A Historic Place

A 19th century site with a 21st century mission

The Wells Reserve uses a historic site as a platform for education, conservation, and research, maintaining more than a dozen historic structures for present and future use.

Indigenous Peoples

After glaciers retreated from our region 6,000 years ago, Wabanaki Indians settling along the coast flourished on its rich resources. Although archaeological research has not uncovered evidence of Indian settlement on this site, we assume fish and game drew people here during the thousands of years prior to English colonization.

European Settlement

When Europeans arrived about 400 years ago and began establishing settlements, they favored coastal areas.

This site was occupied in 1643 by Henry Boade, a founder of the Town of Wells. He soon sold the land 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.

Laudholm Farms

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 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 the 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.

Laudholm Trust & Wells Reserve

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 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 campus was preserved for a purpose. Today the Wells Reserve is a center for education, conservation, and research. Laudholm Trust remains a vital force, providing support for Wells Reserve programs, operations, and capital improvements. 

Saving Laudholm

Find out how "Laudholm Farms" became the Wells Reserve.

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