is that the site hasn't been over-built. Even in its fragmentary state the site is evocative, you can imagine how it was in Gough's day. We're still discovering parts of Gough's landscape like the lilacs on the north edge of the lawn that were found budding up in the sun last spring.
An excerpt from a January 27, 1894, Worcester Gazette article provides further understanding of Hillside's special sense of place:
"Hillside" is a little less than six miles from the City Hall in Worcester, and on the direct road to Boylston. The location is most charming and advantageous, for almost every foot of the land gently slopes to the east and southeast. Time has brought to a rich and pleasing perfection those features of landscape architecture which man may begin, but which it alone can bring to full fruition and completeness. The views from the highlands of the estate are wide stretching and replete with all the charm and alternating beauty of New England scenery. Hill and dale, swift flowing rivulets and placid ponds, quiet groves and expansive forests are all in the compass of the eye as one roams the fields and pastures of "Hillside." Add to this the ever changing and intensely interesting features of the estate itself and one sees, indeed, an ideal country seat, one perhaps of the many soon to be seen in the suburbs of Worcester, and one which must ever remain peerless for the beauty of its situation
and its rare associations."
Hillside's history, structure and landscaping combine to make it an important place to restore, preserve and share with America.