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Letter from the President

There are sights that draw us to Maudslay in all months of the year, but perhaps in the winter months they call more clearly, as the dirty slush of city life have us craving the majesty of nature.  With the freshly fallen snow, the Maudslay parking lot is jammed full of cars, and the trails show evidence of boots, fat-tire bikes, snowshoes, and cross-country skis, as well as dogs, deer, foxes and coyotes.  Lots of creatures having fun in the snow.

But however beautiful the park is now, I am glad to know the days are getting longer; watching hawks balanced on the cold wind over the iconic black oak, or ice flows making their pilgrimage to the mouth of the Merrimack River, I admit to dreaming of Spring.  I am a Lifetime Master Gardener, and the specimen plantings are my real draw to Maudslay, so I’d like to take this chance to look forward to their blooms.


The Moseley Estate gardeners chose perfect plantings for the climate of this beautiful land with its moisture from the Merrimack River.  There are four types of rhododendrons to encounter when you visit Maudslay, and you can tour them all easily by traveling a well-trodden loop, taking the Pasture Trail (opposite the parking lot) down to the pond, then following the Main Road west along the river to the Main House before returning by the Well Walk through the formal gardens.  Maps are available at park headquarters, or on our website if you’d like to take the virtual tour now and pretend that it is June.

As you arrive at the pond, in addition to the glorious azaleas and dogwoods blooming on its east bank, you are seeing the Rhododendron maximum or Rosebay Rhododendron which normally bloom late in the month of June. You will see this specimen in a number of other areas in the park.  Moving west along the Merrimack to the property by Helen’s House and its beautiful river vista, you will find Rhododendron carolinianum  or Carolina Rhododendron.  These plants normally bloom in May and are a solid mass of pink between the trail and the Merrimack River.  Continuing along the Main Road toward the Main House, you will come upon many plantings of Rhododendron catawbiense common name Catawba rhododendron.  These stunning shrubs create beautifully walled passages of color as you move toward the Main House.  And finally, located in the area around the formal gardens are the very special Dexter Hybrid Rhododendrons thought by some to be the finest rhododendrons for landscapes.  Hybridized between 1925 and 1940, these shrubs adapt themselves beautifully to the harsh New England winters. Blooming in late May into June, we are very lucky to have many of them in Maudslay State Park.

As I write, it is twenty-one degrees in the park with a bright sun reflecting off of six inches of fresh powder, and there is plenty to celebrate and discover in our wonderful park.  We are so blessed to have these rolling white fields and glittering pine branches to get us through the winter, but after a bracing stroll in the snow, I’ll allow myself a hot tea and thoughts of rhododendrons in June.

Marlys Edwards
President, Friends of Maudslay

Pet Cemeteries

Pet cemeteries, much larger than the intimate resting place of the Moseley family favorites, are found scattered throughout much of the world. These sites have a long history. The largest known cemetery in the ancient world was found at the Ashkelon National Park in Ashkelon, Israel, where more than 500 dogs were buried between the 5th through the 3rd centuries BC. Dogs were not the only animals to be recognized in those distant times - cats in ancient Egypt were considered deities and after death were often mummified and buried.

Speeding through the centuries to a more modern period, the gatekeeper’s garden in London’s Hyde Park served as an informal pet cemetery between 1881 and 1903. There were 300 burials in that spot, each grave marked by a miniature headstone. France opened the Cimetiere des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques in 1899. It is an Art Nouveau treasure, sporting a variety of stone animal sculptures. World War I war hero Rin Tin Tin is buried here, along with 40,000 other pets. Guam, a US territory in the Western Pacific, includes the National War Dog Cemetery on its Naval base. This cemetery honors the 25 military dogs that died in the second Battle of Guam. It includes the statue of a Doberman who warned of an immanent attack, saving the life of 250 Marines.
Though there are hundreds of others, the first American pet cemetery was the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Hartsdale, NY. It contains over 100,000 buried animals on its five acres. Established in 1896, the cemetery (its nickname was The Peaceable Kingdom), morphed from a Manhattan veterinarian’s apple orchard into a burial ground for dogs and cats, as well as reptiles, gerbils, turtles, birds, and a lion cub. It includes a war dog memorial and a mausoleum for two spaniels. In 2012, the site received designation to the National Register of Historic Places.
Some cemeteries are not as ecumenical. The Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard, established in rural Cherokee, Alabama, is strictly for Coon Hounds - raccoon hunting dogs. Troop, Mr. Underwood’s best-loved hound, was the first to be buried, in 1937, at this favorite hunting camp, now cemetery. The burial of 185 other beloved coon dogs from all across the United States followed that initial burial.

Picture provided by Charlie the mason.
The Maudslay cemetery, discretely bordered by rhododendrons and azaleas, stands in contrast to more impersonal large public cemeteries. This resting place reflects the desire of many families to keep their best friends close, in the home landscape that holds their memory. The small headstones, in a tidy line not far from the original house, identify the remains of the loved family pets. Frederick Strong Moseley III, grandson of the patriarch, has identified them: all are dogs save for Gypsy. That headstone was a memorial to his grandfather’s favorite horse. The horse is not buried there. The dogs are: Dennis and Barney were Irish setters; Akela, an important farm dog; Tinker, a scrappy terrier; Lancha and Tsampo, Lhasa Apsos from Tibet. These two were Mrs. Moseley’s lapdogs.

Picture provided by Charlie the mason.
These quiet gravestones remind us that love for our favorite companion animals has been a near constant to humankind from before Christ until today. This small cemetery gives us another opportunity to think of this family and sense the love they felt for their pets - a human trait they share with all of us who walk our dogs or ride horseback through this unique landscape.

By Lindsay Cavanagh
Volunteer Spotlight

Charlie - Masonry Volunteer

In the Fall of 2016, I inquired about volunteer positions within the park.  I learned that the Maudslay volunteers assist park staff with contributions to gardening, landscaping, grounds maintenance, carpentry, and masonry work.  The next summer, as a masonry volunteer, I apprenticed with Dave on Maudslay's reflecting pond bridge. We worked on the bridge for most of the summer to complete the repairs.  Upon completion, the park superintendent said "If you like that kind of work, we have more bridges to repair."  Three seasons later, I still enjoy working on the bridges.  The original builders did masterful work, and that's part of what makes them a pleasure to maintain.  The Maudslay State Park staff is very supportive, it's a beautiful environment, and the park visitors are friendly.

Here is a link to the work Charlie did on Helen's Footbridge.



Eagles on the Merrimack
I moved to Newburyport in 1987, and I still remember the first time I saw the cautionary signs in the woods at Maudslay State Park. A large area along the Merrimack River was closed to public activity because Bald Eagles were nesting there.  I envisioned a community of huge nests at the tops of white pines, Bald Eagles coming and going to feed their eaglets, far from human eyes and intervention. What an amazing place on the planet I had come to!
I know a little bit more now than I did then.  Migrating Bald Eagles from up north have been spending winters on the shores of the lower Merrimack for a very long time, even roosting at Maudslay, because they know they’ll find food there in the ice-free waters around our Chain Bridge.  But not until the early 2000s did a pair of Bald Eagles actually build a nest and produce offspring anywhere near Maudslay. The last time that had happened was about a hundred years earlier.

 Photo by Dave Larson
DDT had come and gone in the meanwhile, helping humans control insect pests. It also found its poisonous way into the food chain to such an alarming extent that eagles and other birds would lay eggs with shells that were so fragile that they collapsed under the parents’ weight. But, once DDT was banned, Bald Eagles began to build nests, breed, and actually hatch young again. Their numbers have been increasing significantly ever since.  According to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, Bald Eagles in Massachusetts now use the Quabbin Reservoir, the Connecticut River, the Merrimack River, and the Assawompsett Pond complex throughout the year as both nesting and wintering habitat. Bald Eagles also overwinter along the coast of Cape Cod, Buzzard’s Bay, and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Although we are still not inundated with nesting Bald Eagles locally, a pair of them has been producing young across the river from Maudslay in Amesbury for more than ten years now.
At Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center and the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, we celebrate the success of this conservation story with the annual Merrimack River Eagle Festival.  Every year since 2006, crowds flock to Newburyport and Amesbury for our Eagle Fest, where birding guides help folks find Bald Eagles in the wild as they fly, roost, and fish along the Merrimack. There’s plenty of other wildlife to be seen between Maudslay and Plum Island at this time of year too: Snowy Owls, seals, three species of mergansers, Peregrine Falcons, loons in non-breeding plumage, and adorable little Buffleheads, to name a few. Even the Bald Eagles seem to know when Eagle Fest comes: they just show up, visible from our windows at Joppa Flats, during Eagle Fest hours. This year’s Eagle Festival is on Saturday, February 15. Information is online at For traditional winter wonder, there’s nothing like it!
Some fun facts about Bald Eagles:
1.     It takes four to five years for Bald Eagles to get their adult plumage (pure white head and tail).
2.     The average wingspan for Bald Eagles is 83 inches.
3.     Female Bald Eagles are larger than male Bald Eagles.
4.     The female Bald Eagle typically lays two eggs.
5.     Bald Eagles in the southern United States are significantly smaller than Bald Eagles in our area.
6.     The Bald Eagle’s favorite food is fish; however, they also eat waterfowl and carrion.  Bald Eagles also steal food from other birds such as Ospreys and Double-crested Cormorants.  Bald Eagles are kleptoparasites!
Melissa Day Vokey
Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center
January 2020

Maudslay Arts Center is “Mini Tanglewood”
of Maudslay State Park
In 1985, Nicholas J. Costello. with the help of other environmentally conscious state legislators realized the purchase of the 500-plus acre Moseley estate by The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts. The purchase effectively saved the property from private developers waiting in the wings to buy this amazing tract of land on the Merrimack River, full of trails and gardens and home to thousands of species of plants.

People came to enjoy simple walks in the beauty and quiet of nature offering something for all our New England seasons. A children’s outdoor theater company emerged along with the perfect setting for marriage ceremonies, picnics, memorial services, and just plain enjoyment of nature’s magnificence.

In 1993, three men of vision were granted a special permit by the state Dept. of Environmental Management. Former Senator Nick Costello, former Mayor Edward Molin and E. James Gaines pooled their ideas, expertise and capital to create the Maudslay Arts Center, MAC. 

From the rubble and decay of an area known as the “the farmyard” the trio designed and built a 1600 sq. ft. performance stage, the lynchpin of an area that forms a natural bowl consisting of the patio area for chairs and tables seating 200. An adjacent lawn area nestled under the trees accommodates an additional 200. The old dairy barn was re-shingled, cupolas rebuilt, the interior gutted and a polished concrete floor laid. Modern bathrooms were housed in the former milk shed.

Photo by Carol Feingold
This “mini Tanglewood”, set in a natural amphitheater offers an unequaled setting for enjoying musical performances. The Summer Concert Series series is supported by The Newburyport Bank, dedicated MAC volunteers and patrons, and the staff of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).
Whether you’re sitting under the stars on a moonlit evening, or lounging on a blanket on a Sunday afternoon, the Maudslay Arts Center provides the perfect setting for your entertainment pleasure.

by Carol Feingold
The Outdoor Sculpture at Maudslay
20th Retrospective Exhibit

The Outdoor Sculpture at Maudslay 20th Retrospective Exhibit will take place at the Firehouse Center for the Arts Gallery April 22 – May 17, 2020, with a satellite show during the same period at the Riverwalk Brewery, 40 Parker Street, Newburyport, MA 01950 which will allow displaying some of the larger 3D work.
The exhibit is a 20-year retrospective of the Outdoor Sculpture at Maudslay show,  and it will focus on the story of the show with text and images - the many wonderful sculptures created (over 700!) and the community that has been created. The opening will be Saturday, May 2, which will include a participatory story-telling event in the theater.  
Author (and sculptor) Joyce Zarins is also working on a book about the show, which will be available at the exhibit.

by Bert Snow

A Garden Wall in Distress Needs Your Help!

The brick wall around the formal gardens at Maudslay has served its purpose well for over 100 years, but it is now seriously compromised---with falling bricks and disintegrating mortar. Help us ensure that the wall is repaired and the garden protected for generations to come.  The wisteria, dogwoods, dahlias, roses, peonies phlox and hydrangeas will thank you!
Donations can be mailed to;
Maudslay State Park Association
74 Curzon Mill Road
Newburyport MA 01950
or through this link   Formal Garden Wall Fund

Copyright © 2020 Maudslay State Park Association, All rights reserved.

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