Copyright 2018: The Farm at Eastman Hill, Lovell, Maine

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EASTMAN HILL STOCK FARM HISTORY

As written by the Lovell Historical Society,
Yesterday's News, Volume 19, Number 1, Winter 2012
​

The Roaring Twenties is distinguished as a period of sustained economic prosperity. The popularity of movies, the automobile, jazz, radio, baseball, and horse racing skyrocketed during this decade. It was a time of major lifestyle changes and the small town of Lovell , population 575. influenced the nation during these years, thanks in part to Robert Eastman and his development of Eastman Hill Stock Farm.The focal point of Eastman Hill Stock Farm is the Federal/Greek Revival style brick house built in 1833 by Phineas Eastman ( 1787-1847 ). Phineas had occupied the site since 1816, and this is where he constructed Lovell's first brick home for his wife Dorothy (Charles) Eastman (1799-1873) and their nine children.  When he died, the house was left to his widow and sons, and stayed in the family until 1877.  The property then passed into the hands of a succession of owners-John Abbott, John Walker, William Kneeland , and Hilton McAllister and in 1912, Robert Maurice Eastman (1869-1932) purchased his grandfather's Lovell homestead for use as a summer home. Eastman grew up in Minnesota and became a highly successful printer in Chicago. He had taken a small printing business, F.W. Hall Printing Company, and transformed it into the world's largest catalogue and magazine printing concern. The business had over a thousand employees and published Photopay, the Sears & Roebuck catalogue, and National Geographic, among others.  After purchasing the brick house with forty-five acres, Robert Eastman began to expand his Lovell holdings.  In 1913, he purchased the property across the street, including the house with attached ells and barn, known as the Jonathan Charles House . This became the home of the farm's superintendant. The Town Poor Farm was purchased in 1920 and became the focus of Eastman's stock farm operations.  In 1926, he purchased the Isaac Eastman property, comprising four acres and a Greek Revival style house.  

Robert Maurice Eastman outside in front of the brick house at Eastman Hill Stock Farm.

Interior of the Auditorium, Eastman Hill Stock Farm

It is not clear if Billy spent much time at the farm, as he and his parents appear to have had a falling out sometime after he graduated from Yale University in 1919.  Legend has it that Billy fell in love and married a woman of the Catholic religion, causing a rift with his Episcopalian parents.  Patty spent her summers at the farm and for three years kept a journal of her time there.  Unfortunately, the journal disappeared between 1992 and 1993 and reference can only be made to a historic property plan of the farm compiled by Ann Beha Associates.  According to that history, Patty and her school friend Florence Gratuit wrote a journal from 1920 through 1922 they titled 'The Gratman Daily Bulletin'.  In the journal, they painted a pleasant picture of a carefree summer existence. Passages mentioned the family's annual auto trips from Chicago, overnights at the Hotel Touraine in Boston, and escorting guests from the train stations in Portland or Fryeburg.  Days were spent swimming. fishing. playing tennis. going for automobile rides, walking ( mother Carrie was often on a "reducing regimen" that included hikes up and down the hill), boating. horseback riding. going to church, the movies, and dances.  Patty's parents were often referred to as "Sir Robert'' and "Lady Caroline".

It was located up the hill from the brick house. This home, known as the Mel House, was used for laundry facilities and to provide housing for fan assistants.  At this point the farm totaled approximately one thousand acres.  Robert and his wife Caroline (Evers) or "Carrie''(1874-1954) transformed the rural farmstead into a country gentleman's estate.  Electricity and runnmg water were added, and legend has it that Eastman won the electrical service (with poles discretely hidden in the woods) in a poker game from the president of the local power company.  A glazed verandah was added in 1921.  Two years later, after moving the stock farm operation to the Town Poor Farm property, Eastman hired Portland architect Fred H. Thome to tum the old attached barn into a medival hall complete with a great assembly area. performance stage. game room. office, three bathrooms, and three guest bedrooms.  That same year, Breck-Robinson Nurse Company of Lexington, Massachusetts designed a formal garden ro replace  the cornfield across the street from the house.  The country gentleman's farm was not complete for the family, which included a son William or "Billy'' ( 1894-1978) and daughter Eunice or "Patty" {1905-1989).  

All photographs property of the Lovell Historical Society

A drawing of Mike Hall, Robert Eastman’s race horse.

While the family lived this leisurely lifestyle, Robert Eastman pursued an interest in stock breeding. He began by breeding Holstein and in a New York Herald article dated November I, 1922 he related that he "began raising pure bred cattle for recreation and with the hope and belief that Maine's livestock industry could be stimulated".  Eastman had great success in 1922 with a two-year-old bull named King Grant Reliance that won the blue ribbon at the Springfield Agricultural Fair, the highest honor east of Chicago. He had many other successful black and white prodigies before he became interested in Thoroughbreds. To say that Robert Eastman was interested in thoroughbreds does not do justice to his influence on horse racing.  The 1920s was thoroughbred racing's Golden Age and Eastman Hill Stock Farm became well-known thanks ro Eastman's successful breeding operation.  In partnership with a Canadian friend, Christopher J. Fitzgerald, Eastman first purchased the stallion 'Tryster'. They later sold the horse for $100,000.  He bought the mare 'Clonakilty', bred her with 'Hourless', and produced two remarkable race horses. Mike Hall became one of the greatest racing geldings of all time and his brother, 'Charley 0' won the Florida Derby in I933 and came in 3rd at the Kentucky Derby.  Other race horses include 'Cathop', another offspring of Clonakilty.  With Fitzgerald and good friend Hal Price Headley, he formed a syndicate to buy 'Pharamond II', a stallion that later became one of the leading sires in the United States.  Eastman Hill Stock Farm was often mentioned in racing circles.  It was reported by The Blood-Horse that early in 1931 Robert Eastman suffered a stroke with resulting paralysis.  He did continue to visit Eastman Hill Stock Farm in the summer, as witnessed by correspondence left at the farm, but he lessened his involvement in Thoroughbreds.  In November of 1932 it was reported that he sold off most of his thoroughbred stock at a Lexington. Kentucky auction, except for a few horses in training and Mike Hall, who had been turned out for a life of ease.  

Patty (Eastman) Carroll, on left, and Jessie Volk in front of the Brick House at Eastman Hill.

Eastman Hill, built in 1833 by Phineas Eastman.

On November 23, 1932. at the age of sixty­ two, Eastman died of a massive heart attack. Eastman Hill Stock Farm was left to his wife Carrie, with the desire rim upon her death the property go to their daughrer Patty.  His son Billy was left the former Town Poor farm property which included the stock farm operation.  Shortly after his father's death, Billy sold the property back to his mother. The breeding stock and remaining race horses were slowly sold off and in 1949 so was the former Poor Farm property.  Carrie died in 1954 and left the property to her daughter.  Patty continued the tradition of summering at Eastman Hill and in 1957 married her long-time friend Joseph Carroll.  It is probably no coincidence that this friendship did not develop into marriage until the death of her mother, as Joe was also of the Catholic religion.  Joe died after 10 years of marriage and Patty died in 1989 with no heirs.  She decided to leave the farm to the National Trust For Historic Preservation.  They sold the property in 1994 with conservation easements and the farm has remained in private hands ever since.

Brick House, Eastman Hill Stock Farm