Burgess House photo

Burgess House (continued)

The old farmhouse became a summer home, starting in 1907 when it was bought by New York banker Charles H. Leland. Swimming was now in Cotuit Lake, evidently a more attractive name than Griegsons or Hamblins Pond. Adjoining land was bought by the Lelands to total 39 acres. The Lelands kept the place for 18 years 1907-1925. In 1914 Charles Leland created “The Beach and Woodlands Trust” in favor of his son Charles Frothingham Leland and his wife Margaret. The son was a graduate of Harvard College 1891 and Harvard law school who gave up New York business to farm in Southboro MA.

In 1927 the Lelands sold this place to Malcolm and Elsie Morse of Providence who quickly sold it to Henry and Margaret Bedford of Providence. In 1930 they gave 2.75 acres to expand the Marstons Mills burial ground on the north and west sides. During the Bedfords’ eight years 1927-35, it was rented out. In 1935 they sold it to Emma G. Whittemore of Cambridge. She sold it soon after she married Wilfred Wheeler, Jr. of nearby Carsley’s Neck.

In 1938 it was bought by James “Jim” A. Burgess, on his wedding to Dr. Rachel “Ray” Burgess (1897-1987). A classmate of Franklin D. Roosevelt at Harvard (1904), and yachtsman, he dealt in marine insurance. She was a Chief Pediatrician of New England Hospital for Women, specializing in juvenile diabetes.

The Burgesses retired here in 1940, calling it “Meadowview”, and beautified the grounds so that it was featured in a national magazine as “Cape Cod’s Prettiest House”. Dr. Burgess was an accomplished horticulturalist who hired Knute E. Carlson, former gardener for the King of Sweden to landscape the grounds, including a romantic wooden gazebo in a rock garden above a glade of rhododendrons, azelias, laurels, evergreens and exotic plants. There was a croquet lawn, a red-eyed wheat meadow, and a putting green which was given to Wianno Golf Club, replaced with a proper bowling green. In the hollow to the north she maintained her “Welsh Clock” with flowers every month of the year. On the lakefront was an aviary of pheasants and swans. Her husband had given title to her after the war, and died before her death here in 1987.

In 1989 the town bought the house on 29 acres from the Burgess estate. Lindsey Counsell laid out a Frisbee golf course. The town did not want the house and in 1997 proposed spending $17,000 to demolish it, to the protest of neighbors and history lovers from other villages. The town turned restoration over to volunteers from Hyannis, Cotuit, Osterville, Falmouth, but much of the work was done by neighbors like Brian Lobdell, the Adamses and Lewises, based on plans by Jim Stewart, a model by Charles Fox, and preservation guidance of Bob Frazee.

The interior of the Burgess house was furnished by generous donations of antique furniture. It is the headquarters of the Marstons Mills Village Association, and often the meeting place of the historical society. Quakers of the The Barnstable Friends Meeting now meet every Sunday at 10 am in the home of the Quaker doctor.

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