A Brief History of Glen Farm
The Manor House
In the mid 1880s Henry A. Taylor, dissatisfied with Newport as a summer retreat, began acquiring property around the nearby "Glen" area of Portsmouth to establish a "gentleman's farm," or country estate. Eventually his properties, by then named Glen Farm, grew to 1500 acres. Principle components of the original farm included the "Manor House," the principal residence designed as a French style chateau by John Russell Pope and constructed in 1923 just north of the actual glen on the Sakonnet River and the dairy barns located approximately a quarter mile west of the Manor House. Many small farmsteads, like the Leonard Brown farm were incorporated into the larger farm's operation, often serving as housing for farm employees. The Frederick Law Olmsted firm designed and completed the farm's landscape which was particularly elaborate near the Manor House. During its heyday, Glen Farm employed many Portsmouth residents and was one of the most prominent properties in Newport County.
Changes to the Farm
By the 1960s the farm had changed tremendously. The Manor House had been sold and incorporated into a private preparatory school for girls, Elmhurst Academy. Other portions of Glen Farm had also been sold for private development and the remaining portion of the farm was being operated by Taylor family member, Mason Phelps, as an equestrian center. Under Phelps, a member of the U.S. Olympic equestrian team, the farm hosted the International Jumping Derby each summer, one of the sporting and social highlights of the Newport summer season.
Purchasing the Farm
In the early 1970s Elmhurst Academy closed and in 1973 the Town of Portsmouth purchased the school and the surrounding property, including the Manor House. While the town's primary motivation for the purchase was acquisition of the school building, once operated as a public elementary school known as Elmhurst, citizens groups quickly formed to promote the use of the balance of the property. The Glen Manor House Authority took on the responsibility of preserving the Manor House and the surrounding grounds. The Glen Park Committee initiated development of Glen Park and related recreational facilities on the remaining 40 acres.
Purchase of the Phelps Land
In 1988 the town learned that Mason Phelps had decided to sell his portion of Glen Farm. The success of the town's 1973 purchase coupled with a renewed appreciation of the virtues of open space and a general concern over the pace of development in Portsmouth lead to vigorous debate about the possible purchase by the town of the Phelps land. In 1989 the town held a special election to decide the matter and the referendum authorizing the purchase for $3.6 million passed by a three to one margin.
Commission to Utilize the Farm
In 1990 the town formed a commission to study potential municipal uses for the former Phelps property, once again know under town ownership as the "Glen Farm." The commission recommended the uses now present at the farm today. In 2005, the town through its open space program acquired ownership of an abutting 47-acre parcel of land on Sandy Point Avenue. In 2006, the town acquired another 29-acre portion of the original Glen Farm.