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Whether it’s the Crane Estate, Appleton Farms, or the Julia Bird Reservation, land and tradition are at the heart of Ipswich, Massachusetts. But equally important is change and evolution, which is evident everywhere from Crane Beach’s ever-shifting shoreline to the downtown’s ebb and flow of new shops and eateries. 

Photograph by J Barrett & Company

That marriage of tradition and change is also inherent in the almost 400-year-old story of the property at 55 Waldingfield Road in Ipswich. What started as part of Appleton Farms in 1638 has evolved into a private residence which its longtime owner, Donald Curiale, has called home since 1984. 

That he and his late husband, Arthur Finkelstein, lived there with their family would surely have come as a surprise to the Puritan-era Appletons, but that’s just one more testament to the property’s long tradition of evolution. “My late husband and I raised our children there, they went to public school, I became involved in the community,” Curiale says.

Waldingfield and Curiale are still part of the community. Curiale opens the property to the Myopia Hunt Club and Myopia Driving Club for traditional hunt and carriage-driving events. He himself has been a horseman for decades and is the former chair of the Ipswich Historical Commission. “The North Shore still is a bastion of social traditions,” he says. 

Photograph by J Barrett & Company

Curiale continues to celebrate the property’s history as well as enjoy its present, although it’s now the subject of a pending sale between Curiale and Andover–based ophthalmic company, Ora. Ora’s intent is to convert the property into its corporate headquarters. Local residents have formed a group called “Friends of Waldingfield” and are opposing the sale.

Curiale and his partner, Edwin Barrow, live part of the year at Waldingfield and have opened one of its outbuildings as an Airbnb, providing visitors with a chance to experience and enjoy the beautiful property. “The Appletons laid that property out in such a stunning way that if you’re there any season of the year, the vistas are incredible,” says Barrow, and that’s true whether the estate is covered in snow, rain, fog, or bright May sunshine with the pink rhododendrons in bloom.

Although Waldingfield was part of a much larger estate, by 1889, the property had been broken up. Its then-owners—Charles Bird and his wife, Julia, herself an Appleton descendant—moved the original homestead to a new location on the property, and put an addition onto the house as well. They lived there until 1916, when a fire completely destroyed the house. 

Donald Curiale (right) and Edwin Barrow | Photograph courtesy of Edwin Barrow

The current 11-bedroom main house that’s on the property now is the one the family built in 1929 out of cement, stucco, steel, and sand from Crane Beach, Curiale says. “The house became their fox hunting lodge, so they could fox hunt with Myopia and leave there in December when the ground froze,” he says. “That’s how it’s been used. It has a unique country flair to it.”

That country flair is evident from the moment you enter the elm-lined driveway. The sprawling, 39.9-acre property includes Ipswich River waterfront land and trails that run around it, as well as formal gardens. Barrow describes five “stages” of gardens that terrace around the main house and down into each other, extending right to the edge of the property and overlooking the river. 

“It is a place that people love,” Barrow says. “There was a consistent ownership, there was a consistent caretaker involved in the community, and he offered the community an opportunity to experience that property.”