Stereoviews, 1860s–1910

At the bottom of the page is a listing of the over-270 known 19th and early-20th century stereoviews of the Hunnewell Estate, Wellesley, Massachusetts, one of the most widely stereographed private estates in America.  The table supplements an article by the author, “Wellesley’s Hunnewell Estate in 19th-Century Stereo Views,” New England Journal of Photographic History, n. 169, 2010–2011, pp. 42-64.

The estate was founded by Horatio Hollis Hunnewell (1810–1902), a Paris- and Boston-based banker, railroad investor, philanthropist and horticulturalist, along with his wife, Isabella Pratt Welles Hunnewell (1812–1888).  In the 19th century their estate was called Wellesley, located in the village of West Needham, Massachusetts.  H. H. Hunnewell—who went by his middle name, Hollis—named the estate in honor of his wife Isabella’s family, the Welles, whose substantial land holdings in the area became the couple’s property.

In 1881 West Needham broke from its parent, the town of Needham, Massachusetts.  The new town called itself Wellesley after Hollis and Isabella Hunnewell’s estate, in recognition of the couple’s substantial philanthropy on behalf of the town.  The name Wellesley thenceforth being ambiguous by referring to both the estate and town, their estate is now called the Walter Hunnewell Estate.  Still owned by descendants of Hollis and Isabella Hunnewell, it is the centerpiece of the United States federal Hunnewell Estates Historic District, created in 1988 and incorporating the lands of Hunnewell families in Wellesley and adjacent towns.

The Hunnewell estate’s most well-known feature is the Italian garden of topiary conifer trees cultivated in fanciful shapes.  The garden is now some
160 years old, one of the nation’s oldest, and is prominently visible across Lake Waban from Wellesley College.

The earliest known stereoview of the Hunnewell estate, taken no later than 1866 and known only in a copy photograph, is an amateur view of the estate’s house, completed in 1852 and still extant.  The latest known published stereoview of the estate is dated 1910.

By far the greatest number of stereoviews of the Hunnewell estate were made by the noted Boston-area photographer and stereographer Chandler Seaver, Jr. (1824–1902), who made at least 86 views in the early or mid-1870s.  Seaver’s Hunnewell views were printed and published by one of the most well-known third-party stereograph printers in New England, Charles Pollock (1828–1900) of Boston, whose stereo manufactory was located in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Second in rank in the number of Hunnewell stereos was the well-known Benjamin W. Kilburn of Littleton, New Hampshire, who made at least 43 views in the 1880s and 1890s.

The largest known public collection of Hunnewell stereoviews resides at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts, which owns some 100 views.  The collection includes a rare and important set of several early views of the house, Italian garden and grounds, taken by an anonymous master about 1866.  The second-largest known public collection resides at Historic New England, Boston, which owns some 68 views.