Evergreen, long the largest building in Cotuit, was demolished in the third week of July 2011.
Built on Ocean View Avenue in Colonial Revival style, it had 23 bedrooms, 17 full baths, magnificent fireplaces and ceilings, shaded by rare trees for which it was named. It was built in 1924 by Boston’s premier contractor, Walter A. Wentworth, who had built many of the Back Bay mansions as well as many Boston landmarks like the the S.S.Pierce store on Copley Square. Evergreen was built as a summer home of the wealthy Chicago financier Robert Marshall Roloson, whose family sponsored the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Roloson hired the Scottish gardener John Alexander Reid to landscape nearly ten acres of grounds, and plant a large rose garden. Two gigantic Japanese cedars framed the front entry, with a variety of evergreens like Norway spruce gracing the grounds. The house looked out to Nantucket Sound across Sampsons Island and the entrance to Cotuit harbor. On the wide sandy beach was an open-sided pavilion, that still stands. Off-shore the Rolosons kept a fine two masted schooner, the Janelburn, painted green. It was named for Mrs. Roloson’s son, James Nelson Burnes who died in a plane crash in Hingham.
Evergreen grounds were big enough to keep a pet bear—until the bear bit the gardener. A four-car garage housed a fleet of fine autos. This too, was demolished earlier this year when Bob Hayden moved the 1991 addition to Ocean View Avenue. The Rolosons had a German chauffeur who became a Nazi fan of Hitler, annoying the neighbors by playing the Führer’s speeches loudly on his radio. He was not missed when he went back home to join the Wehrmacht.
Adele Roloson sold Evergreen after a series of personal losses. Beside the loss of a son in a plane crash, another was killed in a car accident, and a third died with his wife and two children in a fire in the Roloson home in Winnetka IL. She moved to “a smaller place” called Nirvana she had built on the Sepuit River in Oyster Harbors before the war.
After World War II Evergreen became part of The Pines Hotel, where special guests were put up, and used as a dormitory for summer help. When the Pines closed and was torn down in 1959 Evergreen was bought by the brother of the Pines manager, Fred Crawford, founder of TRW. This company led in development of the American Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, the Apollo and Pioneer space missions, as well as early satellites and computers.
For 37 years Evergreen was Crawford’s summer home. He drove from here to the Harvard commencement in 1991, and marched down the aisle under his own steam, the oldest living alum. Crawford bequeathed Evergreen to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) as a scientific conference center. It was nominated for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. It was put up for sale in 2011, and purchased by a member of the Levinthal family, prominent Boston reators.
The Historical Society of Santuit and Cotuit recorded video and professional photos of Evergreen before it was demolished. These will be shown at the Cotuit Library at 7 pm Oct. 25. That evening, Cotuit old-timers who grew up near the house will share their stories about the house. We hope that other residents will share their memories in the tradition of our “Old-Timers Night” meetings.
Adapted from an article published on front page of Barnstable Enterprise 22 July 2011.