Made up of villages so small one doesn’t realize when one ends and the next begins, Massachusetts’ North Shore (and environs) was the home of the Ayers beginning in the eighteen-fifties.
Frederick Ayer moved from Syracuse, NY, to Lowell, MA, to join his brother in the patent medicine business and eventually became a major player in the textile industry along the Merrimack River. As his family grew, he built homes in Lowell, Pride’s Crossing, and Boston, creating a bond with the area that would last for generations.
The Pattons eventually settled in South Hamilton at Green Meadows, three miles from Beatrice’s brothers Chilly and Fred at Juniper Ridge and Ledyard Farm, respectively, and eight miles from her sister Kay at Avalon in Pride’s Crossing.
The North Shore is a great place to visit, and what’s more fun than visiting the places one has read (or written) about? Make sure to take along a copy of Lady of the Army: The Life of Mrs. George S. Patton to learn more about the Pattons’ connections to these beautiful places.
General George S. Patton Jr. was viewed by “his townspeople, neighbors and friends” as a “true gentleman, affable, warm-hearted, cheery in his greetings, popular with everyone.” Beatrice was equally loved in South Hamilton; the chief of police said she was “always law-abiding” with a pleasant word for everyone, while the owner of the local diner called her one of the best and often joined her fishing for pickerel in the Ipswich River at the back of Green Meadows. –Lady of the Army: The Life of Mrs. George S. Patton
- Patton Homestead
- Myopia Hunt Club
- Patton Park
- Wenham Museum
- St. John’s Episcopal Church
- Pride’s Crossing Station
- Plum Cove
- When and If
- Frederick Fanning Ayer House
- Ayer Mill
- Lowell Cemetery
- Shawsheen Village, Lawrence, MA, United States
- Drumlin Farm
- Tiffany – Ayer Mansion
- Hatch Shell
- Long Hill
- Castle Hill on the Crane Estate
- Briar Barn Inn
- Coolidge Reservation
- Stevens-Coolidge Home and Gardens
Patton Homestead (Green Meadows) – 650 Asbury Street, South Hamilton
Purchased by the Pattons in 1927 so Beatrice would be surrounded by family when it was time for George to go to war, Green Meadows was home to the Patton family until about ten years ago. It is now open for tours, still filled with the spoils of war George sent home. Walk to the back of the property for a beautiful view of the Ipswich River, or join the Patton Homestead for movie or music night. In the backyard, near the cannon George sent home from North Africa, is Beatrice’s (unofficial) place of burial. Reservations are necessary for tours, but the grounds are open free-of-charge from sunrise to sunset.
Patton Park – Asbury St & MA-1A, South Hamilton
In 1946, the Myopia Hunt Club donated a piece of land along Route 1A to create Patton Park, and in 1947 Beatrice had a 67,000 pound Sherman tank donated from the Army. The tank proudly sits in Patton Park to this day, together with an artillery gun and two Liberty Road Markers in honor of the 83rd Division of the Third Army and the 4th Armored Division.
Myopia Club – 435 Bay Road, South Hamilton
Pick up a picnic at Appleton Farms a few miles up the road and head to Gibney Field on Sunday afternoons for an exciting game of polo with one of the oldest polo and hunt clubs in the country. The Pattons and Ayers were longstanding and enthusiastic members, and Beatrice died in 1953 not long after setting out on the hunt, across the road on Ledyard Farm.
Wenham Museum – 132 Main Street, Wenham
In charge of the Patton archives and the Patton tours at Green Meadows, the Wenham Museum focuses, among many other things, on the equine traditions of the North Shore. If you are hungry, try the steak tips at Post Hamilton, located in the old South Hamilton Post Office. Built in 1924, it isn’t hard to imagine Beatrice picking up her mail there and sending hundreds of letters to her husband during WWII.
Coolidge Reservation – 15 Coolidge Point, Manchester-by-the-Sea
About a twenty-minute walk from the parking lot, Coolidge Reservation offers unparalleled views of Massachusetts Bay and the North Shore. The Ocean Lawn once housed the home of the Coolidge family—the foundation of the house can still be seen—and is reminiscent of the views the Ayers would have enjoyed from their country home Avalon.
Saint John’s Episcopal Church – 705 Hale Street, Beverly Farms
Built in 1902, St. John’s was the place of many Ayer and Patton family events, from Beatrice and George’s wedding in 1910—the area’s first military nuptials in decades—to Beatrice’s funeral in 1953.
Plum Cove – Route 127, Gloucester
Grab a lobster roll at the Blue Collar Lobster Company before taking the scenic route to Eastern Point Lighthouse. You will pass Plum Cove along the way, the location where Beatrice and George saved three boys from drowning during a sudden gale in August 1923.
When and If – 10 Blaney Street, Salem
“When the war is over, and if I live through it, Bea and I are going to sail her around the world.” The Pattons never had the chance to sail their 63-foot schooner built in 1938 around the world, but her current owners are working hard toward that goal. The When and If can be found in Salem Harbor during the summer (and Key West during the winter), available for sunset sails and private charters.
Frederick Fanning Ayer House – 357 Pawtucket Street, Lowell
Now an apartment complex with renovated condominiums, the house was once the home of Frederick Ayer and his family. Part of the Spindle City Exploration route, a plaque near the front door reads: “Frederick Ayer joined his brother, the patent medicine manufacturer J. C. Ayer, in Lowell. In time he managed to gain control of several companies and in the 1870s built this magnificent Second Empire style house to reflect his new position and wealth. Beatrice Ayer, the wife of General Patton, was born here.”
Ayer Mill – 67 Kirk Street, Lowell
At one point one of the largest mills in the world—a part of the American Woolen Company—the Ayer Mill was completed in 1910 and measured close to half-a-mile long. The Ayer Clock, with a face just six inches smaller than Big Ben, still towers over Lawrence, and was recently restored with the help of the Wood and Ayer families, as was the building, which are now offices and residences. If you want to learn the history of the mills along the Merrimack River, check out the Boott Cotton Mills Museum.
Lowell Cemetery – 77 Knapp Avenue, Lowell
Frederick Ayer (1822 – 1918) is buried underneath the tallest monument of the cemetery, together with his wives—Cornelia Wheaton (1835 – 1878) and Ellen Barrows Banning (1853 – 1918)—son, daughter, and son-in-law—Charles Fanning Ayer (1865 – 1956), Katharine Ayer Merrill (1890 – 1981) and Keith Merrill (1887 – 1958). Just a few paces away stands the Ayer Lion, marking the J.C. Ayer lot, where Frederick’s brother James is buried with his family.
Shawsheen Village Historic District – 342 North Main Street, Andover
William Wood—president of the American Woolen Company and Frederick Ayer’s son-in-law—began purchasing property in Frye Village in the twenties. He turned the area into a self-sufficient town to house the managers and office employees of the American Woolen Company. Download the Virtual Andover app and step back into time as you explore the history of Shawsheen Village and the American Woolen Company.
Drumlin Farm – 208 South Great Road, Lincoln
After her marriage to Donald Gordon in 1900, Louise Ayer Gordon Hatheway, Beatrice’s sister, began purchasing land in Lincoln. Ahead of her time with a focus on organic and sustainable food, Louise wanted Drumlin Farm to be “a place to help educate the public, especially children, about the source of their food as well as the wonders of the natural world.” She left Drumlin Farm, totaling 232 acres, to the Massachusetts Audubon Society which continues to run it as part animal refuge, part organic farm, and part livestock operation.
Tiffany – Ayer Mansion – 395 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston
The Ayer Mansion was unusually progressive when it was commissioned by Frederick and Ellie Banning, and its white-marbled exterior with colorful mosaics and stained glass windows still stands out among the red brick townhouses prevalent along Commonwealth Avenue. Completed in 1902, it was the home where George admitted to Beatrice that he loved her, and where she went on hunger strike to convince her father to let her marry the only man she ever loved. Tours are no longer offered since the house has been put up for sale, but just walking past the last fully Tiffany designed house in the world is worth it.
Hatch Shell – 47 David G Mugar Way, Boston
Created by famed sculptor James Earle Fraser with the input of Beatrice, this statue—a copy of the one at West Point—was unveiled in 1953 along the Charles River Esplanade where George gave his first speech upon his return from WWII on June 7, 1945.
Other places of interest
Long Hill – 576 Essex Street, Beverly
Once the home of the Sedgwick family, Long Hill’s beauty lies in its exquisite gardens surrounded by acres of woodland. The gardens and home are open from April until October.
Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens – 153 Chickering Road, North Andover
This gentleman’s farm was once the summer home of Helen Stevens and John Gardner Coolidge, a nephew to Isabella Stewart Gardner. The gardens and home are open from May until October.