Spring 2011: The Baker Estate – “Fairyland of the Beautiful and Bizarre”

Spring 2011: The Baker Estate - "Fairyland of the Beautiful and Bizarre"


All Day

Event Type

Presented by Gloria Polizzotti Greis,
Executive Director, Needham Historical Society

Gloria Polizzotti Greis, Executive Director of the Needham Historical Society delivered a powerpoint lecture The Baker Estate – “Fairyland of the Beautiful and Bizarre,” She introduced the history of the Baker Estate and illustrated her lecture with the extensive collection of Baker Estate photos in the Needham Historical Society.

In the 1860s, William Emerson Baker retired from his sewing machine business with a vast fortune and purchased nearly 800 acres in Needham – the famous Ridge Hill Farms. Widely regarded as America’s first amusement park, Ridge Hill Farms embodied Baker’s extraordinary passion for social and economic reform, experimental agriculture, bad puns, and practical jokes. Every attraction had its sharp point – and he used it to needle politicians, soldiers, scientists, and priests. After Baker’s death, several attempts were made to keep the attractions going; but fires and lack of funds eventually doomed the effort, and today there are few traces left of Baker’s “Fairyland of the Beautiful and Bizarre.”

Gloria Polizzotti Greis has been Executive Director of the Needham Historical Society since 2002. Prior to the Historical Society, she was Peabody Research Fellow at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (Harvard) (2001-2002), and Collections Manager for the Peabody’s Archaeology and Human Osteology Collections (1989-2001).

Ms. Greis holds a PhD in Anthropology, specializing in the archaeology of prehistoric Europe, and is the author of two books on archaeology, a book on local history, and several articles on history, archaeology and various other topics. She also serves as a member of the Needham Historical Commission, and the Needham Tercentennial Committee.

WCC’s Guernsey Sanctuary, a 25 acre woodland maintained in its natural state, is a part of the original Baker Estate. Guernsey Sanctuary was a gift to the Wellesley Conservation Council in 1961 by Mr. and Mrs. William G. Guernsey.

Photograph of Sabrina Lake 1875 courtesy of Gloria Polizzotti Greis