The Beebe Estate’s garden is a small, quiet place nestled beside the house, surrounded by lilacs, rose bushes, and hedges. But it did not always look this way.
When William Foster owned this property, it included several hundred acres of farmland, but by the late 19th century, when Harriet and Liberty Bigelow lived here, the land associated with the property was closer to its present size. The house was well known for its orchards and vegetable gardens at that time. The Bigelows’ daughter Katherine and her husband Decius Beebe continued that tradition, followed by their daughters Leslie and Sylenda, who lived here until the mid 1960s. The Beebe sisters, together with their landscape designer Brenda Newton, maintained a vast and elaborate perennial garden to the east of the house. The property also had flowering trees and shrubs, as well as a fanciful arbor and a small pond.
The Beebe Estate became the property of the city of Melrose in the 1960s, and around that time, parts of the garden began to erode. Over the next 30 years, a driveway and parking area took the place of some of the easternmost garden beds, and the arbor, garden trellises, fruit trees, and pond all vanished.
In 1998, however, the city of Melrose undertook the installation of a new, formal garden that reflects the spirit and intent of the Beebe sisters’ landscape. Funded in part by the city, the Beebe Estate Association, and a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management (now DCR), the new garden was planned by landscape architect Clara Batchelor to enhance the historic character of the site on a smaller, more modest scale.
The restored Beebe Estate Garden has been used for summer jazz concerts, poetry readings, outdoor movies, weddings, parties, and private receptions. It is also one of the most pleasant places in Melrose to just sit and relax.