Some years ago, I participated in a Mass Audubon nature walk on the Elm Hill Farm sanctuary in the neighboring town of Brookfield and was interested to hear recently that there had been some changes with respect to the care and maintenance of the property, which, according to an informational brochure,
at its peak [was] one of the largest working farms in the region, with 1300 acres, eight houses, apple orchards, horse stables and a purebred cattle operation.
The farm was the property of the family of the late Blanchard Means, whose wife Louise passed away in March of this year at age 96, but whose adult daughter, “Weesie,” still lives at Elm Hill.
After Mrs. Means’ death, Rehabilitative Resources, Inc., based in Sturbridge, was chosen to manage the property by the Blanchard Means Foundation, a charitable entity which oversees operations at the Center. Acknowledging the historical and cultural importance of the site, RRI has pledged to preserve the farm and Center for the whole community. The mission of the Blanchard Means Foundation is
to provide inclusive programs for all people, including those with special needs. This is done at Elm Hill Farm through hands-on activities using horticulture, horsemanship, and the arts.
In the local paper last week, I read a notice saying that there would be an Open House on Saturday, from 2-4 pm, at 28 East Main Street, so of course I showed up. One of the docents treated me to a personal tour of the historic homestead and nearby barns. It’s quite the place. Built in the 1700s, the house has been well-maintained, though of course there is still a lot of work to be done. Here is what the house looks like from the street:
According to what I’ve read in the newspaper and on the web, Mrs. Means was a remarkable woman: she was
a philanthropist, a preserver of nature, and an advocate for the rights of the disabled — yet, perhaps more than all this, Louise Chandler Means was a lover of music. . .The daughter of a violinist father and a pianist mother whose close friends included Sergei Rachmaninoff and Fritz Kreisler, she cultivated a soprano singing voice, devoured opera and found peace in simple moments beside the radio on snowy afternoons.
Yet Mrs. Means is perhaps best known for her contributions to preservation and history, the Elm Hill Farm Center and the Blanchard Means Foundation the centerpieces of her legacy.
Please click on one of the links above for information on how you can help support her vision.