Prowse Farm is located at the gateway of the 6,000-plus acre Blue Hills Reservation — public parkland originally set aside for recreational use. The Blue Hills are referred to as a “crown jewel” of public parkland. Prowse Farm includes 55 pastoral acres: Meditech’s office complex and 44 acres of open space that rest at the foot of Great Blue Hill, after which Massachusetts derived its name. The Native Americans called the area Moswatusek — “land by the great hill.”
History of Prowse Farm Slideshow
Part 1: Early and Colonial History
Part 2: J. Malcolm Forbes
Part 3: Martha Peabody Prowse
Part 4: Fight for Preservation
Part 5: 1970s
Part 6: 1980s
Part 7: Governor Dukakis to Present
In 1774, brave and foresightful colonists convened at Doty Tavern, along what is now Route 138 on the corner of this property. It was just outside the watchful vigilance of the red coats in Boston. Rebelling against the tyrannical rule of Great Britain, the colonists drafted the Suffolk Resolves on August 16. They were later signed in neighboring Milton and carried on horseback to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia by Paul Revere. John Adams, in receipt of the document, proclaimed, “This day convinces me that the colonies will stand by Massachusetts or perish with her.” The Resolves served as the basis for the Declaration of Independence.
In 1890 the wealthy statesman/sportsman J. Malcolm Forbes purchased the land and established the foremost standardbred breeding farm in the East, stabling world champions and eventual Hall of Fame trotters, Nancy Hanks, Bingen, Arion, and Peter the Great.
Martha Peabody Prowse is presented with the Farm as a wedding gift from her father. She rode side saddle, hosted area horse shows, and permitted trotting horses to be stabled and trained at the Farm. She resided here at Maresfield Farm, as she called it, until her passing in 1975.
Mrs. Prowse did not stipulate in her will the specific disposition of the property and with no surviving immediate family, a land-use struggle of epic proportion evolved, pitting the mounting activist forces of the Friends of Prowse Farm against the corporate ambitions of Motorola and its now defunct subsidiary, Codex Corporation. Also in the mix were local town officials advocating development over preservation for corporate promises that never came to realization, and Massachusetts governor Mike Dukakis who pledged to save the farm only to betray the citizen group when he sought the office of president of the United States. Activist core members Harvey Robbins and Dr. Robert Keighton authored two books on the fight to save Prowse Farm: Betrayal — Mike Dukakis and Prowse Farm and If You Elect Me President. The betrayal became a paramount publicized issue in his failed bid for the highest office in the land.
After being denied rezoning of the Farm for limited industrial use at several Canton town meetings, Codex gained the vote based on several promises, including the preservation of all the existing structures on the land. But on October 18, 1980, under cover of darkness, the corporation sent bulldozers to the Farm and destroyed all but two of the original buildings.
Codex begins construction of its corporate headquarters on the farm.
After Codex completed controversial construction of the office building on the farm, the company failed, vacated, and went out of business.
Meditech purchased the property and forged an alliance with the Friends of Prowse Farm to administer the 44 undeveloped acres and mansion for public access and educational purposes.
An educational center and museum have been established in the mansion and an array of events have taken place on the farm. The oldest, consecutive event is the Native American Pow-Wow, organized by T.O.P.I.C., The Order of Preservation of Indian Culture, presided by Chief One Bear Tremblay. Over the years, items of the dancers’ clothing and jewelry have been added to the display on the second floor of the mansion. The Pow-Wow is held annually in June at Prowse Farm and is open to the public. From 1993–2004 Prowse Farm sponsored an annual Farm/City Festival in September. It featured educational exhibits, crafters, horse, oxen and tractor demonstrations, live raptor shows, live musical entertainment and more.
Excavations were undertaken from Dec. 28, 1994 to June 30, 1995 to pinpoint the foundations of Doty Tavern which had burned to the ground in 1888. Artifacts from that dig are displayed in the Doty Tavern room on the second floor.
The Friends of Prowse Farm rebuild the reviewing stand, demolished by Codex, which has always been the symbol of the Farm. The design was based on photographs of the original.
The mansion was chosen by the Greater Boston Junior League as its 2005 Show House. Various interior design professionals were assigned specific rooms to develop in the house. The interior was completely redecorated and the kitchen and butler’s kitchen were fully equipped with modern appliances. Also, a Currier and Ives lithography exhibit was set up in 2005 to accent the history of harness racing.
Two hundred thirty four years after the colonists convened at Doty Tavern to draft the Suffolk Resolves, which became the precursor of the Declaration of Independence, the original tavern sign came up for sale at the Skinner Auction House in Boston on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008. The sign was purchased for $28,440.00 and donations were made to cover the cost. It now is displayed in the Doty Tavern Room on the second floor.
The Life is Good Kids Foundation holds a fund-raising festival in September that attracts 28,000 people over the course of a weekend to participate in family-centered entertainment.
Chief One Bear, founder and inspirational head of T.O.P.I.C., passes away.