Codman Estate (c. 1740)

A family country house

Lincoln, Massachusetts

Overlooking a farm and pleasure grounds, this country seat, also known as “the Grange,” was a powerful force in the lives of five generations of the Codman family. Each generation that lived here left its mark, and the estate came to symbolize the family’s fascinating past. In the 1790s, John Codman carried out extensive improvements to the original Georgian house and surrounding grounds.

Sixty years later, his grandson updated the house to Victorian taste and filled it with the finest New York furnishings. Today the interiors are filled with portraits, memorabilia, and art works collected in Europe and America, showing the decorative schemes of every era, including those of noted early twentieth-century interior designer Ogden Codman Jr. The grounds feature a hidden turn-of-the-century Italian garden with perennial beds, statuary, and a reflecting pool filled with water lilies, as well as a 1930s English cottage garden.

Plan Your Visit

Location

34 Codman Road
Lincoln, Mass. 01773

Days & Hours

Second and fourth Saturdays
June 1 – October 15
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Tours on the hour.

Last tour at 2:00 p.m.

First-floor tours July 17 and Sept. 10 with festival admission.

Admission

$10 adults

$9 seniors

$5 students

Free for Historic New England members and Lincoln residents.

Directions

From Route I-95/Route 128, take Route 2 West 4.5 miles to Route 126 East past Walden Pond. Take the third left on Codman Road. Codman Estate is 0.5 miles on the left.

Parking

Parking is located next to the main gate on the left.

Public Transportation

MBTA Commuter Rail on the Fitchburg Line to the Lincoln stop. Local taxi service is available from the train station to the house.

Contact Information

A Country Seat

Rebecca Gore, the wife of the Massachusetts governor, proclaimed the Codman Estate “the handsomest place in America" in 1799.

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  • A Country Seat

    Rebecca Gore, the wife of the Massachusetts governor, proclaimed the Codman Estate “the handsomest place in America" in 1799.

  • Morning Room

    The paneling is the original 1740s woodwork. This room reflects the Codmans' taste in French furniture and fabrics.

  • Dining Room

    John Hubbard Sturgis, brother-in-law of Ogden Codman Sr., designed the dining room. Furniture was ordered from Leon Marcotte in New York.

  • Drawing Room

    The drawing room, as it is now known, was the large "hall" used as a ballroom in 1799.

  • Library

    Ogden Codman Jr. recommended removing the billiard table from this room to create a library in the 1890s, when billiard rooms were no longer in fashion.

  • Italian Garden

    In 1899 Sarah Bradlee Codman began work on an elaborate two-year project to create a walled Italian garden on the northwest side of the house.

Codman House, September 2010A Colonial Farm: Chambers Russell

Chambers Russell (1713-1767), a lawyer, legislator, judge, and a founder of the town of Lincoln, built a two-story Georgian mansion house on the property between 1735 and 1741. On his estate, Russell grew corn, hay, oats, and flax and raised livestock and poultry, in part using slave labor. Russell died in 1767, leaving the estate to be administered by executors during the American Revolutionary War years, on behalf of his son Chambers Russell Jr. By 1790 Chambers Russell Jr. had died without children, leaving the property, which included “the Mansion house with front yard” and the “octagon piece of mowing front of the grate house about five acres” to his six-year-old nephew, Charles Russell Codman. Charles’ father, John Codman, was named executor and began immediately to improve the property on his son’s behalf.

Codman House, September 2010Federal Period Expansion: John Codman

John Codman (1755-1803), who amassed a fortune through shipping and trade, expanded the Codman Estate and used it as his country seat from 1790 to 1803. His improvements brought the house and grounds to a total of 650 acres. Codman’s major impact was to transform the house into a three-story Federal-style mansion, much as it is today. Its design is attributed to the architect Charles Bulfinch.

Influenced by the picturesque views, productive farmland, and gardens of English estates, Codman made improvements to the farm’s agricultural productivity, separated the property’s ornamental landscapes, and installed the invisible retaining wall around the octagon known as a “ha-ha” wall. Codman expanded the house in 1798 and 1799, doubling the staircase, creating a large hall for entertaining, and building a new kitchen ell.

The Codman Estate impressed his Waltham neighbor, his wife’s cousin and a wealthy sophisticate, Rebecca Gore, the wife of a Massachusetts governor, who proclaimed it “the handsomest place in America.”

Property Care - Codman - 2007.Dorothys Garden Restoration - COD.The Middle Years: Charles Russell Codman

When John’s son Charles Russell Codman (1784-1852) came of age, he inherited the estate. Gradually he sold the house and several hundred acres of land, piece by piece, to support a lifestyle of travel and collecting. A seven-acre strip of land was sold to the Fitchburg Railroad less than 200 yards from the house and, as a result, the MBTA commuter rail train runs past the estate today.

The property was ultimately out of the Codman family for fifty-five years. Charles Russell Codman’s children and grandchildren regretted the sale and endeavored to buy back the property, which they eventually did.

Ogden Codman, Sr. and Sarah Bradlee Codman, 1864.Ogden Codmans, Father and Son

The son of Charles Russell Codman, Ogden Codman, Sr. (1839-1904), married Sarah Bradlee (1842-1922) in 1861. The young couple (pictured) purchased Ogden’s ancestral estate as a country house in 1862 and renamed it “The Grange.” Ogden Sr. worked with his brother-in-law, architect John Hubbard Sturgis, in 1863 on improvements to the house and grounds. They built a new carriage barn, added plumbing and heating, and made several architectural changes. The paneled morning room, which retains its original 1740s woodwork, was redecorated as a library, and the dining room became an Elizabethan-style hall.

The Codmans had invested heavily in Boston real estate. In 1872 these holdings were greatly affected by Boston’s Great Fire. Looking for a more affordable situation while their assets recovered, Ogden, Sarah, and their children relocated to Europe in 1874, ultimately living for many years in Dinard, France.

Ogden and Sarah’s oldest son, Ogden Jr., developed an interest in design and returned to the United States in 1882 to begin a career as an architect and interior designer. His family followed in the autumn of 1884, though they continued to return to Europe regularly.

Ogden Jr. became a successful architect and designer, most famously articulating his design philosophy in The Decoration of Houses, which he co-authored with his friend and client, writer Edith Wharton. He also designed homes and interiors for his society friends, including designs for the Hampshire House in Boston and the bedroom interiors at the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island.

From the mid-1880s through the early 1900s, Ogden Jr. worked on the interior decoration of the house, emphasizing classicism and Colonial Revival. He removed the billiard table from the billiard room to create a library in the 1890s, making it a less formal space for relaxing and reading. The family’s leisure pursuits were typical of their class and social standing. Brother Hugh was a violinist; Tom a photographer; sister Dorothy enjoyed gardening and collecting; Alice, travel, reading, painting, and needlework. Ogden Jr. continued to travel and settled in France in 1920.

The family’s lifestyle was supported by many servants. The house staff included a cook, chambermaids, chauffeur, parlor maids, and a weekly laundress. In 1888 the Codmans added a new servants’ wing. The new kitchen included a new coal/wood stove and hot water heater, and a bathroom with servants’ living space above on the second floor.

In 1899 Sarah Bradlee Codman began work on an elaborate two-year project to create a walled Italian garden on the northwest side of the house. Ogden Jr. advised his mother on the design which included fountains, a canal, pergolas, and statuary. The garden reflects the Codman sense of classicism and order, sharply contrasting with the picturesque forest and meadows surrounding it. Dorothy, like her mother, enjoyed tending her own garden. She designed a less formal “cottage” garden which was modest in size, but quite sophisticated in design. Dorothy used old-fashioned flowers in the Colonial Revival style, and planned for a succession of blooms throughout the seasons.

Codman House, September 2010Becoming a Museum

By the mid-1950s the house was no longer filled with servants. Tom and Dorothy were the only Codman children still alive, and lived there quietly among the family heirlooms. Tom Codman died in 1963 and Dorothy in 1968, leaving the house and immediate grounds to Historic New England. The idea to give the house to Historic New England was put in place by Ogden Jr. in 1920, with the intent to preserve an example of an elegant country estate. The Codman Estate gives a glimpse into the story of four generations of one family’s life and of 350 years of history, with special insight into the daily workings, changing fashions, and family ties of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Collections on Display

Portrait of Richard Codman (1762-1806)

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Bust of "Psyche"

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Tall Case Clock

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Landscape History

The Codman Estate is an outstanding example of a country estate laid out in the English manner. The house is sited on a knoll with a commanding view. The park-like setting includes a ha-ha wall, specimen trees, and plantings. An Italianate garden, hidden in a dell behind the house, dates from the turn of the century. A rose garden near the carriage house, redesigned by Dorothy Codman in 1908, once held more than 250 plant species.

By 1798, John Codman separated the property’s ornamental landscape from its productive farmland, and installed the retaining wall around the Octagon meadow known as a “ha-ha” wall, or sunken fence. Shaded avenues of elms, picturesque vistas, and winding paths impart a natural style alongside the formal, elegant parterres adjacent to the house. Codman was interested in improvements to the farm’s agricultural productivity; he was a founding member of the Massachusetts Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, established in 1792.

Orchards of apple and peach trees, pastures for grazing, vegetable and flower gardens, and culinary herbs were all planted. Following John Codman’s death, son Charles Russell Codman, in order to finance his lifestyle of travel and art collecting, sold the estate in pieces between the years 1815 and 1844. The property was out of the Codman family hands for fifty-five years and went into a period of decline. By 1899 Ogden Codman Jr. advised his mother on the design of a walled Italian garden in the northwest side of the house.

Property FAQs

Find out about parking, accessibility, photography policy, and more.

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  • How long does a tour of the Codman Estate last?

    The tour lasts one hour.

  • What does the tour include?

    Visitors see the major rooms of the main house as well as the working areas of the servants’ wing. The house is furnished with art, decorative arts, and antiques that belonged to several generations of one family.

  • Do I need to take a tour or can I just look around?

    All visitors to the house receive a guided tour.

  • Why is the Codman Estate important?

    Five generations of Codmans lived and worked on this estate; each generation left their mark. The interiors, richly furnished with portraits, objects, and art works collected in Europe and America, preserve the decorative schemes of every era.

  • Who were the Codmans?

    The Codman family were members of the Boston elite. The early colonial Codmans were landowners, farmers, ship owners, and merchants. Their descendants included collectors, connoisseurs, and a famous interior designer.

  • Can we visit the landscape and have a picnic?

    Yes, visitors are encouraged to enjoy the Codman Estate landscape every day, dawn to dusk. There are lots of places to picnic or enjoy the view. The Codman Estate adjoins the Town of Lincoln conservation trail, so feel free to take a walk in the woods as well.

  • May I rent the property for a wedding?

    Yes. The Codman Carriage House is available for private functions.

  • Are there restrooms?

    Yes

  • Where is the best place to park?

    Parking is located adjacent to the main gate on the left.

  • Is the museum accessible to people with disabilities?

    A tour of any Historic New England property requires a considerable amount of standing and some walking. The Codman Estate has not been equipped with 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 help preserve the region’s heritage. Call 617-994-5910 or join online.

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