Mainstone Farm: History

The Mainstone Farm property has been farmed since pre-Colonial days, but the Hamlen family’s relationship with the land began in 1868, when William Powell Perkins purchased Mainstone Farm for $10,000. Perkins, a 66-year-old bachelor known to his family as “Uncle Powell,” lived in Brookline, and he hired a caretaker to run his farm, which comprised about 200 acres of rocky land, a house, and barns. Perkins also purchased four Guernsey cows and one bull, beginning several decades of dairy farming at Mainstone. 

After the Great Boston Fire of 1872, Perkins sold the Brookline estate and moved to the mansion at the top of the Farm. The gardener, George Washington Hancock, and his family also lived in the main house during the winter, but for the summer months, they moved down the hill to the property’s Farmhouse located at 69 Old Connecticut Path. In 1880, Perkins also purchased the Micah Maynard Rutter House at 68 Old Connecticut Path and converted it into a two-family home for Hancock’s daughters and sons-in-law. 

Hamlen HouseAccording to family lore, when Perkins first came to his Wayland farm, he could walk from the top of the hill to Old Connecticut Path stepping from stone to stone and never touching the ground. Perkins engaged workers to clear the pasture of stones and used them to build the many stone walls that now line the property . 

In remaking the farm, Hancock created the long tree-lined driveway to the top, planted maple trees along the Old Connecticut Path boundary, and created terraced gardens on both sides of the main house. A small pear and peach orchard was planted west of the main house, and apple trees lined the slope between the driveway and the Farmhouse on Rice Road. Part of the land was known as the “Cathedral” woods for the tall pines, and another area was known for its chestnut trees--both now gone from the chestnut blight and to the saw mills. Throughout the years, Perkins continued to buy up adjacent land and expanded his farm to about 250 acres. 

Perkins’ sister, Miriam Loring, had five children who regularly visited the farm in the summers. Only one, Gertrude Loring, married and had children of her own. She and her husband Nathaniel Perez Hamlen began the line of the family who today are the proprietors of Mainstone Farm. 

The Hamlens routinely took a two-hour “wagonette” ride from Brookline to Mainstone Farm throughout the 1880s until Uncle Powell’s death in 1891.The children were delighted with the cows, horses, and kittens in the large barn east of the house (where later a pool and tennis courts were installed)—and with the squealing pigs that lived under the barn. 

At his death in 1891, William Powell Perkins left land on the north side of Old Connecticut Path as well as the Micah Maynard Rutter House and a barn to George Hancock. The rest of the farm was left in Trust with the income to be divided among the children and grandchildren of his deceased sister Miriam Loring. The only descendants were the children of Gertrude Loring Hamlen. 

Around 1903, the Hamlen family built a cottage overlooking Rice Road--the first Hamlen House at Mainstone Farm. By 1911, the family turned the cottage over to their married son, Paul, who had his own growing family. In the next year, the old barn was moved down the hill near the Farmhouse and gardens were installed in its place at the top of the hill. Paul’s first wife, Dorothy Devens died at a young age and he was remarried to Dorothy Draper Gannett, who had several children of her own. 

Over the next fifty years, the second Mrs. Hamlen shaped the farm into a country estate with carriage trails lined with mountain laurel and rhododendrons and terraced gardens around the main house. She also was responsible for building the cottage  with a squash court on the south side of the hill opposite the Main House and for building the commodious Colonial Revival house for her Gannett children at the end of the driveway west of the Main House. 

Paul Hamlen died in 1939 but his widow remained at the farm until her death in 1970. Paul’s son Nathaniel by his first wife had taken over the farm but Nathaniel’s early death in 1967 left the farm to his sons, Devens and James Hamlen. In 1970, Devens became the main proprietor.

Over the first half of the 1900s, the Guernsey herd, known for its rich buttery cream, grew to 150 milking cows. Mainstone became a reputable dairy farm in the region until a catastrophic fire in the main cow barn ended the business in 1962. Even then, the family continued to own cows, eventually switching to beef cattle--primarily the Belted Galloways that became the signature livestock of the farm enjoyed by all passing along Rice Road and Old Connecticut Path.

Generations of the Hamlen family have also encouraged a tradition of preserving land. By 1957 Nathaniel Hamlen had joined the Board of Directors of Sudbury Valley Trustees in its infancy. In 1960, Dorothy Hamlen donated 17 acres of land along Rice Road to SVT in memory of her husband, Paul, and the Mainstone Trust donated another contiguous 26 acres, which eventually became part of the reservation known as Hamlen Woods. Later in the 1970s, the Town of Wayland adopted a form of cluster development that allowed condominiums to be built on Mainstone Farm land in exchange for a donation of undeveloped land to SVT and the Town, preserving these acres as open space in perpetuity.