44 Acres with Wide Trails, Towering Oaks
Historic Topsfield Property Threatened by Development

donibristle farm

The Opportunity
Greenbelt seeks community support for the conservation of Donibristle Farm; a grass-roots effort to permanently protect 44 acres of beautiful wooded hillside located on Hill Street and Rowley Bridge Road in Topsfield.

Once the country estate of renowned historian James Duncan Phillips, the property features beautiful, towering mature oaks and an extensive, wide trail system.  

The History
Donibristle is among the famed rural summer retreats that are part of Topsfield’s long history.  With the development of better road access to the town in the late 1800s, wealthy Salem shipping magnates converted existing colonial farms into comfortable "country seats."  

Donibristle was among the summer retreats that added to Topsfield’s reputation as a  “picturesque town (that) has become a favorite resort of summer sojourners,” the Salem Gazette reported in 1877.

James Duncan Phillips Phillips purchased the land in 1911 and built a home with notable architecture.  His wife, Nannie Borden Phillips, helped in the development of a model dairy farm with registered Guernseys, no doubt the result of her upbringing in the Borden family known for its milk products.

James Duncan Phillips, a member of the Essex Agricultural Society, bred draft horses judged the winners at the annual Topsfield Fair.  An 1897 graduate of Harvard, he was a Vice President at Houghton Mifflin publishing company, and an historian who wrote articles for the New England Quarterly and the Essex Institute's Historical Collections.

Project Details
Greenbelt has an agreement with the landowners to acquire the 44 acres outright and a 2-acre conservation restriction on adjacent agricultural fields for $900,000. Greenbelt has until June 30, 2017 to secure funding for this project.

Several development scenarios have been proposed in the past year and conservation of the landscape would substantially preserve this National Register-eligible property.  It would become a new Greenbelt Reservation, open free to the public for nature observation and recreational use.

Donibristle Map

Citizens' Petition

Voters at Town Meeting, on May 2nd, will be asked to approve an article asking that Topsfield allocate $500,000 toward the purchase of Donibristle Farm.  If a $400,000 State LAND grant is approved, the Town's cost would be reduced to $100,000.   On May 4th, it will be on the Topsfield town ballot for voters to approve.

Funding Sources

Municipal / State Funds                       $  500,000  (proposed)       
Greenbelt Fundraising Campaign    $  400,000  (in progress)
Total Acquisition Cost                          $  900,000      

Your Donation Will:

•    Save this historic 44-acre property from development
•    Provide new public trails for hiking and equestrian use
•    Protect prime agricultural land
•    Safeguard streams and wetlands that protect water quality in the Ipswich River watershed
•    Create a new Greenbelt reservation in Topsfield  

How You Can Help
Your donation or pledge of support to the Donibristle Farm conservation effort will help ensure that current and future generations can enjoy this important historic, scenic, and recreational resource forever. Greenbelt will accept multi-year pledges for a a gift over $10,000.  Refer to the pledge form for details.

Donor Pledge Commitment Form - Donibristle Farm

DONATE online

(James Duncan Phillips photo courtesy Patti Dossetti)

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