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MIT Will Sell Topsfield Estate

By Matthew Palmer


MIT has placed a mansion and over 150 acres of land in northern Massachusetts up for sale, with an asking price of $6.5 million.

The balance of the 571 acre Coolidge Estate, which contains homes, farm buildings, and part of a river, will be placed on the market after the main estate is sold.

The land, located in Topsfield, Massachusetts, was donated by former MIT Corporation member William A. Coolidge.

“I think the intent [was that the land] was always to be sold,” said MIT spokesman Robert J. Sales. Due to its remote location, the estate probably “wouldn’t make a good meeting place or be used for anything academic,” he said.

If sold, the proceeds would be placed in the general endowment, according to MIT Treasurer Allan Bufferd. The endowment is used for a variety of general purposes around the Institute.

The 24-room Georgian mansion was built out of brick in 1921. It features 14 bedrooms, six fireplaces, and expansive gardens. Two small cottages also sit on the land.

Land protected as open space

Before placing the estate up for sale, MIT arranged to have it kept as open land. The Essex County Greenbelt Association, a private nonprofit land trust, agreed to protect all 571 acres from future building developments.

The Association seeks to set up and conserve “greenbelts,” pieces of land with rivers, trails, and other natural landscapes, according to their website. The Coolidge Estate contains over a mile of land bordering the Ipswich River.

Changes to existing structures could be made with the Greenbelt Association’s consent, according to an MIT press release.

Donated by former MIT staffer

The estate was donated to MIT following Coolidge’s death in 1992. It is not being sold until now because some conditions of the property had to be resolved, and the Institute wanted to protect the land, said Bufferd. “It takes a while for all those things to be straightened out.”

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Coolidge served the MIT Corporation beginning in 1948, was elected a Life Member in 1953, and a Life Member Emeritus in 1976.

He served as a lawyer and founded New Enterprises, Inc., which invested in small business ventures. He later created the National Research Corporation, which he chaired for over 20 years.