Myrifield Institute for Cognition and the Arts
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Our Location: History

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Our Location: History

Myrifield is a connected farmstead, characteristic of 18-19th century farms in Northern New England, comprising the Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn. Built in 1790 by Ezra Gleason, a local farmer, Myrifield eventually passed into the hands of John Temple, whose wife Sarah was the granddaughter of Jonathan Taylor, the first recorded European-descended resident of Heath. John and Sarah had 13 children, and it was probably they who converted Myrifield, originally built as a 1½-story Cape house, into a two-story Federal structure so that they could house their large family. The house was purchased in 1903 by a noted Boston physician, Dr. Grace Wolcott, who we believe was responsible for naming the house Myrifield, and who turned it into a summer sanitarium for her woman patients, providing them with occupational therapy – weaving, chair-caning, and pea-shelling, according to a local history. Dr. Wolcott was noted for being the first woman physician in the United States to specialize in women’s medical problems and to open an evening pharmacy in Boston to enable women to acquire medications for their families without having to take time off from work.

After Dr. Wolcott’s death, Myrifield passed into the hands of the Robbins family, whose best-known member was the theologian Howard Chandler Robbins, one of a coterie of prominent religious leaders who summered in Heath over the years. The German-American theologian and philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr resided at Myrifield with his family for three summers. Myrifield then fell into disuse, becoming known to local children as a haunted house they called “the Asylum,” until it was purchased by the Howland family in 1977, who partially restored the house and reclaimed the grounds from the encroaching forest.

Myrifield was purchased in 2002 by Donald and Margaret Freeman, who embarked upon a complete exterior and interior renovation of the house, restoring its original central chimney with four fireplaces (which had been removed), expanding its kitchen and dining facilities, creating institute quarters in the Back House, and adding a third-floor reading room for use by the Myrifield Institute for Cognition and the Arts, which they incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2008.

 

©2013 Myrifield Institute for Cognition and the Arts
P.O. Box 132, 23 Avery Brook Road, Heath, MA 01346-0132
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Myrifield Institute for Cognition and the Arts