, Salem, MA

April 24, 2013

Volunteers dig together to restore historic garden

By Bethany Bray

---- — BEVERLY — A project is underway to take the Cabot House garden back in time.

With the help of volunteers, the Beverly Historical Society has begun to restore the yard and garden at the Georgian-style mansion at 117 Cabot St. to its original grandeur.

Work has already begun to repaint and move the backyard gazebo, called the “summer house.” Future plans include planting historically accurate flowers and trees and replacing the property’s picket fence.

“We want to restore the backyard to what it was earlier in its history,” said Beverly Historical Society Director Sue Goganian. “We want to make this a more welcoming place for our members and neighbors.”

The renovations are being based on a 1938 survey of the property that shows pear trees, forsythia, hydrangea, lilacs and a grape arbor. A short path leading to the summer house is lined with a border of iris.

A volunteer work day is planned for Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Cabot House.

Volunteers from Beverly Main Streets and the Beverly Rotary Club are spearheading the effort. From start to finish, the restoration is expected to span the next few years.

It’s not that the gardens are historically inaccurate as is, Goganian said — they’ve just been a low priority for the society’s small staff. There are empty gaps in some of the flower beds. Some trees have died and been removed, and others are in need of pruning.

“The yard doesn’t have much, period,” she said. “... We have a really small staff and have to make really hard decisions all the time about what our priorities are.”

Volunteers have already begun work on the summer house, which will be relocated in the next few weeks. The garden beds will be worked on over the summer. The fence replacement depends on funding, Goganian said.

A new foundation is being built for the gazebo, and it will be relocated to its historical spot, as a focal point in the center of the backyard.

The house at the corner of Cabot and Central streets was built by the Cabots, a merchant family, in 1781. According to the Historical Society, it was the first brick mansion built in Beverly.

The house was willed to the Historical Society by a later owner, Edward Burley, in 1891.

A preservation specialist did an assessment of the property in 2012 and put the garden on a list of priorities in need of attention.

The property’s picket fence, a fixture at the Cabot House for at least a century, is deteriorating and portions have been removed. It is beyond repair and must be replaced, Goganian said.

At more than 400 feet long, estimates to replace the fence range from $8,000 to $20,000, she said.

“If I had the money (for the fence), I would do it tomorrow,” she said.

“Part of our mission is to care for historic objects, documents and properties,” Goganian said. “We would do more if we had more resources. It’s certainly important that we do as much as we can ...

“We thought it would be a nice gesture for the whole neighborhood to do something we could all enjoy.”

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.


To volunteer, call Beverly Main Streets at 978-922-8558 or email

For more information about the restoration, call the Beverly Historical Society at 978-922-1186 or email