Holy mansion, Batman! The magnificent Lyman Estate — also known as “The Vale” — sits upon 37 acres of land in Waltham, Mass. Renowned architect Samuel McIntire designed a Federal-style country estate as a summer retreat (!) in 1793 for shipping merchant Theodore Lyman and family, who spent most of the year in Boston’s Beacon Hill.
Over the years, the house was enlarged and the architecture changed with various generations of the Lyman family, while still maintaining its 18th-century feel.
Meanwhile, each generation of Lymans had a passion for horticulture, and the estate still has an intact greenhouse complex, the first of which was built in 1800. In 1804, a three-part greenhouse was constructed to house tropical and forced native fruits, and the Camellia House was added 16 years later. The greenhouses are still operational, and some of the oldest in the nation.
“By 1839, the estate contained 400 acres and included meadows, ponds, pleasure grounds, woodlands, a deer park, gardens, greenhouses, a working farm, as well as the mansion, carriage house, gardener’s cottage, and various farm buildings,” according to the Historic New England website.
Four generations of Lymans lived here before the fifth generation donated the property to Historic New England in 1951 so that it could be maintained and enjoyed by others.
The Lyman Estate was named a National Historic Landmark in 1970.
The mansion is now used for weddings, private events and the occasional lecture or movie night. It is open for tours by appointment, but the grounds are free to admire and roam.
The greenhouses are open year-round for visits and plant sales.
Oh, and you didn’t think we’d leave you hanging on the movie trivia, did you? The Lyman Estate was featured in the 2019 movie adaptation of Little Women.
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