Life was equally challenging for J. Arthur’s youngest child. Charles Philip Beebe had a normal childhood, but would eventually succumb to the mental illness that seems to have plagued the family. Philip, as he preferred to go by, attended Harvard, as did many Beebe men, but left after two years to travel to Europe. Upon his return, Philip purchased a farm in Mount Hood, Oregon, in 1910, and didn’t return to Boston until after his father’s death in 1914.
J. Arthur was a man of considerable wealth, but left no money to Philip in his will. J. Arthur felt the small fortune his wife had left their son was enough for him to live a prosperous life. Philip disagreed and sued for what he felt was his share of his father’s wealth and was eventually awarded $700,000.
In the coming years, Philip began to suffer from mental instability. He would spend a little over a decade in McLean Hospital, before being released in 1932. The following year Philip purchased Eastleigh Farm in Framingham, Massachusetts, and returned to farming life. He would spend the rest of his life on his farm, always accompanied by a male attendant from McLean for security reasons.
Today, many sights around Falmouth preserve the Beebes’ love for the community. The trees surrounding the Village Green were a gift of Mary Louisa Beebe; St. Barnabas Church on West Main Street was erected with donations from several Beebe children; Beebe Woods has remained pristine for the public’s enjoyment, and Highfield Hall remains a beautifully restored cultural landmark enjoyed by the entire Cape community.
Highfield almost met the same fate as its sister mansion, Tanglewood, which was demolished in 1977. In 1994, bulldozers were preparing to tear down the considerably neglected house, which had become the scene of illicit high school parties and a refuge for the homeless, when a group of concerned citizens formed the Friends of Highfield and gathered over 5,000 signatures to have the house saved. In the years that followed, a legion of volunteers and professionals restored Highfield to its former glory.
“The restoration and rebirth of Highfield Hall has been a labor of love for our community,” says Barbara Milligan, executive director of Historic Highfield, Inc. “The story is truly extraordinary—not only the fascinating history of the Beebe family, but the three-decade long fight to save the building and the passionate effort of local townspeople to make the restoration possible. Highfield Hall is an example of what one community can accomplish when supremely and unswervingly determined.”
All the passions of the ill-fated Beebe family—history, music, art, and nature—are still cherished every month at Highfield Hall where concerts, art exhibits, nature walks, lectures, and children’s programs are enjoyed year round. This place, once a site of stunning loss, has become a timeless gift, enjoyed with pleasure.
For information on Highfield Hall, go to www.highfieldhall.org.