Bradley Palmer State Park
Bradley Palmer State Park encompasses 721 acres of the former Bradley Webster Palmer Willow Dale Estate in Topsfield and Hamilton, Massachusetts. Palmer, a corporate lawyer who never married or had children, deeded the entire estate to the Commonwealth in 1944. He specified that the property should be used in the same manner that he had enjoyed it, including equestrian activities, hiking, boating, and other outdoor activities. When Palmer began acquiring parts of the property in 1898, it had been farmed by the Lamson family for over 200 years (seven generations). Palmer transformed the farm fields and pastures with thousands of tree and shrub plantings, which became the forested areas in the park present today.
The Department of Conservation and Recreation has taken care of the surviving estate buildings, landscape, and pathways. Through the DCR's Historic Curatorship Program, two farmhouses that predate Palmer's Estate, and his Arts and Crafts stone mansion, are cared for by private residents (houses) and the Willowdale Estate (mansion). The mansion is the venue for private events, especially weddings, that carry on Palmer's tradition of hospitality and social events (willowdaleestate.com).
During the summer season, from mid-May to Columbus Day in October, the Park Interpreter presents historic programs about the Palmer Estate, the Willow Dale mansion, and the Lamson Farm. This includes special programs during Massachusetts Historic Preservation Month, and the Essex National Heritage Area's Trails & Sails events in late September. The former Garden Shed of the estate has been turned into a Nature Center with changing hours of operation during the season.
The park is open from dawn to dusk year-round.