The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 28, 2001


Carlisle Historical Society travels to Essex

Members of the Carlisle Historical Society ventured to Essex for the day on Saturday, September 22 for a visit to Cogswell's Grant. The site of an eighteenth-century farmhouse situated near the Essex River features a private collection of folk art.

Jonathan Cogswell built the home in 1730 on land granted to his great-grandfather almost a hundred years earlier. The farm with its barns, outbuildings, and expansive fields covered 165 acres. In 1937, collectors Bertram K. Little and Nina Fletcher Little purchased Cogswell's Grant as a summer home. Over the next fifty years, the pair collected a wide array of folk art suitable for display at their country home.

"I had heard so much about the Littles' collection," said Sylvia Sillers, society curator and trip organizer. "I had read about the auctioning of their collection at their Brookline home through Sotheby's. They willed the Essex property to SPNEA (Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities). I was very much interested in going there myself, and I thought the group would like it."

The Carlisle contingent numbered 12, including one visiting librarian. With many areas roped off, particularly those with original carpet, the size of the group made it imperative to separate into smaller units. Four SPNEA guides led different groups on varied routes through the same collection.

The house tour covered about ten rooms, with additional small side offices and pantry areas. Visitors admired decorative wall paintings, painted furniture, utilitarian boxes, large clocks, and unique curios. The rooms, decorated as the Littles left them, featured a variety of nautical and naturalistic themes, appropriate for a summer home in Cape Ann. The Littles preferred to purchase pieces with documented provenance, and as such succeeded in establishing a collection that preserves both art and history.

Caroline Craig, one of the guides and currently the site caretaker, shared how her family had worked for the Littles here for 30 years. Craig recounted how the Littles primarily ate the meat, fruit, and vegetables from the farm and even had it sent to their more formal Brookline residence.

Society makes a day of it

After spending the morning at Cogswell's Grant, the group returned to "downtown" Essex for lunch. The group enjoyed the excellent views and delicious seafood at John Shea's restaurant. Most of the group then proceeded to take an afternoon cruise on the Essex River. The narrated tour lasted 1.5 hours.

"The color of the sun on the sparkling water and the marsh was absolutely spectacular," said Sillers. "It was beautiful."

Attendees included Phil Drew, Charlie and Joanne Forsberg, Eunice Knight, Gabor and Bonnie Miskolczy, Sylvia Sillers, Ellen Rauch, Lynda Wills (a friend of Ellen's, and director of the Winchester Library), Pamela Roles, and Bert and Jane Williams.

Recommended in Essex

· Cogswell's Grant: 60 Spring Street, Essex, 1-978 768-3632. Open June 1 through October 15 with tours at 11, 12, 1, 2, 3, and 4. Admission: $10, $9 seniors, $5 children and students.

· John Shea's Restaurant:, 122 Main Street, Essex. 1-978 768-6931.

· Essex River Cruise and Charters: 35 Dodge St., Essex, MA, 1-800 748-3706.

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito