Historic Laudholm Farmwells national estuarine research reserve
After glaciers retreated from our region six thousand years ago, Native Americans settling along the coast flourished on its rich resources. When Europeans arrived about four hundred years ago and began establishing settlements, they also favored coastal areas.
This site was first settled for farming in 1643 by Henry Boade, a founder of the Town of Wells. He sold it to William Symonds, a land speculator, who lived and worked on the farm for nearly two decades before it was burned in 1676 during King Philip’s War.
Not until 1717 was the farm reoccupied, this time by Nathaniel Clark, Jr. For 150 years, Clark and his heirs ran a prosperous agricultural operation and made many improvements to “Farm Hill.” The Clark era ended with the estate’s sale to George C. Lord, President of the Boston & Maine Railroad, in 1881.
Lord acquired the property as a summer retreat near his boyhood home in Kennebunk, but his son Robert had keen agricultural interests. Robert imported purebred Guernseys in 1892 and soon thereafter assumed ownership of the farm. His brother Charles followed him in 1908, naming the site “Laudholm Farms.” A few years later, Charles’s son George was entrusted with the farming operation.
At that time, Laudholm Farms was the largest and most progressive saltwater farm in York County, maintaining its long-time place of prominence within the Town of Wells. Laudholm Farms milk, cream, butter, eggs, broilers, and roasting chickens were sold to locals and shipped weekly to Boston. The farm hosted farmers’ field days and the town’s 300th anniversary celebration. Eventually, however, the farm fell into disuse and its future became uncertain.
In 1978, local citizens concerned about the fate of Laudholm Farm banded together to protect the historic landscape and structures. In 1982 they formed the nonprofit organization Laudholm Trust. By 1986 they had rallied Town, State, and Federal support, formed key partnerships, and celebrated the dedication of the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the Laudholm Farm Complex was preserved for a purpose. Today it is headquarters for the Wells Reserve, while Laudholm Trust provides critical support for Reserve programs, operations, and capital improvements.