Are there restrooms at Cogswell’s Grant?
Yes. There are two restrooms, one of which is handicapped accessible.
Is the museum handicapped accessible?
A tour of any Historic New England property requires a considerable amount of standing and some walking. Cogswell's Grant has not been equipped with handicapped accessible ramps, elevators, or chair lifts. Folding chairs can be provided for visitors who would like to use them during a tour. We are glad to offer guests a visual tour of the museum. Visitors with limited mobility may be able to enjoy a first floor tour of the house and grounds. Service animals are always welcome. We encourage visitors with concerns to call ahead. We are happy to work with you to make your visit an enjoyable one.
Can I take photographs at the museum?
Interior and exterior photography for personal use is allowed at Historic New England properties. For the safety and comfort of our visitors and the protection of our collections and house museums, we ask that you be aware of your surroundings and stay with your guide. Video, camera bags, tripods and selfie-sticks are not permitted. Professional/commercial photographers and members of the media should visit the press room for more information.
How do I become a member of Historic New England and get more involved?
Join Historic New England now and get involved in preserving and celebrating the region's heritage. To join, call the Membership Office at 617-994-5910 or join online. You can reach the Cogswell’s Grant staff at 978-768-3632 or by e-mail.
Can I walk around the grounds? Can I bring my dog[s]?
Yes. The grounds are open to the public daily year-round, from dawn until dusk, and dogs are welcome. Please park in the marked parking area, and please ensure that your dogs are under your control.
How long is the tour?
The tour is about an hour long, and you will find that just enough time to scratch the surface at Cogswell’s Grant. For a longer, more in-depth experience in the house, check out our program listings for our special “Favorite Things, Hidden Treasures” tour, which takes at least two hours and explores areas that are not on the regular tour.
Do we need to take a tour or can we just look around?
All visitors to the house receive a guided tour.
What is in the attic? Is the attic on the tour?
There are some fascinating things in the attic, including a room that belonged to Jack Little, the eldest son, which contains some of his personal boyhood memorabilia. The attic is not on the regular tour, simply because there is not enough time; however, you can see the attic on our “Favorite Things, Hidden Treasures” tour.
Why do you have a television in a historic house?
The house is arranged just as it was when the Little family lived here in the summer. The Littles disliked “period rooms” and wanted their home to be comfortable for modern life. The room arrangements changed many times over the years between 1938 and 1993 as their collection grew, so Historic New England has chosen to interpret the house at a period in the 1980s, when the Littles’ active collecting had slowed and fewer new objects were being introduced. The TV set was in the green sitting room during that period.
I have heard that itinerant portrait painters used to paint bodies on canvases in advance and then added the faces of their subjects later on. Is this true?
This is a much-discussed theory that art history scholars now agree is unfounded, and unlikely to be true. Though folk art portraitists often used the same poses and backgrounds for multiple paintings so that they could do more paintings in a shorter period of time, there is no evidence of bodies being painted without heads. It is now widely accepted that this is a myth.
Is the Little family of Cogswell’s Grant related to the Littles of the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm?
There is no immediate link between the two Little families that we are aware of, though certainly there may be a distant relationship, as both are old families that originated in Essex County.
What did Mr. and Mrs. Little do for a living?
Mr. Little’s career began in the publishing business at Little, Brown & Co., but he also owned a rare book shop in Boston and for several years was an editor of a magazine called The Open Road For Boys. During World War II, he was director of the Blood Donor Center for the Boston chapter of the American Red Cross. Between 1947 and 1970, Mr. Little was the director of Historic New England, directly succeeding William Sumner Appleton, the founder and first director. Mrs. Little wrote six books and published more than 150 articles, monographs, and exhibition catalogs. She also lectured and acted as a consultant for various museums and collecting societies.
What happened to the collections in the Brookline house when the Littles passed away?
The contents of the Littles’ Brookline home were sold by Sotheby’s at two auctions in 1994. While recognizing the importance of their collection being preserved in a museum open to the public, the Littles also wanted their collection to be shared once again with private collectors, as they had found great joy in finding, acquiring, and living with their own objects. They achieved both goals by donating Cogswell’s Grant intact to Historic New England, while re-introducing their Brookline objects into the collecting world. Most of the objects sold are now in private collections, and some surface from time to time at antiques shows and auctions. However, many were also purchased by other museums, such as the American Folk Art Museum, Winterthur Museum, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center at Williamsburg, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Historic Deerfield.
Is Cogswell’s Grant still a working farm? How many acres do you have?
Yes, the farm has been a working farm from 1636 until today, and is one of the oldest continually operating farms in the country. We still have 165 acres of the original 300 acre grant, and the current boundaries of the property are those inherited by Jonathan Cogswell Jr. in 1717. Today we cut and sell hay from about thirty acres, and a local farmer leases a field from us to raise corn for a nearby farm stand in Essex. We also raise pumpkins every year for our annual Pumpkin Festival, when visitors can take a hay ride to our pumpkin patch and pick their own jack-o-lantern.
Was this house originally painted orange? Why is the back of the house a different color?
The color of the house was Mrs. Little’s choice, called “persimmon” in 1938. There is no evidence of the original 1728 paint color, but the bright orange color is an appropriate color for the eighteenth century. The gray paint on the back of the house and barn follows a traditional New England practice, saving the brightly colored, expensively tinted paints for the clapboarded front of the house and barn, while covering the part that doesn’t show in shingles and cheaper paint.
What kind of tree is the big one in front of the house? Why is the one beside it so much smaller?
The big tree in front of the house is a “Cucumber Magnolia,” one of the hardiest of the six species of magnolia trees native to North America. It blooms in early June, and its flowers are not pink like some magnolias, but a light, creamy green color. The smaller tree is a copper beech tree, planted in 2008 to replace a very old tree that had to be removed in September of 1990. The big copper beech split from old age and landed on the roof of the house; luckily there was no damage to the building.
The tour seems to be mostly about the folk art collection and the Little family. What about the Cogswell family history?
Historic New England interprets the property as it was restored, lived in, and donated by the Little family in the twentieth century. However, the Cogswell family heritage is very important, and was clearly significant to the Littles, as evidenced by their naming their home “Cogswell’s Grant,” though it had been known as the “Boyd Farm” for a century before their arrival. Our tour of the house understandably focuses on the important Little family folk art collections within, but we also offer special outdoor tours that focus on the history of the farm throughout its four centuries.