The 2009 Award was given in appreciation for the Stone Family’s Hundred-Year Stewardship of the Great Hill property. Following is Judy Rosbe’s account of the history of the Stone Estate at Great Hill:
GREAT HILL IN MARION, MASSACHUSETTS—CELEBRATING ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF OWNERSHIP BY THE STONE FAMILY
Great Hill is a peninsula that juts out into Buzzards Bay and consists of 312 acres of rolling woods, meadows and lawns. The prominent feature of this property is a distinctive glacial hill that reaches 127 feet above sea level and gives the estate its name. It is the highest land in Marion and has approximately two-and-one-half miles of waterfront. Native Americans relied on Great Hill’s elevation as a strategic lookout to protect their families and crops. Great Hill also served as their sacred tribal meeting ground long before the first permanent English settlement in Marion in 1679. During King Philip’s War in the 17th century, Great Hill was the scene of a peace accord between English troops and Queen Awashanks and her tribe. During the colonist era, salt hay was harvested on Great Hill and much of the acreage was used for pasturage for livestock.
In 1860, Marion’s first summer hotel, a four-story building called “Marion House,” was constructed on Great Hill. It accommodated 300 summer guests. Around 1880, a wealthy Dedham resident, Albert Nickerson, bought the hotel after his family was asked to leave the hotel because his children had developed German measles. He was a wealthy sugar millionaire who also built the Castle at Noble and Greenough school in Dedham. The Castle was designed by the famous architect, Henry Hobson Richardson. After suffering a financial setback in the 1890s, Albert Nickerson sold Great Hill to the Buzzards Bay Land Trust, a group of real estate investors who purchased properties to resell them at a profit. They had the property surveyed into two-acre lots and put Great Hill on the market in 1905. Galen L. Stone purchased the entire property in 1908.
Galen L. Stone was co-founder in 1892 along with Charles Hayden (of the Hayden Planetarium) of the major stock brokerage firm, Hayden, Stone & Co. Galen Stone was born in 1862 in Leominster, Massachusetts and in his teens worked as an office clerk in Boston before becoming a major figure in the financial world. In 1889 he married Carrie Morton Gregg of Boston and the couple eventually made their home in Brookline, MA. An avid yachtsman, Galen L Stone, in his later years, owned the 188 foot vessel, the Arcadia.
Galen Stone had the Marion House demolished and hired the architectural firm of Perry Shaw Chapman and Fraser in Boston to design a rambling mansion built out of hayden stone quarried from the Philadelphia area and brought to Great Hill by barges. He used that particular type of stone because of its name being the same as the name of his firm. The Tudor manor house was copied from an estate north of London called Compton Wyngates. By 1911, the Stones moved into the massive summer “castle” with 30 servants. Records show that the cost to build the house was $329,000. Another 20 male employees lived in another building on the grounds for the staff. There were 12 greenhouses on the property in which exotic Australian Acacia trees and even papayas were grown.
The Stone estate on Great Hill was a Tudor mansion with a massive front door. It was built around a square called the Great Hall. All of the woodwork in the house was made of oak, except in the library where circassian walnut was used. The main fireplace in the mansion was made of granite, while the fireplace in the library was black marble. The tragedy of the choice of hayden stone was that it was extremely porous. The interior plaster next to the stone absorbed the water from the stone exterior resulting in moisture and mold appearing in the house. Mrs. Stone had to re-wallpaper the southwest side of the house each spring when the family moved into Great Hill for the summer.
There were always many family members and guests at Great Hill and the Marion General Store made daily provisions trips to the estate, first by wagon and later by automobile. The Great Hall was always decorated with flowers from the eight beds of cultivated roses and other flowers grown on the estate. Galen L. Stone, who was also known as a great philanthropist, died on December 26, 1926. When his wife died in 1945, their only son, Robert Gregg Stone, inherited the property.
Because of the extreme moisture problem and because staff was more difficult to obtain after World War II, the house was greatly altered and reduced in size in 1948-1949. Brick replaced the porous hayden stone. Today, the property is in a trust and many of the surviving grandchildren of Galen L. Stone, their children and grandchildren still live at Great Hill – some full-time and others weekends and summers. The Sippican Historical Society honors the Stone family’s 100-year stewardship of the wonderful Great Hill property in Marion.