Riccardi '76 Chronicles Trustees of Reservations History

In the Boston Globe, Victoria Abbott Riccardi, an alumna of Shore's Class of 1976, chronicles the history of the Abbott family's involvement in The Trustees of Reservations, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. Her father, Gordon Abbott, Jr., was director of The Trustees of Reservations from 1966 to 1984.

(Many other Shore families have been closely involved with The Trustees and other land conservation efforts in the region. Notably, Fred Winthrop '55 succeeded Abbott as director of the organization from 1985 to 2000; his siblings and children, as well as granddaughter and niece, all attended Shore.)

A journalist and book author, Riccardi has written food, wine, nutrition, and travel articles for a variety of consumer print and online media in the US, Canada, and Asia. While her family's ties to the Trustees are deep, the Abbotts' connections to Shore may well run deeper. Abbott, Jr., was a Shore Trustee between 1962 and 1970, and he and his wife, Kay, were the parents of three Shore alumni: Chris '72 (a Former Trustee), Katrina '73, and Victoria. Chris Abbott's children are also Shore graduates: Lowell '07 and Gordon '11.

Gordon Abbott, Jr.'s work with the Trustees followed from the organization's original mission, established at its founding on May 21, 1891. It was on that day that Massachusetts Governor William Eustis Russell signed into law an act which established The Trustees for Public Reservations "for the purpose of acquiring, holding, arranging, maintaining and opening to the public, under suitable regulations, beautiful and historical places and tracts of land within this Commonwealth." 

The birth of the Trustees had been the passion and work of Charles Eliot, a young landscape architect. He had campaigned to create an organization that could do something to address the possibility that historic and beautiful places and open spaces could someday be lost or diminished. As the creator of the plan for an organization that would "hold small and well-distributed parcels of land free of taxes, just as the Public Library holds books and the Art Museum pictures—for the use and enjoyment of the public," Eliot was the visionary who brought the Trustees to life.

During her father's tenure as the organization's director, Abbott recalls, "we’d visit Trustees properties for pleasure, often hiking around Agassiz Rock in Manchester-by-the-Sea, strolling down Crane Beach on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, or sailing around Misery Islands in Salem Sound. Come winter, we’d head over to Medfield to skate on the glossy, black-ice ponds of Rocky Woods or cross-country ski around Notchview in Windsor."

Abbott writes about her father's friendship with Colonel Francis and Joan Appleton, then owners of Appleton Farms in Hamilton, the country’s oldest continuously operating farm.

"One fall afternoon when I was 11, my younger sister and I accompanied my father to tea with Mr. and Mrs. Appleton... where my father and the Appletons talked business and my sister and I pet the family dogs. ...He left having forged a deeper friendship with the Appletons, who bequeathed the farm to the Trustees upon Mr. Appleton’s death in 1974. More land was deeded in 1998, and now Appleton Farms grows vegetables for a Community Supported Agriculture program, sells the farm’s beef, eggs, milk, and fresh and aged cheeses in the Dairy Store, and offers cooking classes, workshops, and even summer camp for kids."

In addition to helping secure the future of the historic farm, Abbott, Jr., was also responsible for creating membership for the Trustees. Today, more than 125,000 members support the efforts of the organization, which owns and operates 114 properties around the state, including beaches, historic house museums, landscaped gardens, community farms, and scenic recreational sites.

According to the Trustees' current director, Barbara Erickson, the nonprofit is eager to save more places where people are living, such as urban areas. As Abbott writes,

"TTOR currently owns and stewards 62 urban gardens to further the link between agriculture and land. The organization also serves as lead programming director for the demonstration kitchen at Boston Public Market, the only locally sourced market of its kind in the United States and which also houses a stall run by Appleton Farms, where you can buy their dairy products as well as cheeses from across New England.

"'I’d also like to see a real TTOR place in Boston, especially along the waterfront," says Erickson. "There is no reason why we shouldn’t have a world-class, large-scale park.'"

This spring, Governor Charlie Baker proclaimed May 21 as The Trustees of Reservations Day in Massachusetts. This year and every year following, The Trustees of Reservations Day will commemorate the importance and impact of The Trustees as the world’s first land preservation organization.
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    • Victoria Abbott Riccardi

    • Victoria and her younger sister Alexandra with the Appletons

    • Castle Hill, the Crane Estate

    • Appleton Farms