John Hay was private secretary to Abraham Lincoln and secretary of state under Theodore Roosevelt. His summer estate on Lake Sunapee was a masterpiece of architecture and of horticultural artistry. In 1987, the estate was deeded to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and opened to the public, and recently became a private non-profit offering programs, tours and classes. David Bashaw is a volunteer docent, guiding tours at the Fells.
David: The original home was built in 1891. John Hay's ancestors were from Scotland, and "Fells" is a Scottish word for "grazing land" or "pasture." So originally, it was this rough, rocky, grazing land, and a lot of the gardens were built in the 1920s.
I became involved with The Fells a couple of years ago. My wife and I move just five minutes up the road, and we were interested in volunteering here after we visited it for the first time. It just struck us as such a unique place, so peaceful. Almost like stepping back to a moment in time.
This place really is unique. We have the wonderful history through John Hay, and the great architecture of the house; it also has these beautiful gardens, especially the rock garden. we have over 80 acres of wildlife trails.
Places like this, a beautiful summer estate home one of the few examples left here on Lake Sunapee that's available to the public. This is something that I want to have here for future generations.