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Seeing the Sites on a Shoestring-The Fells

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Fells

The Fells Historic Estate is located on Lake Sunapee, 456 Route 103A
Newbury, New Hampshire.
Entrance Fees:
Members of The Fells receive free unlimited visits to the house and grounds.
Nonmembers pay:
• Main House open: adults, $10; seniors and students, $8; children ages 6-17, $4; 5 and under, free; families of 2 adults and 2 or more children ages 6 or above, $25.
• Main House closed: adults $8; seniors and students, $6; children, $3; families of 2 adults and 2 or more children ages 6 or above, $15.
• Winter admission (December through March) is $5 per household, payable at our self-serve Welcome Kiosk.
The Fells is proud to participation in Blue Star Museums 2013, providing free access to the institution for active-duty military personnel and their immediate families from Memorial Day, May 27, 2013 through Labor Day, September 2, 2013.

About The Fells
The Fells, situated on a nearly 1,000-acre hillside in Newbury NH overlooking scenic Lake Sunapee served as a summer retreat for three generations of the Hay family. Experiencing the connections between this landscape’s diverse elements is often the visitor’s strongest memory of “The Fells”, named after the Scottish word for rocky upland pastures.
The Fells is a beautiful history lesson of the life and times of its founder, diplomat and statesman John Milton Hay, secretary to Abraham Lincoln. He was born in 1838, son of a rural Illinois doctor, graduated from Brown University and at age twenty-two was chosen as private secretary to Abraham Lincoln. He went on to serve as ambassador to Great Britain and served as secretary of state under presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. It was on the shores of Lake Sunapee that he and his wife, Clara Louise Stone, sought refuge from public life, and in 1888 Hay quietly began acquiring abandoned farms that would eventually total nearly 1,000 acres.
For many years, people at The Fells enjoyed a lovely view of Lake Sunapee. That is no longer true. There is only a sliver of a view of the lake. What a shame!

Historic House Tours
Historic tours of the Main House are offered seasonally during the summer. I highly recommend the tour. The staff is knowledgeable, and offered a unique view of John Hay, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.
Photos inside the Main House are not allowed.

The Gardens
While garden tours are advertised, we did not find one. We did have a wonderful time walking through the gardens and enjoying their beauty.

The Perennial Border
Located on the west side of the house is a one hundred-foot-long stone wall that provides structure for a dazzling perennial border featuring iris, delphinium, hollyhocks, phlox, and colorful annuals and biennials. We spent time sitting on the porch, enjoying the gardens.

The Rock Garden
Clarence Hay, son of John Hay, created and maintained the rock garden with about 600 different species and cultivars of rock garden and alpine plants.

The Rose Terrace
Created between 1924 and 1927 the Rose Terrace is anchored by beautiful stone walls and a tall urn fountain. Some of the original hybrid tea roses remain, supplemented by hardier disease resistant shrub roses, annuals and tender perennials.

The Old Garden
The Old Garden is the original garden created on the property in 1909. It was Clarence Hay’s first attempt at a formal garden layout and over the years its character has changed completely from the original sun-drenched perennial-filled formal axial layout to a cool and shady overgrown area.

The Heather Bed
The Fells Heather Bed was originally planted in 1931 under the direction of Clarence Hay. It survived for several decades until in 2005. The dead heather was removed, paths added and the bed replanted in 2007-08 with 20 varieties of heather, utilizing a generous grant from the Morton Foundation and volunteer assistance from the Northeast Heather Society.

Nature Trails
In 1960 the Hays donated 675 acres to the Society for Protection of NH Forests. This property is located “across the road” from The Fells and has a network of trails that go to the top of Sunset Hill. A trail-head kiosk depicts this system of trails.
In 1987 upon the death of Alice , the remaining 164 acre-estate was deeded to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of their wildlife refuge system. In 2008 83.5 acres that included the historic buildings and grounds were divested from USFWS, and The Fells, who had cared for the property since 1995, became owners. The remainder of the property continues to be owned and managed by USFWS.
There are several easy hiking trails across both properties, totaling nearly five miles.
The John Hay Forest Ecology Trail
This trail, named for the renowned natural history author and grandson of John Milton Hay, is part of The John Hay National Wildlife Refuge administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The only place you get a good look at the lake is from the John Hay Trail.

Our cost: $20.
Our Opinion: We had a wonderful time touring the property. It is a great trip for people who love history, horticulture or hiking. The gardens are lovely. The mansion is beautiful, but no photos are allowed. Since the walk from the car to the tables at the back of the mansion is over ¼ mile, we chose to eat our picnic lunch at the car. Eating on the premises was not really accommodated nor encouraged.
Learn more at

Member Comments About This Blog Post:
NORASPAT 7/12/2013 9:35PM

    THANKS, I e-mailed them and since we are members at the coastal Maine Botanical gardens we can use our membership to see your FELLS too. Thanks you Pat in Maine. I love your BLOGS.

I love to blog too but not very good with photos. Pat

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WILSONWR 7/12/2013 9:01AM

    Thanks for the great tour!

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EDLEAR 7/12/2013 3:52AM

    This sounds like a great pace to visit, thanks for the descriptions. The gardens sound like something I need to see, if for no other reason than ideas for my own.

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68ANNE 7/11/2013 7:06PM

    Much more info than I had known. Thanks

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LINDAKAY228 7/11/2013 6:30PM

    You have such lovely places to see around your area. SOunds like it was really a wonderful day! Thanks for sharing the history and pics.

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MSLZZY 7/11/2013 4:21PM

    Absolutely beautiful. Your descriptions make me wish I were there.

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_LINDA 7/11/2013 12:45PM

    Thank you for the detailed outline of what you can see at this historic place! Beautiful photos! I would love to see it some day!

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1CRAZYDOG 7/11/2013 10:27AM

    Ditto on writing a guidebook! This place looks awesomely beautiful! Thanks for sharing the information.

HUGS and smiles.

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CAPECODLIGHT 7/11/2013 10:09AM

    You should write a guidebook! This was lovely.
Have you ever gone to Robert Frost's home in Derry? I stopped there once on the way back to the Cape. I was enthralled. It was like stepping into one of his poems on my walk around the property.

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DEBBYFROMMT 7/11/2013 10:07AM

    I really had no idea all that was in New Hampshire!

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NUTRON3 7/11/2013 9:08AM

    Love the pictures

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MICKEYH 7/11/2013 9:07AM

    Thanks for beautiful tour. emoticon

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SANDRALEET 7/11/2013 8:08AM

    Some people were lucky to have had that home

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NANNABLACK 7/11/2013 7:27AM


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GOLFGMA 7/11/2013 7:03AM

    Lovely! emoticon

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KIM22211 7/11/2013 6:29AM


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NASFKAB 7/11/2013 6:26AM

  thanks so interesting

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