Monday, August 10, 2009

From Proctor Estate to New England Biolabs, via the Oblates and the Salesians

From Proctor Estate to New England Biolabs, via the Oblates and the Salesians

From 1955 to 1999 the Salesians owned a grand old estate along Rte. 1A in Ipswich, Mass. (part of the property was also in Hamilton). We bought it from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who had been using it for a novitiate, and after a life cycle with us that included a junior seminary, a novitiate, and a retreat center, we sold it to New England Biolabs.

During the Salesian Old Boys reunion, July 24-26, we had the opportunity to visit on Saturday afternoon, July 25. Several of the SOBs had gone to high school seminary here or served on the staff.

NE Biolabs has done a marvelous job maintaining the property and restoring the old buildings, as you'll see below. They've made some significant changes, too--especially by putting up 2 modern steel-and-glass buildings that don't blend at all with the Proctors' Jacobean architecture.

From a distance--none of the Salesian Old Boys went up close--the old servants' quarters looks very good. This building served as a convent while the junior seminary was here, and later as the SDB residence.

Some of the Salesian Old Boys (Tom Lennon, John Bosse, Vic Smith, and Pat Kemple) pass in front of the Proctors' carriage house and stable. For the Salesians it was the junior seminarians' residence, classrooms, gym (a supremely low-ceilinged one), and (eventually) chapel.
Where once seminarians shagged fly balls, perhaps trout now shag flies. Be that as it may, the baseball and softball fields are gone, supplanted by an extension of the wide spot in the Miles River into a pond. Beyond the pond, where there used to be basketball, handball, and tennis courts is now a structure that looks like a greenhouse. (But it's not; it's a wastewater treatment facility, which treats all of the campus' wastewater--see the comment left by Tanya from NEB.)
I have no idea whether this is now the main building on the NE Biolabs campus, but it's big and modern. Since it was Saturday when we visited, we had no opportunity to go inside.
Site of the seminarians' swimming pool, which the townsfolk of Ipswich also enjoyed very much in season. The Salesians maintained excellent relations with the town by sharing our recreational facilities (and natural spring water).

The main house or mansion looks much as it used to on the outside.

A lot of the lawn has been planted with gorgeous flowers, and if you look you can see that the back porches have been opened up on both wings of the house. In the seminary days they were enclosed and used as offices.

We could peer in thru the glass doors and even shoot pictures. This is what used to be the seminary and retreat house chapel.

The little court behind the great hall of the house seems to be overrun with flora. A huge statue of Mary Help of Christians stood here in SDB times; that now graces the front lawn of the provincial house in New Rochelle.

The back porch of the south wing of the house, which when it was enclosed housed the spirituals office of the seminary. Here ex-seminarians Nick Ciranni, John Gushue, John Bosse, and Greg Sand check it out, as well as the room within that used to be the superiors' dining room.

1 comment:

Tanya said...

It is great to know that you still have a vested interest in the Proctor Estate. We are very proud of this property and have tried to renovate the existing buildings so that they remain historically accurate. The greenhouse that you refer to is actually a wastewater treatment facility, which treats all of the campus' wastewater. More information on this process can be found on our website (

If you are ever in the area again please feel free to come by and we would be happy to give you a tour of the facility.

~New England Biolabs Marketing Communications Department