It's a planned community,
where open land abounds,
technology is on the cutting edge,
and every home has a scenic view.
the new New England?
By Judith Gaines
Photography by David Carmack
It is one of the wettest days on record in Plymouth. But despite a torrential downpour, about two dozen folks have come for a walking history of The Pinehills, the largest new residential and commercial development anywhere in New England. They've gathered in a building called The Summerhouse, which looks like a cross between an upscale hunting lodge and a rambling farmhouse. There's a wide wooden porch with lots of wicker chairs and a breezy gazebo out back, overlooking the development. This is the administrative headquarters and social heart of The Pinehills, which will feature 2,877 homes on 3,060 piney Plymouth acres-an amazingly large expanse of previously virgin land for densely settled Massachusetts, 45 miles south of Boston. Across the entrance to The Summerhouse is a quote from John Muir: "Between any two pine trees is the doorway to a new life."
The people who have gathered on this rainy day are residents of this place. Most have moved here in the past year or so, and they still have the excitement of newcomers for their freshly minted homes and their budding community. When one woman says she feels like she's on vacation in her own house, others nod in agreement. In their enthusiasm some even say, not quite jokingly, that with Plymouth Plantation just a few miles away, they must be "the new pilgrims." They share a love of starting anew, but their vision, in a typically New England way, also incorporates the past. So they want to hear this history talk, deluge or no.
Flukes of geology and history made the scale of The Pinehills possible, Plymouth historian James Baker tells the group, as rain falls in sheets. When New England's last glacier came this way, it left mainly sand and boulders in its wake. The soil wasn't good enough for agricultural settlements; even the Native Americans shunned it in favor of richer lowland areas and ventured into these woods only to hunt deer. Thread manufacturer Robert Symington assembled the 3,060-acre tract starting in 1891, and his family kept it as their private hunting preserve until 1968, when it was sold intact to John Talcott, an investor from Connecticut. In 1986, Talcott sold it to the Digital Equipment Corporation, which intended to build an office campus here. But the land was still largely untouched when four visionary developers - Tom Wallace, Tony Green, Steve Karp, and Steve Fischman - first swooned over it in 1997. Two years later, they bought the entire estate and began transforming it into The Pinehills, due to be finished about 10 years from now.