Owned by the Trustees of Reservations, Appleton Farms is America’s oldest working farm, with rolling grasslands, grazing livestock, stone walls, extensive forests, and historic farm buildings are part of the farms 1,000-acre pastoral landscape. The farm operates a 550-member Community Supported Agriculture program, and a farm store that sells the artisanal cheeses, butter and yogurt as well as beef and eggs.
Appleton Farms along with the neighboring Appleton Farms Grass rides offer more than 12 miles of walking trails, a visitor center, and is open to the public seven days a week.
Featured above is the Appleton Farms “Old House” which is now the visitor center. Many generations of the Appleton family lived in the “Old House” at Appleton Farms. Samuel Appleton was an original settler, and his brother Isaac built the first section of the Old House in 1688. Samuel Appleton of the fifth generation of the family greatly expanded it in 1784 with Georgian/early Federal features, and later generations added Victorian flourishes to the farmhouse. Successive generations of the Appleton family gutted and rehabbed the house at least six times. Read the Appleton Family history.
Appleton Farms is one of the oldest continuously operating farms in the country, gifted to the Trustees of Reservations by Francis and Joan Appleton. It was originally granted to Ipswich settler Samuel Appleton .
Thomas Franklin Waters included this sketch in his book,”Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony,” which he identifies as the home of Major Samuel Appleton, built by him and occupied until his death in 1696. The farm continued in family ownership for seven generations. The property consists of forests, fields, wetlands and small glacial hills. The Hamilton section is known as Appleton Farms Grass Rides on Highland St. View directions.
The Trustees of Reservations assumed responsibility for the farm in 1998, and renovated the 200-year-old house with green technology, restoring it to its Georgian essence. The home had fallen into great disrepair, but the core of the home has been saved. The renovation preserved hand-hewn timbers, heart-pine floorboards, Victorian-era windows, decorative moldings and mementos. The newly opened visitor center includes furniture, portraits, photo albums, books, and other objects original to the house. The house tells the story of one family’s history from settlers to farmers to “gentleman farmers” over the course of 371 years.
There was once an Appleton Farms “New House,” build in 1891. The building no longer stands.
The intersection of Waldingfield Road and County Road (Bay Road) marked an area with tremendous wealth, with the Appleton estate Waldingfield on the west and the Proctor estate on the east. Continuing west on the north side of Waldingfied Road, The Captain Isaac Smith house was purchased by Helen, wife of Randolph M. Appleton, son of Mr. D. F. Appleton, who apparently gave it the name “Applefield.” There were two Tuckerman-Appleton marriages, and the Tuckerman family owned several elegant properties between Waldingfield Rd. and the Ipswich River. “Applegate,” was owned by Charles Tuckerman and his wife Ruth Appleton. “Waldingfield” was built by Randolph Morgan Appleton. “Sunswick”, bordering “Waldingfield” on the west, was built by Bayard and Annie Tuckerman. Even today Waldingfield Road with its beautiful stone walls, tree-lined pastures and grand homes is one of the most scenic ways in Ipswich.
Reaching Highland Street, the Appleton holdings extended on either side of Mill Road to Topsfield Road, bordering the Rice properties. The Rev. W. G. Thayer constructed his summer residence not far from the bridge, along the river, and named it Holiday Hill.
Adjoining his property was the estate of the Rev. Roland Cotton Smith, married Harriett, daughter of General James Appleton, becoming the brother-in-law of Daniel Fuller Appleton. He founded the Ascension memorial Church in Ipswich and named his home on Mill Road “Cottonfield.”
Waldingfield Road near Highland Street
Appleton Farms Grass Rides is part of the Bay Circuit Trail and the “Discover Hamilton” trail system. Walking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing are allowed, as well as dogs. Parking is free for Trustees of Reservation members, $5 for non-members. View the Appleton-Farms-Trail-Map
The most easterly section is forested with several miles of carriage trails and is known as Appleton Farms Grass Rides, originally designed for horseback riding. There are four granite pinnacles salvaged from the former Harvard College Library standing as silent sentries in the two sections . Read more about the Appleton Farms pinnacles.
Cross-country skiing at Appleton Farms
Shown on the map are several cross-country ski outings, each about 4-5 miles, and taking up to two hours. The blue track above at Appleton farms follows trails around the perimeter of Grass Rides, and is exactly 4 miles. There are several miles of intersecting trails in the Grass Rides section that are not shown on this map. The orange track is 4.6 miles, and also starts at the Grass Rides parking lot on Highland Ave. It goes to the other side of the tracks through the Appleton Farms Property, then returns. An additional couple of miles is possible through the fields along Waldingfield Rd.
The blue track at Bradley Palmer State Park followed the perimeter but I followed a trail that took me to Highland St. and went off the Park land for a short distance. The orange route at Bradley Palmer includes some easy climbs and lots of meadows. *note: these colors are for this map only. The two parks have their own trail numbering and marking systems.
The yellow route is the Pingree Reservation. You can use these trails to connect Appleton Farms with Bradley Palmer State Park.
The red route is a 3 mile trip on old roads in Willowdale State Forest. The lime colored path used the pedestrian bridge over the Ipswich River and visited both parks.
The North Shore Nordic Association promotes winter use of our area’s existing trail networks and recreational assets by partnering with existing organizations and governmental entities to plan and maintain a system of winter trails for human-powered snow sports such as cross-country skiing, skate skiing, and snowshoeing. By providing a network of groomed trails, trail maps and signs, NSNA encourages and facilitates active living and exploration of the outdoors in winter. Use of the groomed trails is donation supported and open to all.