During the mid-19th century, when the Eastern Railroad linked Boston with Beverly, the door was opened for the development of the North Shore by wealthy industrialists. Many prominent families such as the Fricks, Stetsons, and Morgans made the trip to escape the heat and humidity of the cities and to enjoy the refreshing sea breezes of Boston's Gold Coast.
One of these beautiful estates, Dawson Hall, belonged to Mr. Robert Evans, president of U.S. Rubber, and his devoted wife, Maria Antoinette (Hunt) Evans. In 1909, President William Howard Taft rented one of the estate 'cottages', the fourteen-room house originally occupied by the Stetson family.
In an ironic twist of fate, the president's arrival coincided with Mr. Evans' death. He had been thrown from his horse mere hours before, and was being transported to a Boston hospital just as Taft's entourage entered the stone gates of the estate.Their vehicles passed each other on the tree-lined drive.
In 1910, the Tafts returned to Stetson Cottage but the widowed Mrs. Evans was no longer remotely interested in playing landlady. After informing the Tafts that she was moving Stetson Cottage to Marblehead, she ordered the house to be cut in half and transported by barge across Salem Harbor.
In its place, she installed the romantic Italian garden, a fantasy of flowers and fountains set against the exquisite backdrop of the shimmering Atlantic.
Upon Mrs. Evans' death in 1917, her two maiden sisters, Belle and Abbie Hunt, inherited the property. In turn, they willed it to Beverly Hospital. The City of Beverly subsequently purchased the property with a bequest of $400,000 from David S. Lynch, whose inspiration came from a park he had seen in London. In 1946 what was once the exclusive domain of the privileged became a 16-acre public park for all to enjoy.
Today Mrs. Evans' garden is the site of countless weddings, and is one of the most photographed landmarks on the North Shore.