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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Heritage Museums & Gardens One of Cape Cod’s Crown Jewels

Within walking distance of our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast is the amazing and beautiful Heritage Museums & Gardens. With its’ 100 acres of nature trails, gardens, and museums, it is one of the crown jewels of Cape Cod.

The property on which Heritage sits is of great significance in the history of the town of Sandwich. The first person to live on the property was the widow Lydia Wing Hamilton Abbot, who moved there with her two sons in 1677. After her death, her brother Daniel Wing, Jr. and his two sons bought Lydia’s little house, which is now know as Orchard House. Members of the Wing family occupied the house until 1794. Much of the Wing family farm remains part of Heritage today and, although members of the Wing family have not lived on the property for years, their heritage remains an important part of the history of the museum.

Successful textile manufacturer Charles Owen Dexter bought the property in 1921. He and his wife spent summers on the farm for the next 15 years and he worked in his garden hybridizing plants. It was for his interest in rhododendrons that he became known. In 1935, they would move to the farm full time. Today the Dexter rhododendrons thrive and when they are in full blossom in June, thousands of visitors come to Heritage Museums & Gardens to enjoy their splendor.

The Dexter estate changed hands four times between 1945 and when it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. J. K. Lilly III who founded Heritage Plantation as a memorial to Josiah Kirby Lilly, Jr., an avid collector. The Plantation later became known as Heritage Museums & Gardens. Today some of the items you will see when you visit are from collections of J. K. Lilly, Jr.

Housed in a replica Hancock Village Shaker round barn is the Automobile Museum. Inside is a stunning collection of vintage automobiles, including Gary Cooper’s 1930 Duesenberg and President Taft’s white Steamer, the first presidential vehicle. On the grounds is also an Art Museum that features an extraordinary collection of New England folk art. A restored 1912 Charles I. D. Looff carousel, housed in a building built especially for its display, spins all day long for visitors young and old. There is also an American History museum, Heritage Labyrinth, the Hart Family Maze Garden, and a working 1800 windmill. The newly opened Flume Fountain is a spectacular steel flume conveying a ribbon of water into a pool below in the Don Marvin Daylily Garden. New in 2010 is Hidden Hollow: A Nature Discovery Center. While visiting Heritage Museums & Gardens, you can have a bite to eat in their café and visit their gift shop.

The spectacular 50,000 bulb garden blooms during April and their famous collection of Dexter rhododendrons will bloom in late May and early June, and in August, the grounds are ablaze with over 2,000 hybrid daylilies.

Heritage Museums & Gardens sits atop the hills of Upper Shawme Pond on Grove Street in Sandwich. From Main Street (Route 130), turn onto Grove Street (beside the Town Hall) and follow it up the hill. The main entrance to the Gardens will be on your left. For more information see their website or call (508) 888-3300. Make plans for a visit and have a blooming good time.

Jan Preus, the Innkeeper, chef, and artist in residence at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

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