Located on a vast property in Lincoln, Mass., this exquisite mansion was built between 1735-1741 by Chambers Russell, a lawyer, legislator, judge and a founder of the town.
When Russell died in 1767, he left the property to his childless son, who then left it to his six-year-old nephew, Charles Russell Codman. Lucky kid, right?!
Charles’ father, John, was the executor of the estate and began making improvements on his son’s behalf. Extremely wealthy through shipping and trade, John Codman expanded the property over the years, bringing the grounds to some 650 acres.
The house was transformed into a three-story Federal-style mansion, expanding again in 1798-1799.
In 1799, the wife of Massachusetts governor, Rebecca Gore, called the Codman Estate “the handsomest place in America.”
When Charles came of age, he inherited the estate, but had a penchant for travel and collecting, so gradually sold off the house and pieces of the property, which was a huge bummer for his children and grandchildren.
The younger Codmans did their best to buy back the bulk of property over the years. Charles’ son, Ogden Sr., and his wife, Sarah, reclaimed the house in 1862 and dubbed it “The Grange.”
The next year, they made many improvements, adding plumbing and heating to the house, and building a new carriage barn.
The family moved to France in 1874, with eldest son Ogden Codwell Jr. returning in 1882 to become a successful architect and designer.
The whole family, which included four children besides Ogden Jr., eventually returned from Europe in 1884. It’s probably not surprising to hear they needed many servants — including a cook, chambermaids, a chauffer, parlor maids and a laundress — to keep things running. In 1888, a wing was added to the house the workers.
In 1899, Sarah Cogman dreamed of making an elaborate Italian garden. With the help of her son, Ogden Jr., the idea — which included a fountain, statues, a pergola — became reality.
Sarah’s daughter, Dorothy, also enjoyed gardening and created her own, smaller English garden using old-fashioned flowers.
Dorothy was the last of the five Codman children to pass, and with no heirs, she donated the estate and its grounds to Historic New England to be preserved. Thank you, Dorothy, because it made our whole year to be able to walk around this beautiful place.
The Codman Estate is open for tours, and its grounds and carriage house available to rent for weddings and other events. Between its lush meadows, meandering paths and rich hiking trails behind the property, it makes for a wonderful visit.