86 Turkey Hill Lane
Pat Roche Hospice
In 1929, the Thayer family summer home atop Turkey Hill, built by Ezra Ripley Thayer, prominent Boston lawyer and Dean of the Harvard Law School, burned to the ground. His widow Ethel rebuilt in the same location, sparing no expense in the reconstruction. The new house was built of brick in a neo-Georgian style and lavishly appointed inside. Blue tiles from Japan, hand-carved woodwork from England, and Italian marble graced the fireplaces throughout. Camel statues, each weighing over a ton, were placed at the bottom of the drive and were the crowning glory of an elegant landscape design.
Following Ethel’s death, her daughter, Polly Thayer Starr, inherited the Turkey Hill home. Polly was an accomplished landscape and portrait artist, who studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. After her first solo exhibition in Boston she was declared by the Globe to be “one of the foremost painters in the country.”
Throughough her life, Polly’s art was inspired by her childhood in the Turkey Hill home. She wrote in a 2004 reminiscence, “My retreat [as a child] had been outdoors, on top of an arbor at the end of a garden. It was bliss to lie in a murmurous bed of white clematis tremulous with bees, buzzing ecstatically as they do when hard at work in full sunlight, with the protective grace of a blue sky above them.”
In 1953 Polly donated her family’s Turkey Hill home to the Society of Friends, as a replacement for the Amesbury Friends Home, a retirement home for unmarried female Friends who had devoted their lives to teaching.
After renovations (more rooms were added, the fish ponds were turned into rose gardens, the driveway was paved) the first retired Quaker teachers moved in. Several years later the Friends built an addition to the back of the building so that each resident could have her own private bath. Finally, in 2011, the New England Friends Home closed, and the Norwell Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice partnered with Campus for Caring to purchase the property and open a Hospice residence for the South Shore area. The Hospice, named after Boston philanthropist Patrick E. Roche, opened in 2013. Since then, much of the original landscape plan has been restored.
~ History by Caroline Lengyel