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How we survived winter 2010/2011

March 28, 2011

Lyman Estate
Snow blankets the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts

This winter's unusually heavy snowfall added up to major snow removal activities for Historic New England and its landscape staff. From late December through February, storms dropped roughly ten feet on Burlington, Vermont; seven feet on Hartford, Connecticut; six feet on Boston; and four feet on Portland, Maine, Concord, New Hampshire, and Providence, Rhode Island.

At our Boston area properties, five-foot walls of snow on either side of pathways made it necessary to hoist and catapult each heavy shovelful overhead. The snow was piled so high in some areas that snow removal equipment had to be used to make room for future storms. In southern coastal Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, we were able to keep driveways clear tRoseland Cottage fencehanks to the persistent efforts of Gary Wetzel, our Piscataqua region landscape manager.

We saw on the news and in our own communities that ice dams leaked into buildings and damaged homes and businesses, thick icicles stretched toward the ground, and roofs collapsed under the weight of accumulated snow and ice. Although we did have to address some flooded basements, fallen limbs, and minor building damage, Historic New England's properties made it through the winter without catastrophe.

Much of that is due to our Preservation Maintenance Fund, which supports the care and maintenance of our sites and allows us to address in advance issues such as tree care, installing heat tape, and analyzing drainage issues. We are also grateful to our dedicated property care staff, who shoveled roofs, melted ice dams, and broke hanging icicles.

Codman snowdrops
Snowdrops at the Codman Estate in Lincoln, Mass., remind us that spring is on the way.

Although the snow was still thigh-deep, mid-February in Boston brought a few days of temperatures in the forties and fifties, causing workers with cabin fever to rush outside. Happy to be relieved of snow removal duties, our landscape staff cleared brush, opening views at Hamilton House on the Piscataqua River. Anthony DeAngelis, the Boston area landscape manager, removed dying and invasive trees and shrubs in the Boston region, and Ellen Mackey, our Boston region gardener, repaired damage on specimen plants and completed winter pruning.

Last week at the Codman Estate in Lincoln, Massachusetts, as the yellow sun dipped through the old western fields, snowdrops started to bud under a century-old lilac. Despite the still-present chance of snow, spring is finally here.

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How we survived winter 2010/2011