76 DESIGNNEWENGLAND.COM SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2015
Advances in concrete technology make the restoration of the Crane Estate Casino a permanent improvement
written by regina cole • photographed by matt kalinowski
The Great House, of course, was built of brick and granite. But for the more than 20 other buildings of Castle Hill, the Ipswich, Mas- sachusetts, summer estate built in the early 20th century by Chicago industrialist Rich- ard T. Crane Jr., the architects turned to “the poor man’s stone.” Formal gardens, chauf- feur’s garage, statuary, ornamental columns,
retaining walls, and a “casino” — all were constructed of concrete.
“Richard Crane was something of a firebug,” says James Younger,
director of structural resources and technology at The Trustees of Res-
ervations, the Massachusetts land trust that has owned and adminis-
tered the 2,100-acre site, which includes Crane Beach and Crane Wild-
life Refuge, since 1949. “Everything was built to resist fire, and con-
crete was an inexpensive choice.”
It looked like stone but didn’t last like stone, and by the 1940s it
was evident that some of the concrete was failing. “An early theory was
that they used sand from Crane Beach,” Younger says, “and that the
mixture was wrong as a result. That has been definitely disproved.”
noted landscape architect and neighbor Arthur Shurcliff designed the
Grand Allée, a half-mile “front lawn” that rolls from the Great House down to
the sea. Along the way, the Casino nestles into the hillside, hidden from above.
The Stuart-style Great House dates to 1928, but the Casino represents the
Italian Renaissance styling of the original 1910 house.
Built to Last