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Urban Safari : Heritage Museum & Gardens

Sandwich MA

Heritage Museum & Gardens

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Already it looks magical

It was a beautiful day in September when the RainyDayMagazine crew decided to look for a place that was close-but-not-too-close for a nice drive and a long walk.

The Heritage Museum & Gardens (HMG) on the Cape (in Sandwich) checked all the right boxes—90 minute drive, gardens, car collection, lunch—so off we went.

It’s like a treasure map – of plant-y delights!

The 100+ acres of grounds at the HMG contains contained spaces of trees and shrubs, designed gardens, exquisite flowers and sweeping lawns. It has something for any horticultural inclination, in all seasons: blooming Dexter Rhododendrons and flowering trees in the Spring; vibrant hydrangeas and colorful day lilies during the Summer; brilliant foliage and the fall-blooming Franklinia in the Fall; and beautiful heathers, bright berries, and noble evergreen in the Winter. And it’s really lovely (all definitions).

The Flume

One of the main features of the ground is the fabulous Flume Fountain. Stephen Stimson Associates of Cambridge constructed the Flume in 2010 and the design “…was inspired by the gristmills and historic flumes found throughout New England…” It is very unexpected, and quite inventive.

The Flume is first viewed from the Visitor’s Center as a level narrow pool that extends through a copse of trees and rhododendrons.

An intriguing little man-made stream…

The Flume extends past the land/ground until it pours down into a pool filled with waterlilies.

…that turns into this stunning fall of water.

Fun Flume Facts:

  • The Flume is 208’ long, 24” wide, and the water drops 26’ into the pool below;
  • Approximately 300 gallons of recirculating water flows per minute;
  • Corten Steel was used in its construction because of its “weathering” characteristics, which lets the Flume naturally blend into the surroundings.

The sound of falling water: everybody should take a few minutes out of their day and listen to it.

The Flume Fountain is absolutely impressive, but other sculptures and installations sprinkled throughout the grounds were just as intriguing.


Osprey sculpture…a tribute to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.


The air was still when we were there, but we could imagine the horse hairs waving around on breezier days.

STALL installation – reclaimed horse hair(s) from cello bows “…In releasing them from their former task, we’re letting them go and blow in the wind…”

The Hydrangea Garden

It was still shirt-sleeve weather during our visit and everything was verdant, and while some of the Summer blooms had faded, the hydrangea were still in their full glory.

Smells nice, feels tickly, and I think I wasn’t supposed to do this.

More types of hydrangeas exist than you would’ve thought, unless you are a Hydrangea Ranger (it rhymes if you are from Boston).

One does not need to don a floaty chiffon dress before descending these steps…but it can’t hurt.

Like lovely new friends, all waving goodbye.

The Carousel

An unexpected delight

A carousel made by Charles Looff  in 1908 sits in a lovely purpose-built room hall and is one of the most popular attractions at Heritage Museums & Gardens.

“Yes, adults can ride it.” “No way!”

The hand-carved carousel has been thrilling riders for over a hundred years.

Unlimited rides—for everyone!—is included in the price of admission.

A winged stallion indeed.

The carousel was purchased in 1969 by the Museum, and it took four years to clean and reassemble it before it could be opened.

Surprisingly, other animals were carved to be used in carousels, not just horses. We saw cats, rabbits, and even pigs…but clearly horses were the favorites.

“This fish is mine, all mine!”

The Automobile Gallery

“Wait, that’s a…no…wow…OMG let’s go look!”

Boston has the Larz Anderson Auto Museum, but the Heritage has the the Automobile Collection, a knock-your-socks off two-story assemblage of really really cool cars, with great stories (such as President Harding’s steam-powered bohemouth). We are not going to talk much about the Collection as it deserves its own post. We are just going to share a few shots of some of our favorites and urge readers to go an enjoy them in person.

1962 Chevrolet Corvette – Price new: $4,038 ($33,707 in 2019 dollars)

The Corvette was Chevrolet’s answer to Ford’s Thunderbird and is every bit as beautiful today as it was back then. There is something about the sculptural qualities of the soft curves and flowing lines that we just don’t see much of in today’s cars…with the exception of perhaps the 2010 Porsche Boxster 🙂

1930 Duesenberg – Price new: A lot then, a lot now

You know the saying “…that’s a doozy!” ? Well, this is the car that inspired it. Back in 1926, E.L Cord bought Duesenberg and challenged Fred Duesenberg to create the “best car” in the world. The result was the Model J. It was then, and still is today, one of the most expensive cars ever produced in America. The Dusenberg in the photo was actually owned by the actor Gary Cooper.

1932 Auburn Boattail Speedster – Price new : $975 ($17,937 in 2019 dollars)

Yeah…Art Deco to the core and about as practical as the tail fins of late ’50s and early ’60s. We think they were marketing ploys to get people into the showroom, where they (probably) purchased something more “practical.” Hey, beats driving a Hummer.

No, not a Shaker meeting house, an automobile museum.

NOTE:  HMG is technically closed for the season, but it  will open on the weekends in the evening for its annual Holiday event, Gardens Aglow, Nov. 29–Dec. 29 this year.

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