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What’s behind the walls? The question many people from the Merrimack Valley and beyond have asked for over a century about the monumental looking grey stone walls on Lawrence Street in Methuen. On Saturday, October 1, you can find out for yourself. Presentation of Mary Academy (PMA) is sponsoring tours for one day only, of the historic Edward F. Searles Estate.

Methuen native Edward F. Searles worked in a cotton mill at age 12, but died as one of richest men in the country.   On a trip to California he met Mary Hopkins, an older widow of a railroad tycoon. It is rumored that she fell in love with him and proposed even though he was twenty years her junior.   They both had east coast roots and eventually moved back to Methuen. 

Both Edward and Mary shared a love of art, music and fine furnishings. They surrounded themselves with lavish art, décor, and numerous large estates.  Four years after marrying, Mary died in 1891, leaving Edward her entire estate worth $30 million dollars.  Edward was a shrewd investor and when he died in 1920 his estate was worth $100 million.

The Sisters of the Presentation of Mary purchased the estate in 1957 and have maintained the property ever since.  The Sisters have kept the dignity, splendor and historic presence of the grounds intact. Although many of Searles’ original art and furnishings were sold after his death, there are many still on the property.

The Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, much like Mr. Searles, value their privacy, but are often asked, “When are you going to have another tour?”  This is only the fifth time ever that they have opened their home to tours because they recognize the historic value and public interest in the property. 

When Searles was building his massive estate he spared no expense.  The castle represents a real one in England that was destroyed by two feuding families. On the tour, you will see the craftsmanship of the walls, the castle and additional buildings.  You will also see Mr. Searles’ private living quarters, many themed rooms, and his grand taste through furnishings such as throne chairs, marble statues, and chandeliers. There is also a Carerra marble urn in one room, that is so large, the room had to be built around the urn.  The only way remove it would be to dismantle the room. 

The last tour was more than five years ago, so if you ever wondered what was behind those walls, make sure to purchase your tickets early and save the date – October 1, 2016, 9 a.m – 3 p.m.  For more event information, email Sarah Hamilton at or find us on Facebook at Searles Estate Tour.

Please note that this is a walking tour that lasts approximately two hours.  The grounds and buildings are over a century old and not suitable for strollers or wheelchairs due to narrow hallways and staircases. There is also no photography permitted.

Tickets are $20 each. Starting September 1, visit SEARLES.EVENTBRITE.COM to reserve your ticket starting or purchase the day of at PMA-209 Lawrence Street – Methuen, MA 01844.