C.S. Lewis Foundation Restores “Green Pastures” Home in Northfield

Below is a recent article published in the Greenfield Recorder about the Foundation’s newest renovations at “Green Pastures,” as well as our plans for the home and the future of C.S. Lewis College.

Greenfield Recorder/David Rainville
Greenfield Recorder/David Rainville

C.S. Lewis College Restores Moody’s Home in Northfield

By DAVID RAINVILLE Greenfield Recorder Staff

Used by Permission Copyright 2014 Greenfield Recorder 05/21/2014

NORTHFIELD — While it’s not the 217-acre campus that C.S. Lewis College Foundation had its eye on, its considerably smaller study center will open soon in Northfield.

Contractors, volunteers and even foundation President Stanley Mattson have been busy fixing up Green Pastures, a 14-room Victorian home built for the family of Northfield Mount Hermon School founder and famed evangelist Dwight L. Moody around 1885.

If all goes well, it could be ready for a soft opening in June, with events like poetry readings, “great books” discussions and music. Though it was unable to secure the former NMH campus, the C.S. Lewis College Foundation still has plans for the Northeast. The study center will serve as a foot in the door for the foundation, giving it a home as well as something to show donors progress is being made. It will include room for writers, artists, musicians and scholars in residence, as well as space for events.

One attic room affords a 270-degree panoramic view including the campus, Moody’s “Round Top” resting place, and the Connecticut River. The foundation plans to make it into an artists’ residence, its turret window providing plenty of natural light and space for an easel.

Greenfield Recorder/David Rainville
Greenfield Recorder/David Rainville

Mary Key, director of special programming for the C.S. Lewis College Foundation, compares a 1900-era photo of an attic bedroom in Green Pastures from the Northfield Mount Hermon School archives to its current condition. The foundation is repairing the large Northfield Victorian for use as a study center.

Green Pastures was home to three generations of the Moody family for nearly 100 years. It also hosted Daniel Towner, composer of more than 100 hymns, some of which were written in Northfield.

During Moody’s internationally attended summer conferences, Green Pastures served as a social and scholastic hub. The foundation would like to bring that vibrance back to the house. It was turned into office space for NMH after the school bought it in 1983.

The foundation hopes to remodel the building to bring it closer to its original condition. It may prove tough, as the 19th-century home has undergone several renovations, beginning just 20 years after it was built, according to Mary Key, the foundation’s director of special programs.
Stairways, walls and entrances were moved from their original locations in that first round of renovations.

The foundation is digging into the NMH archives to get an idea of the way the house used to look.

Greenfield Recorder/David Rainville
Greenfield Recorder/David Rainville

Scores of black-and-white photographs show it buzzing with activity. During Moody’s internationally popular summer conferences, the house hosted scholars, preachers, artists, musicians and more. “We’re finding little clues (in the photographs) to what was here before,” said Key. “We’re letting the house tell us how to design it.”

The building itself has clues, too, if you know where to look. Key pointed out a diagonal cut in the corner of a doorway’s moulding, indicating that a stairway had once been there.

Edwin Finch, a local historian and former NMH employee, has also helped out, drawing on his memories of his own times at Green Pastures.

While the foundation restores the house to a more original condition, it also has to make several upgrades to meet current building codes. New plumbing is being installed, the house is being rewired, the structure is being shored up, and it’s being made handicapped accessible, among other things.

A previous addition at the rear of the building is being refurbished as an apartment for the center’s directors, and will have a more modern feel.

Though the foundation hopes to be open in June for some programs, Green Pastures will be a work in progress, with part of the building remaining closed for renovation.

“It’s going to be a lot of work, but it will make a great study center,” said Mattson, the foundation’s president.

The foundation previously restored C.S. Lewis’ summer home in Oxford, England, a project that took nine years to complete. Lewis was a 20thcentury novelist, poet and academic.

Mattson and the foundation has had its hearts set on Northfield for years, and is eager to start making the vision a reality.

Greenfield Recorder/David Rainville
Greenfield Recorder/David Rainville

The former Northfield Mount Hermon School campus was bought in 2009 by Christian philanthropists and Hobby Lobby craft store chain owners the Green family, after the foundation asked for the Greens’ help in founding the first C.S. Lewis College there. The company put $6 million into repairs on the property, and planned to give it to the college if it demonstrated it could handle the seven-figure cost of operating and maintaining the 43-building campus.

The foundation fell short of a $5 million fundraising goal on Dec. 31, 2012, and Hobby Lobby invited other interested Christian schools and organizations to enter the running for the free school. Their efforts were unsuccessful, and last year the company signed the property over to the National Christian Foundation, which will continue to look for a final owner.

Mattson said he would like to explore a collaboration with the campus’ future owners.

Tiny details tell the tale of Green Pastures, built for Northfield Mount Hermon School founder Dwight L. Moody’s family and being restored by the C.S. Lewis College Foundation. Here, door moulding was repaired decades ago after a staircase was relocated.

The C.S. Lewis College Foundation has been using photos from the Northfield Mount Hermon School archives to plan the restoration of Green Pastures, a 14-room Victiorian that will house the foundation’s new study center.

The C.S. Lewis College Foundation is renovating “Green Pastures,” a 14-room Victorian built for Northfield Mount Hermon School founder and famed evangelist Dwight L. Moody. The foundation plans to use the house for a study center.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279 on Twitter follow: @RecorderRain