A Letter from the Friends of Maudslay President

June 4, 2021

Dear Friends of Maudslay,


What a show Maudslay has performed for its visitors this year.  The dogwood, azalea and rhododendron stands blaze with beautiful shades of purples, reds, pinks and yellows.  If you have not yet had a chance to visit, take an afternoon to stroll the trails.  You will not be disappointed.  And if you see DCR staff or volunteers working in the park, express your gratitude.  They are the reason the show is so remarkable this year.  


Much of my commitment to Maudslay is based on the beautiful plant material the Moseleys used to create this sanctuary for themselves to experience during the spring and summer months.  As a certified Master Gardener, I have come to appreciate the unique plant material that makes its home in the park.  In this edition of the newsletter, I have listed the azaleas you will see with pictures of each example.  Additionally, I would like to point out two trees that are located at Hedge Drive that are unique to the park.  They are Metasequoia glyptostroboides or Dawn Redwood trees and they have quite an interesting history.  According to Michael Dirr, the trees were discovered first in fossilized form in Japan in 1941 and in the same year, live specimens in the Sichuan Province of China.  In  1947, the Arnold Arboretum sponsored a trip to China to collect seeds from these trees which were then distributed to arboretums around the world.  At the Arnold Arboretum,  these seeds were propagated and distributed around the New England area.  You will find these trees in many of the large estates on the North Shore of Massachusetts, but honestly, none are more beautiful than the two trees located in Maudslay State Park.  Thought to have been planted in the 1970s, these beauties are well worth a trip to Newburyport to see them.



In other news in Maudslay State Park, we now know that the Italian Gardens will be closed to the public  from June into August so that the center wall of the garden can be dismantled and replaced.  There will be alternative routes mapped out for visitors during this 2-month period of construction.  The volunteer Garden Committee has been hard at work both removing and potting the phlox plants, and planting the dahlias so that you will find them in their glory when the gardens open again in August.  Also, the reconstruction of the dam is tentatively scheduled to start in September.  Again, that area will be closed to the public for the four months it is likely to take to remove and replace the dam.  I would like to thank both DCR for their dedication to Maudslay State Park and our members and donors for their generosity in helping to fund both the brick wall and dam replacement.  It takes a significant combined effort to achieve these successes.


Thank you for your loyalty to Maudslay State Park.  If you have not yet found time to make a donation or become a member, you can easily do so now by clicking here.


Don’t forget the Mountain Laurel display in June; as always you can look to our website to see “What’s in Bloom.” 




Marlys Edwards

President, Friends of Maudslay

Volunteers in The Park
Dear Friends,
One of the serious environmental problems we face today not only here at Maudslay, but, throughout the area is the threat to our indigenous trees and shrubs from rapidly spreading and highly adaptable invasive plants. To provide more in depth information about this issue, I have asked, Karla one of our regular volunteers to write a piece. She has been working here for years, during all seasons physically tackling this problem and caringly documenting her work. We have identified hot spots in the park that get priority attention. She is highly skilled and knowledgeable as well as very dedicated and hard working. We are fortunate to have her as a member of our team. I hope you enjoy her informative article on this subject.
Best regards, Rob

Robert A. Kovacs
Park Supervisor
Maudslay State Park

Invasive Plant Removal at Maudslay State Park

by Karla M Sorenson
It was about 15 years ago when I began to notice a proliferation of invasive, non-native plants in New England.  Cat-o'-nine-tails were disappearing from marshland, replaced by fast-growing phragmites.  Majestic evergreens were covered by bittersweet vines, resulting in “ghost trees,” while fields of multiflora rose created thorny jungles, impenetrable to man and beast.  After bemoaning the destruction, and fearful of future losses, I decided to try to do something about it.

In 2016, I met Rob Kovacs, Maudslay State Park Supervisor, at an Earth Day event, where I asked him if I could volunteer and remove some of the invasive plants that were overwhelming parts of the park and the azaleas and rhododendrons that make Maudslay such a unique destination. The park already had a robust crew of volunteers, who are valued for their help in maintaining the garden areas, so I jumped right in.

A typical volunteer day involves identifying a work area, using the right tool for the job, and studiously avoiding poison ivy!  Bug spray, sun screen, long sleeves and pants, and elbow-length leather gloves are necessities. Long-handled bypass loppers are my best friend, for they can easily cut through thick bittersweet vines, while a hand scythe makes quick work of a field of knotweed.  Some plants, like young bittersweet and Virginia creeper can be pulled out, root and all, which is ideal.  More mature vines are cut close to the ground and then removed.  It can be very satisfying to unwind meters of vine from a tree or shrub, and the results can be quite dramatic. 
In the attached photos, taken last December, I removed bittersweet and Virginia creeper from the azaleas and rhododendrons at the end of Hedge Drive, near the stone bridge.  I revisited the area this spring, and the shrubs were ready to bloom!

Before Pruning -Closeup

After Pruning in Spring

While the task is enormous, I have learned that you can control the spread of invasive plants – if not always completely eradicate them.  And we ignore this problem at our peril.  Many invasive plants were brought to the United States as ornamentals, and they adapt better to climate change than native species, producing leaves earlier in spring and shading out young, native trees.  Some are especially virulent.  Fields of knotweed can be seen along highways and river banks and will spread uncontrollably on dry land (even sand dunes!) and in marshes, happy in both sun and shade.  Not only does knotweed displace native species, it can interrupt nutrient recycling and negatively impact useful bacteria in the soil.  (
Preventing a potential ecological disaster must be a concerted effort between the government and the public. Individuals can do their part – and maintain home values – by keeping their property free from invasive plants.  They are easy to spot.  An unfamiliar plant growing prolifically is usually a sign of trouble.  Over the years, I’ve developed a keen “invasive-plant radar.” For example, while in Iceland, I saw acres of blue Nootka lupine.  It was beautiful, but something was not right.  Sure enough, the lupine had originally been planted to prevent erosion, but it had taken over and was now displacing native plants.

If you see an invasive plant on your property (black swallow-wort is especially virulent in gardens), remove the plant, including the roots, if possible.  Otherwise, cut the plant to the ground and if you see re-growth (very likely), cut back again.  Perseverance is key.   Eventually, the plant will be starved of photosynthesis and die.  For the most intractable cases, a homeowner can also use the “cut and paint” method and lightly apply glyphosate to the cut stem.  For knotweed, this method is only effective when used in the spring or fall.   And, of course, plant only native species. 
The benefits of volunteering at Maudslay are many: good exercise, giving back to the community, and protecting the environment.  Also, the park is full of wildlife.  I’ve seen deer, turtles (snapping and painted), and recently a Baltimore Oriole.  I get lots of comments and questions when I am working in the park – not to mention a few funny stares.  My goal is to increase the public’s understanding of invasive plants and the threat they pose to wonderful recreation areas like Maudslay State Park. If we all do our part, we can preserve the flora of New England for future generations.

Azaleas in the Park
Photos by Marlys Edwards

Rhododendron Kaempferi or Torch Azalea

Rhododendron Mucronulatum or Korean Azalea

Ghent or Exbury Azalea Hybrid

Rhododendron Vaseyi or Pinkshell Azalea

Ghent or Exbury Azalea Hybrid 

Rhododendron Vaseyi or Pink Shell Azalea

Rhododendron Viscosum or Swamp Azalea  

Rhododendron Schlippenbachii or Royal Azalea 

Rhododendron Calendulaceum or Flame Azalea 

Ghent or Exbury Azalea Hybrid

Ghent or Exbury Azalea Hybrid

Formal Garden Brick Walls
by Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel

The brick walls of the formal gardens at Maudslay are more than 100 years old, and are showing their age, with disintegrating mortar, spalling bricks and even loose bricks falling out.  In particular, the wall between the upper Italian Garden and the lower Rose garden is not only losing its mortal, but is leaning badly. If this wall were lost, the design of the gardens, created by Martha Brookes Hutcheson in the early 1900s,  would be irretrievably harmed.  Fortunately, with supporting funding from the Friends of Maudslay, the Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation has allocated funds for an initial wall-restoration project, to be carried out this summer.  This part of the project will repair the wall between the upper Italian Garden and the lower Rose garden (see illustration below).  For safety reasons, the formal gardens will be closed during this restoration project, which is scheduled to begin on Monday June 7 and be completed in early August (approximately August 3), in time for enjoyment of the pink dinner-plate dahlias.  During the project, Park visitors will be guided to alternative paths in other parts of the Park.  We look forward, with you, to enjoying the garden and its restored structures later in the summer—for weddings, engagements, painting, photographing, running, strolling, dog walking, families enjoying the flowers with young children, and many other activities.  The Garden Committee has been busy planting and staking the dahlias, the lilies and the peonies, pruning the roses, and potting up the phlox, in hopes that the garden will be as beautiful as ever once it opens again.  See you in August!

Donations to the Formal Garden Wall Fund are still being accepted.
The Purple Mother
Lindsay Cavanagh

Born in 1847 to descendants of early Newbury settlers, Katherine Augusta Westcott Tingley became a prime force in the disparate and confused spiritual and religious milieu of the early 20th century. She is tied to the history of Maudslay State Park, as her parents owned property on the west side of Castle Hill, adjacent to Moulton Castle. Tingley retained its ownership until she sold it to the Moseleys in 1920. The house on the property was moved to a nearby street. “I used to spend much time in the woods and under the trees, dreaming…,” she later reminisced. “Living the sheltered life in a well-to do family, I knew nothing of the poverty and misery of life until I saw the families of the Irish immigrants who came to work and make their home in Newburyport. I can feel even now the sickening shudder that went through me as I realized that life was not all comfort and happiness as I had always known it.”

An unusually thoughtful child, she headed to NYC as a young woman and became a social worker, working in emergency relief missions with all the varieties of human misery and poverty found in the City. An inspired speaker, she used her gift to fund raise for the poor, as well as in her other interest, Spiritualism; she quickly became a well-known psychic and trance medium. Her magnetism and talents attracted William Judge, the leader of the American Theosophical Society. Like many organizations, that Society had a history of internecine warfare and had recently separated from the international Society. In 1894, Tingley joined the group and two years later, when Judge died at 44, the documents designating his replacement named the Purple Mother, a secret title for Tingley.
Tingley immediately embarked on the first of two successful world crusades, raising interest in the Society by speaking of Theosophist philosophy in the many countries she visited. Her vision called for a world where all people lived in harmony with others in both heart and mind. Brotherhood suppers and public meetings stressing the bond of brotherhood between nations attracted enthusiastic crowds during this era when the possibility of war hung over almost every country. She was especially influenced by her experiences in India. Returning to the United States after the first crusade, she determined to leave NYC and establish a new headquarters with a 140-acre campus on Point Loma, in California. Within several years it included the Raga-Yoga School, an academy, a college, the Theosophical University and the School for the Revival of the Lost Mysteries of Antiquity.

And she didn’t stop there.

During the Spanish –American War Tingley established a hospital for the wounded on Long Island, followed that with relief work in Cuba and, helped by funding from the US government, established hospitals in Cuba. She even brought a group of Cuban children back to Point Loma to school. Tingley’s schools were unique and she established them in many places aside from California. A strong believer of including arts in the curriculum, each child, beginning at age three, played an instrument, sang in a chorus and took drawing and painting lessons. Scores of classic Greek and Shakespearean plays presented in the Greek style theater were performed under Tingley’s direction. During occasional summer visits to Newburyport she would gather students at her home on Castle Hill and perform Shakespearean plays. In 1907, a New York Times reporter interviewed Tingley in Newburyport’s Wolfe Tavern. She told him that she was in Newburyport to find a location to duplicate California’s Lomaland in the East. It never happened.

Another of Tingley’s long-term interests was prison reform. A writer and editor of many Theosophical magazines, she founded The New Way, a monthly magazine for prisoners in penitentiaries and jails. On her periodic prison visits, she often brought Lomaland musicians to play for the incarcerated. An energetic and purposeful traveler during her life, she was wounded in an accident in Germany and died soon after, in Sweden. Earlier in her life, during the heyday of the Theosophist Society, she had established an International Theosophical Peace Congress in Sweden attended by 2000 European Theosophists. Today, there is a Theosophist Society in Pasadina, California, one of several branches still extant in the world. The Lomaland campus now belongs to a university.
This spring, on a sunny day it would be interesting to walk up and over the quiet deserted hill at the extreme end of Maudslay State Park and consider its two extraordinary former inhabitants: Civil War Captain William Henry Moulton, in his castle on the hill’s east side, looking over the Merrimack River toward the Deer Island bridge, and Theosophist and spiritualist Katherine Augusta Westcott Tingley in her childhood home on its west, a woman, who contrary in her beliefs to her neighbor, did what she could to end war.

Maudslay Arts Center Concerts
Tickets on Sale Now
It is with great joy that we announce the Maudslay Arts Center is reopening for the 2021 Summer Concert Series as well as weddings and special events.

The Summer Concert Series will be limited to four Sunday afternoon performances at 2 p.m. in August, but those afternoons will be jam-packed with wonderful talent. Starting the great line-up of performers will be The New Black Eagle Jazz Band as they begin their 50th anniversary year.

For 50 years, from Symphony Hall to Singapore, the New Black Eagle Jazz Band has delighted audiences worldwide with its infectious, soulful and uplifting style of traditional New Orleans jazz. Maudslay Arts Center is proud to welcome them both back in Newburyport.
They will perform on Sunday, Aug 8., followed by MAC favorites The Bobby Keyes Trio on Aug. 15, multi-styled vocalist/pianist Amanda Carr on Aug. 22, and jazz vocalist Donna Byrne on Aug. 29.

Amanda Carr

Donna Byrne
Maudslay Arts Center is located at 95 Curzon Mill Road, Maudslay State Park, Newburyport MA 01950. The concerts are held rain or shine, moving to the indoor performance hall with limited, socially distant seating adjacent to the patio when weather dictates.
This summer social distancing requirements will limit the number of patrons. All Covid-19 protocols will be followed to keep our patrons and musicians safe. To abide by pandemic restrictions no refreshments will be sold this season, but concertgoers should feel free to bring their own.

Just in case we need to move indoors only 75 advance tickets will be sold for each concert. Of course, when the weather is good we can open it up to many more patrons on the patio and the lawn. For lawn seating, patrons should bring their own chairs or blankets. Sunday afternoon concert tickets cost $20, with children ages 12 and under admitted free.

For the complete summer schedule, to purchase tickets online, or for further information about the performers, visit the MAC website at

“We are delighted to reopen Maudslay Arts Center for Sunday afternoon concerts,” MAC Music Director Nicholas C. Costello said, “and for special events and weddings.

“In keeping with state health guidelines, we are now booking special events. Maudslay Arts Center is available for rental through mid-October. The patio and concert barn lend just the right atmosphere for your rehearsal dinner, wedding, family reunion, business conference, or other significant event.”
To schedule a visit, please contact Costello at 978-857-0677.
Since its beginning, MAC continues to operate through the effort of volunteers. All costs are offset by gate receipts, rentals for special occasions, and donations from patrons and businesses. No tax dollars are involved. As you enjoy this beautiful mini-Tanglewood, become part of our vision. MAC welcomes your financial support, your gift of time or expertise to maintain the buildings.

“We want to say ‘thank you’ to the volunteer staff, who continue to maintain the flowers, the grounds, and help to facilitate concerts,” Costello said. “Without our sponsors and volunteers and their commitment to Maudslay, we could not continue to do what we do. We also want to thank the State of Massachusetts for their continuing partnership and the wonderful work they do maintaining the 442 acres of this beautiful estate.

“Summer is just a brief season here in New England, so come out and enjoy wonderful music at affordable prices in a spectacular natural setting.”

The series is supported by The Newburyport Bank, dedicated MAC volunteers and patrons, and the staff of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

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