Since 2005, the Mary M. B. Wakefield Charitable Trust has provided support to Boston University graduate students who undertake interdisciplinary research on their historic property in Milton, MA. The Trust was established in 2004 by Polly Wakefield to preserve the estate that had been held in her family for three hundred years. The Trust promotes life-long participatory learning using the land and resources of the Wakefield estate and through collaborative partnerships with schools and community organizations. Graduate students from Boston University and other programs have undertaken research projects at the site, related to their graduate work in American studies, archaeology, architectural history, historic preservation, material culture, information science, and landscape architecture. Adult learners and school groups are also regular participants. For more on the Mary M.B. Wakefield Charitable Trust go to http://www.wakefieldtrust.org.
The Wakefield Estate includes 22 acres, with three houses, nine other outbuildings, extensive gardens, orchards, and fields. Its two major houses were constructed in the eighteenth century, a center chimney house from the mid-century, known as the farmhouse, and a more ambitious Georgian double house dated to 1794, known as the mansion house. The farm grew over three generations of ownership in the eighteenth century and was operated as a large country estate of 150 acres early in the twentieth century. Later owners sold off the majority of the agricultural acreage, but maintained an ornamental rural retreat from the city and stewarded the property through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Polly Wakefield created ornamental and experimental gardens, nurseries, and arboretum, and the property remains a secluded, green space today.
Under the direction of Claire Dempsey, Boston University students from Preservation Studies, American & New England Studies, and Archaeology have undertaken ‘best-practice’ research and recording projects at the Milton property. We undertake research on the site and its owners and occupants through study of its archives, collections, buildings, and landscapes. Wakefield Fellows and their major research contributions include:
- Annie Rotner, 2005: Established basic parameters of site ownership through title and probate research and prepare preliminary biographies of property owners.
- Shelby Graham, 2006: Continued ownership and biography research, began research on the Farmhouse.
- Zachary Violette, 2006: Prepared studies of the Mansion and Red Cottage.
- Luke Pecoraro, 2007: Established GIS databases for the site, including historic maps and archaeological data.
- Dayl Cohen, 2008: Prepared study of the outbuildings.
- Leo Greene, 2009: Prepare study of the Farmhouse.
- Maria Kohls, 2010: Complete title research back to land distribution from Dorchester; draft nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
- Erin Doherty, 2011: Agricultural history for the site.