Woodlawn’s main house, also known as the Black House, is Federal in style with Greek revival overtones. It is based on a design from Asher Benjamin’s architectural book, “The American Builder’s Companion”. Construction on the house began in 1824 and in late 1827 or early 1828 the family moved in. The brick was shipped from Philadelphia and is laid without a visible header course. There are seven chimneys servicing nine fireplaces. The last member of the family to live at Woodlawn was George Nixon Black, Jr. Today, the Black House contains all of its original furnishings and collections.
Colonel John Black built Woodlawn, a 180-acre estate, between 1824-1827. George Nixon Black, Jr. was the last of three generations of the family to occupy Woodlawn. He willed the estate to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations in 1928. They have maintained it for public use since 1929.
Founder, George Nixon Black, Jr.
George Nixon Black, Jr, was born in Ellsworth in 1842. Nixon, as his friends and family called him, was a Bostonian for most of his adult life, but cherished Woodlawn and it may well have been his most valued possession. He took pride in his grandfather, John Black’s achievements and his great grandfather General David Cobb’s role in the Revolutionary War, and especially his friendship with George Washington. Nixon enjoyed Woodlawn as his ancestral summer home for nearly 50 years. During his visits he indulged his interests in horses, dogs, parties and antiquing trips. Today’s Woodlawn reflects the interests and tastes of Nixon who died in October, 1928. Upon his death, the 180 acre estate was bequeathed to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations to be kept as a public park. Honoring his wishes, Woodlawn has been open for public use every day since 1929.
Woodlawn’s collections, including the original household furnishings, were left as they were when the last member of the family, George Nixon Black, Jr., died and left them for the public to enjoy. The collections reflect three generations of the Black family from 1802 to 1928 and include several styles of European and American furniture, portraits and miniatures, mid 19th century carpeting, books, family photographs, sleighs and carriages, and a wide variety of china and glassware.
Constructed circa 1857, the carriage barn, located directly behind the main house, is comprised of three separate timber-framed buildings. In the early 1900s George Nixon Black, Jr. remodeled the barn for his prized horses, reflecting his Colonial Revival tastes. The barn was significantly reduced in size and modified again in 1948.
Across from the carriage barn is the sleigh barn. Perhaps originally used as a hen house, the structure later housed Woodlawn’s sleigh collection. It was restored in 2008 and made into a program space.
Woodlawn houses two important archival collections: the business records of Colonel John Black and his son George Nixon Black (thought to reflect over 3200 businesses and individuals in the lumbering trade), and the records of the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations. Both these collections are available for scholarly use. For those interested in accessing our archives, please send your
request in writing to the Executive Director. Due to the nature of our storage, a minimum of one month’s advance notice is needed.
Woodlawn’s landscape is as important to its history as its buildings and collections. Once a gentleman’s farm, highlighted by agrarian and picturesque qualities, the Black family made Colonial Revival and recreational improvements that reflected their use of the property as a summer residence after 1874.