Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hill Top Farm

In June, 1901, the original Cape-style farmhouse at Hill Top Farm on Highland Road in Lakeville was burned down as reported by the Plymouth Old Colony Memorial at the time:

Morgan Rotch's country seat at Lakeville, "Hilltop," was burned early one morning recently. A Portuguese farm hand who slept in the barn discovered fire in that building and had barely time to get himself and the horses out, getting burned somewhat while doing so. A little of the furniture was saved from the house. Mr. Rotch is abroad.

Following the fire, a new large house (pictured above in the process of construction) was erected at the bottom of the hill near the shore of Long Pond.

The History of Hill Top Farm in the Words of Lydia Rotch, a new booklet in the historical series published by Preserve Our Lakeville Landmarks, is a continuation of the story of this house, its surrounding property and the family which occupied it as as told by Rotch's grand-daughter Lydia (1910-2005).

Owned since 1889 by the Rotch family of New Bedford which had been instrumental in that city's economic and political growth, Hill Top Farm was the family's summer retreat and was established during the era when the regions surrounding the Middleborough and Lakeville ponds were developed as summer estates by regionally prominent individuals. Occupying the crest of what was once known as Shockley Hill, and sloping eastwards down to the shore of Long Pond, Hill Top Farm was originally operated as a stock farm by Morgan Rotch where dairy cattle and trotting horses were raised. In 1910, the property was inherited by Miss Rotch's father, Boston landscape architect Arthur Grinnell Rotch, who made numerous improvements about the property and continued to spend summers for the remainder of his life there.

Miss Rotch recounts the evolution of the property from 1889 through 2005 and considers its role as both a working farm and a summer retreat for the family. Throughout, the history is illustrated with snapshots from her private collection, depicting both the family at play as well as the buildings and grounds.

In 2006, the 90 acre property was left to the Trustees of Reservations through the generosity of Miss Rotch.

The History of Hill Top Farm in the Words of Lydia Rotch is published by Preserve Our Lakeville Landmarks and is available at the Lakeville Town Clerk's office for $5. P. O. L. L.'s earlier booklets (listed in the right sidebar here) are also available for purchase.

"A Summer Cottage Being Built on the Shore of Long Pond in Lakeville by Morgan Rotch 1902", photograph by George Dorr of Middleborough, 1902

Lydia Rotch. The Lakeville Historical Tour Committee Presents the History of Hill Top Farm in the Words of Lydia Rotch. Lakeville, MA: Preserve Our Lakeville Landmarks, 2009.

Old Colony Memorial, "News Notes", June 29, 1901, page 3.


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