Lyman Estate and Historic New England

I have been very behind in posting and debated even posting this story because it was so long ago. But these next few travel posts are places that I want to document, mostly spots that I’ve visited since moving back to Massachusetts a year ago (!).

One day this past winter, when I was still on sabbatical from work, I went in search of historical places to visit in my area. The Lyman Estate in Waltham, MA was one of the top recommended places. The estate is part of Historic New England, a larger non-profit organization that focuses on historic preservation. It was founded in 1910 and owns/operates historic site museums throughout all of New England (except Vermont). Most of the homes aren’t necessarily famous but all have unique styles and histories.

The Lyman Estate was originally built in 1793 by shipping merchant Theodore Lyman, who commissioned architect Samuel McIntire to design a summer home for the Lyman family. The family chose Waltham, which was known for its country estates, as an escape from Boston (a ride that would take about 15-20 minutes now would take 2 days in the 18th century). They named it “The Vale”, because of its location in a small valley that had a brook running through it.

The estate has gone through many renovations since it was first built in 1793 and is still owned by the Lyman family today (!). Its original Federal style went through an addition and a Victorian renovation through the 1800s and then a colonial-style update in the early 1900s. When the widow of Theodore Lyman’s great-grandson died in 1951, the home was inherited by the five remaining Lymans who donated it to Historic New England in an effort to preserve its history.

We had a wonderful tour here, our tour guide was very informative but also funny and made it more enjoyable. It was a relatively small group which made it more intimate, one couple was even getting married there the following year. Almost everything we learned while on the tour can be found here.

The Lyman Estate is also one of the few properties with Historic New England that can be used for weddings or parties. I would love to have a party here to fulfill my Pride and Prejudice fantasy :).

Also on the 37 acres of the estate are gardens, originally designed by a famous landscape gardener named William Bell, and its 200-year-old greenhouse. This greenhouse is one of the oldest in the country and includes a grape house from 1804, camellia house from 1820, and orchid house from 1840. It was also a nice reprieve from the cool February air. As you can see, I loved the design layout of the greenhouse, with the brick wall, exposed pipes, and glass ceiling. I could have spent hours in there. There is a store in the lower level where you can purchase plants, flowers, and other gardening items. The greenhouse is open most days and is free to enter!

Lyman Estate/185 Lyman Street/Waltham, MA 02452


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