Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


December 27, 2012

Enchanted Forest, Part II: How a dream sanctuary took wing

This is the second part, of a two-part Andover Stories.

By the spring of 1929, the construction of the Moncrieff Cochran Sanctuary, named after Thomas Cochran’s older brother, was in full swing on the campus of Phillips Academy. Although the original plan embracing the Rabbit Pond area was proving highly successful, Cochran envisioned something far more expansive. Looking beyond Rabbit Pond, Cochran saw the old Missionary Woods and beyond as a larger tract of land that he’d need to acquire to realize his plan for the school grounds.

Along with Charles Adams Platt, Cochran brought in the landscape expertise of the Olmsted brothers, who were already transforming the main school campus. Their remarkable body of work included New York’s Central Park, the Emerald Necklace, a linear system of parks including the Boston Common, Chicago’s Columbian World’s Fair, the landscape surrounding the U. S. Capital building in Washington, D. C., and dozens of college campuses across the country.

Cochran quietly purchased over 150 acres to the east of Samuel Phillips Hall.

With the vast amount of newly acquired land now in hand, the Olmsteds began to carve out the sanctuary. A brook running through the newly acquired property was dammed, creating two ponds providing a habitat for the sanctuary’s bird population. The land was reasonably well forested with oak, pine, maple, ash, and birch trees. The Olmsteds enhanced the natural beauty of the area adding azalea, blueberry, laurel and rhododendrons which would quickly grow and flourish.

Thomas Cochran’s vision was finally coming to life. Described in the Oct. 5, 1929 Phillipian, the Phillips Academy newspaper, the sanctuary was fast becoming “a fine park with beautiful broad roads and many wooded paths alive with birds, honeycombing the whole area.”

The Olmsted’s oversaw the construction of three miles of gravel roads and pedestrian-only bridges. Automobile traffic was not allowed. Further securing the vastly expanded grounds, Cochran commissioned a fence – 11,000 linear feet at a cost of $39,000. Popularly referred to at the time as the “Great Wall of Andover,” the fence surrounded the entire property where its remains stand today.

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