During Gordon's first 66 years, the school's home was the Fenway neighborhood in downtown Boston. First located in founder A. J. Gordon's Clarendon Street Baptist Church, and then sandwiched between the Museum of Fine Arts and numerous other bustling colleges, Gordon finally found a home where it could stretch its feet in 1955. The grand Princemere estate in Wenham, owned by the famous Prince family, had been donated to the college several years earlier. Its rolling hills, beautiful lakes and fresh air were the perfect place for the college to expand.
Princemere was the prize estate of business tycoon Frederick H. Prince, son of a Boston Mayor and owner of railroads, stockyards, slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants. Prince was an infamously enthusiastic equestrian, and his estate was famous for its polo games and fox hunts. No less famous were its evening gala events. Pictured here, Prince's wife Abigail Norman Prince and son Frederick H. Prince, Jr. host an event in 1936.
Among the more famous guests to attend games at the estate were Teddy Roosevelt, The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Windsor.
The Great Salon, an area which is now occupied by Admissions in Frost Hall, was once the Prince family living room, draped with extravagent tapestries and arranged with fine furniture. At its height, the 1500 acre estate and its many activities required over 50 servants, 100 horses and several packs of hounds (with 26 hounds to a pack).
In 1931, the Princes purchased the Marblehead Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. Slowly, the family's visits to Princemere became fewer and fewer. Finally, in 1947, the estate was offered for sale. Passed over by both the United Nations and the Catholic church, who alternatively judged the estate to be too distance or too large, Princemere was ultimately purchased by Gordon in 1948 for $150,000.
Pictured here is Frost Hall, once called the Mansion House, looking much the same in the early 1930s as it does today. A Jones Warehouses moving van, movers and furniture littering the building's entry document the Prince family's final exodus.
"Gordon College of Theology and Missions, now located at the Fenway, has purchased a palatial new home, the 1000-acre North Shore estate of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Henry Prince. The land, in Wenham, Hamilton, Manchester, Essex and Beverly, includes four ponds and part of a lake. Princemere has been unoccupied since 1933 and was once valued at $2,000,000. Work has already begun on a chapel there."
Boston Sunday Herald, 01/18/1948
The Divinity School was the first to move to the new Wenham location in 1951, followed in 1955 by the College. In both moves, students were put to work hauling furniture, clearing trees and painting wall.
The College's move from Fenway waited for the completion of the new Winn Library, partially built with lumber from a barn that once stood on Grapevine Road. Many other structures that once defined Princemere disappeared around the same time: Villa Viranda, which stood on Pine Street and served as a guest house; a home built for Prince's son Frederick Jr.; the cider mill on Grapevine that was torn down to make room for Route 128, the kennels to hold the hounds; the numerous horse stables, of which only one remains; and both the upper and lower polo fields, the latter of which is now a forested area cut through by 128.
Around the same time that the Gordon was moving to Wenham, the college was transforming into a full liberal arts college. A "common core curriculum" was announced in the 1951 catalog, and departments like English, Sociology and Mathematics were strengthened with new faculty and new courses.
Ann Ferguson, the longest serving faculty member (56 years) in Gordon history, joined the college in 1955, the year it moved to the Princemere estate in Wenham.