About The Fells

Perenal boarderThe Gardens

The Fells, named after the Scottish word for rocky upland pastures, is situated on a nearly 1,000-acre hillside overlooking scenic Lake Sunapee. It is the former lakeside summer home of American writer and diplomat John M. Hay (1838-1905). Hay’s son Clarence inherited the property and along with his wife Alice Appleton Hay, transformed the rock pasture into extensive formal and informal gardens. Learn more.

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In 1960 the Hays donated 675 acres to the Society for Protection of NH Forests. Upon the death of Alice in 1987, the remaining 164 acre-estate was given to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of their wildlife refuge system. In 2008 84 acres including the historic buildings and grounds were divested from USFWS and The Fells, an independent not for profit 501c(3) organization, who had cared for the property since 1995 became owners. The remaining 80 acres continues to be owned and managed by USFWS. Learn more.


The Main House, built in the cottage style in 1891 and enlarged in 1897, was transformed into a 22-room Colonial Revival house in 1915 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The goal of The Fells is to foster the Hay family’s special legacy of land stewardship and to create a center “for understanding the natural world and our place within it” with focus on history, horticulture and the environment. Learn more.