When Cows Grazed at New Bedford’s Brooklawn Park
No doubt you've passed a sunny day or two relaxing at New Bedford's Brooklawn Park, perhaps watching the ducks in the duck pond or enjoying one sporting event or another. Did you know that at one time, Brooklawn Park – or Brook Lawn, as it was known – was a private estate complete with apple orchards and grazing cows?
A lawyer, Ricketson was also an author, philanthropist, poet, benefactor, and abolitionist. According to FindAGrave.com, "Unhappy with the busy atmosphere of his city home, Ricketson built an estate on a swamp he drained in the mid-1800s. He called it Brook Lawn."
The website further reports that "the residence was a large farmhouse with wide verandas, a large reception hall, sitting room, library, and dining room on the first floor. In those days, great vistas of forest and sea could be seen from the cupola...here in 1858, he wrote his History of New Bedford."
"An apple orchard and garden surrounded the home, and a herd of cows grazed on the estate, but the formidable feature of Brook Lawn was a 12-by-14-foot shanty where Ricketson came to read and entertain his guests," the site states.
Ricketson regularly hosted prominent guests at Brook Lawn, including Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, according to Destination New Bedford. Ricketson's guests were "the literary elite of the time," and became known as "The Shanty Society," according to FindAGrave.com.
"During the Civil War when many were unemployed, Ricketson opened up his estate daily to dispense free milk and bread to those in need," the site reports.
Ricketson, who is buried at Oak Grove Cemetery, is reported to have left his estate "Woodlee" for refuge at Brook Lawn. According to Digital Commonwealth, Woodlee was located on the current site of St. Anthony's Church on Acushnet Avenue.
The Brook Lawn estate, consisting of some 85 acres between Acushnet Avenue and Ashley Boulevard, became a city park at the end of the 19th century. The Ricketson estate was still standing when I was a kid in the 1960s. The house was finally demolished in the 1970s.
Do you remember the Ricketson estate? Did you play at Storybook Land or climb the plane nearby?