Sidney Shurcliff Riverwalk

The Sidney Shurcliff Riverwalk

The Shurcliffs were among several prestigous Boston families who owned summer getways on Argilla Rd. in the early 20th Century. After graduating from Harvard in 1927 and continuing studies in landscape architecture, Sidney Nichols Shurcliff joined the firm of his father Arthur Shurcliff, who had trained under Frederick Law Olmstead and was Chief Landscape Architect for the restoration and recreation of the gardens, landscape, and town planning of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1913, Arthur Shurcliff designed the Rose Garden, which has recently been restored, and the 160 feet wide lawn at Crane Castle, which stretches half a mile from the Great House to Ipswich Bay.

After Arthur Shurcliff’s retirement in 1977, Sidney continued operating the firm as Shurcliff & Merrill. The company designed for a wide range of projects including residences, cemeteries, schools, parks, municipal structures. In addition to his earlier oversight of the Colonial Williamsburg restoration, he designed and oversaw development of Old Sturbridge Village in the 1930s and 40s. He served for four years as President of the International Federation of Landscape Architects. Sidney Shurcliff’s career spanned from Olmstead’s “Picturesque” Style to 20th Century modernism.

Sidney Shurcliff
Sidney Shurcliff
Sidney Shurcliff house, Argilla Road, Ipswich Ma
The Sidney Shurcliff house on Argilla Road

The Shurcliffs constructed two houses on Argilla Rd. that are still standing. Sidney wrote two fascinating books, Upon the Road Argilla: A Record of the First Quarter Century of a Unique Summer Colony; and The Day it Rained Fish, about several interesting occurrences during his career.

In 1984, the Town of Ipswich laid a sewer along an old footpath beside the Ipswich River between The County St. and Green Street stone arch bridges. In 1998 the Mass. Highway Dept. assumed responsibility for completing construction of the RiverWalk with $417,000 federal and state aid grant to the town. The path was christened the Sidney Shurcliff Riverwalk, due in part to efforts by Sidney Shurcliff’s sister Alice.

Ipswich Riverwalk
County St. entrance to the Sidney Shurcliff Riverwalk

Alice W. Shurcliff and Sawmill Point Park

Sawmill Point

On the opposite side of the County St. Bridge, a lot owned by the town for decades had become an eyesore surrounded by a chain link fence. Article 23 on the 1997 Town Meeting Warrant proposed to sell the lot but several people spoke against the proposed sale. One of the opponents mentioned that Alice Shurcliff, Sidney Shurcliff’s sister, had offered to buy back the lot for $30,000 and return it to the town for preservation. Selectman Pat McNally suggested that the land should be made into a park. The Article failed by a slim majority and Sawmill Point Park was constructed in 2005 with a generous gift from Alice Shurcliff.

Alice Shurcliff was a Labor Department economist and an adviser to governments abroad. At the Department of State, she helped establish the U.N. Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and later went to work for the agency. Miss Shurcliff received a Rockefeller Public Service Award and was a member of the Society of Women Geographers. In Ipswich, she served for several years as a member of the Finance Committee. On her Argilla Rd. property she donated a conservation restriction on 6 acres along the Castle Neck River and provided additional conservation restriction in 1973.

Sidney Shurcliff Riverwalk
The Sidney Shurcliff Riverwalk in 2022
The Sidney Shurcliff River Walk in winter, photo by Ann Moran Lowe

I look forward to receiving additional information about the Riverwalk and the Shurcliff family.


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