Falmouth’s legendary Highfield and Tanglewood Halls set the stage for the rise—and tragic fall—of the famous Beebe family.
Certain family names have been connected with towns on Cape Cod and the Islands for centuries. The Snows of Orleans, the Coffins and Starbucks of Nantucket, and the Nickersons and Atwoods of Chatham all have legendary connections to their respective towns.
In Falmouth today, the name Beebe is synonymous with Beebe Woods, a magnificent, 383-acre stretch enjoyed by thousands of visitors year-round. The pristine land, highlighted by walking trails that pass through wooded ridges, along shady hollows, and beside a picturesque pond, were once part of a sprawling estate purchased in the late 1800s by a wealthy Bostonian, James Beebe. His descendents, who lived in two elegant mansions on the estate, were among Falmouth’s earliest summer visitors.
However, the legacy of the Beebe name has also been associated with tragedy. During a 60-year period beginning in the early 1870s, the Beebe family experienced suicides, sudden deaths, turns of bad luck, lawsuits, and mental health episodes that made headlines in Boston’s Back Bay, on the campuses of prestigious colleges, and in Falmouth’s quiet, turn-of-the-century community.
Family patriarch James Madison Beebe made his fortune in dry goods and manufacturing. In 1872, looking to escape the heat and discomfort of Boston in the summertime, he converted the Thomas Swift House on Shore Street into a summer home called Vineyard Lodge. Beebe subsequently purchased more than 700 acres of land in Falmouth, almost 400 of which are known today as Beebe Woods.