the trustees of reservations
On The Land
The Trustees of Reservations

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Leaving a legacy of conservation in Shirley

Professor Arthur Banks recently passed away at the age of 84, leaving his property in Shirley to The Trustees of Reservations to eventually become a new reservation. Professor Banks had first donated a Conservation Restriction to The Trustees in 1995, followed by a gift of the property in 2000 with a retained life estate. He was a passionate conservationist who leaves behind a lasting legacy that will benefit generations to come. Community Conservation Specialist Dave Outman interviewed Professor Banks for the CR newsletter in 2005 that captures the history of the property and its owner.... 

DRIVING NORTH ALONG CENTRE RD. TOWARDS THE historic town center of Shirley, Massachusetts, you will come upon a small white sign with black script on the west side of the road reading “Farandnear.” This unassuming shingle marks the residence of Arthur Banks, retired professor of political science from Binghamton University, and the third generation of his family to call this piece of land in central Massachusetts home. In 1902 his grandfather, Charles E. Goodspeed, purchased just over three acres where he built a summer cottage as a retreat for his daughter, Miriam, who suffered from asthma. He named this property “Far-and-near” for its geographic proximity to his permanent residence in Wollaston (a suburb of Quincy), roughly 50 miles to the east – the Shirley property being close enough to allow for seasonal residence, yet far enough away to require a two days journey by horse and carriage. In 1939 the original cottage (which Goodspeed had made his permanent residence some years earlier) was destroyed by fire and replaced by a two-family house, the main portion of which was occupied by Miriam (Goodspeed) and Gordon Banks, and their three children Arthur, Barbara, and Shirley.

As a young man Arthur Banks spent many hours tending the property that had grown from 3 acres to roughly 60 (through acquisitions made by C. Goodspeed of four adjacent tracks of land), including his responsibilities as resident greens-keeper of the small golf course constructed by his father in the early 1950’s. Out of these experiences grew an affinity for the property, and though his later life in academia would keep him away from the land for most of the year, he would return for periods of time each summer and autumn to enjoy the tranquility of this rural landscape. In the mid 80’s and early 90’s Arthur purchased two additional parcels of land of historic and scenic significance to the community. The first being a cranberry bog that in years past had been worked as a cooperative by a number of Shirley families until they could no longer compete with the increasingly mechanized cranberry industry.

The second was nearly 10 acres of pasture and hemlock forest that included a ravine of Spruce Swamp Brook referred to locally as “Paradise” for its scenic qualities. Over the years Mr. Banks has been an active steward of Farandnear, with his time and interest in local conservation only increasing with his retirement in the mid 90’s – acting as associate editor for the for The Shirley Volunteer, and even authoring articles on various conservation matters on occasion. His efforts on the land at Farandnear include the cultivation of an arboretum on what was the golf course, as well as restoration of the cranberry bog, including repairs to the dikes and installation of culverts and bridges where the old sluice gates had been (naturally occurring cranberries can still be picked on site).

In 1995 Mr. Banks ensured that his efforts would not be lost, and that future generations of Shirley, as well as Massachusetts, residents would be able to enjoy the history and natural beauty of this place with the donation of a conservation restriction (CR) on Farandnear to The Trustees of Reservations. In 2000, he donated a remainder interest in the property to The Trustees so that it would become a reservation in the future, conserved for public use and enjoyment. Thanks to the generosity of Mr. Banks the Shirley community will always have this land that provides links to their cultural heritage, and a place to connect with the natural environment."


jeanna said...

My husband and I lived at "Farandnear" in the early nineties, caring for the house, Arthur's goldfish as well as Bird of Paradise in his small greenhouse while he was away serving as professor in NY. Our two boys were born and able to boast of this beautiful property as their first home. (One is now a senior in high school--would love to visit Shirley to let him and his brother see where they spent their first years.) I liked to remember it as a sort of "Hundred Acre Wood" of Christopher Robin/Winnie the Pooh fame. Spent many an afternoon taking an imaginative walk in the woods. The place holds such a special place in our hearts. As does Arthur who, unbeknownst to him, is a little bit family to us. God bless you Arthur. Thank you for your generous passion to share the loveliness of Farandnear.
jeanna holmes

Len Silvester said...

I was a frequent visitor to Farandnear, being the pastor to Gordon and Miriam Banks in the 1970s. Many were the rounds of golf I played on the amazing par-3 course there. I applaud Arthur's stewardship and recommend a visit to this extroridnary place. --Rev. Len Silvester