Historical Background of The Ogden Codman Trust
Written by William B. Tyler, Trustee Emeritus
The Ogden Codman Trust, a perpetual charitable foundation has historic roots that are embedded in Colonial America. Few people are aware that the territory which makes up the town of Lincoln where the gracious estate of the Codman family is located, was a derivative from our nation's historic town of Concord. It was not until the late 18th century that the territorial "saw off" occurred which created a separate township.
Over the centuries the Codman family and their related forebears, the Russells, had stood out as a prominent presence in this suburban Boston area. The transition of their renowned country estate and its gracious manse known as The Grange, from a traditional agricultural operation to a distinguished English country estate took place at the end of the 18th century when the successful conclusion of The War of the Revolution led to the emergence of the USA as a confident and unified republic with an expanding merchant class.
It was in 1797 that John Codman, III became an early member of Boston's prominent shipping and trading coterie whose mercantile activities across the populated world brought early wealth to the New England area. Thereafter the Codman family created a record of considerable business and professional achievement with their prominence in civic, artistic and commercial involvements.
Following John’s early demise in 1803, the family estate in Lincoln once more slipped out of Codman ownership until it was ultimately repossessed in 1861 by the descendant whose name would permanently be linked to Lincoln’s most distinguished country estate. But this acquisition by Ogden Codman also proved to be the opening of the final chapter in the Codman legend.
For a period of some 50 years, Ogden and his family occupied and enjoyed the Grange and during that stretch of time he and his Lady, Sarah, produced a chain of six offspring starting with Ogden Jr. in 1863 and ending with Dorothy in 1883. Thereafter, and contrary to normal expectations, this large cadre of potential heirs passed seriatim from this life without producing a single descendant.
The final destiny for the elegant estate in Lincoln and the remainder of the Codman family resources was fixed by the provisions of Ogden Sr’s final testament which created a life interest for the benefit of his offspring but, in the absence of a successor generation, with the final determination being vested in the last survivor of the brood. This proved to be Dorothy, the youngest, and she took it upon herself to create a plan of disposition whereby the family manse and all of its contents were devised to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England) with the balance of the estate passing into a perpetual foundation, named appropriately, The Ogden Codman Trust, to be managed for the benefit of the town of Lincoln and its residents.
The Trust became operational in the year 1972 and has since been providing support to a wide spectrum of causes and services throughout the Lincoln community.
The unique and constructive relationship that has prevailed between the Codman estate representatives and the Town of Lincoln since Dorothy's death should also be noted in this brief historical summation.
As fiduciaries, their duty was to convert estate assets wherever appropriate into income producing investments. This was done through the sale and transfer to the Town of notable and historic portions of the properties owned by the Codman family which included the following:
1) The agricultural component consisting of a main barn and sundry related structures together with surrounding fields and pastures, all of which allowed for the preservation and maintenance of historic New England agriculture and which has become known as The Codman Community Farm.
2) The tract of land which would lead to the creation of Lincoln Woods, the Town's first affordable housing facility.
3) The parcel now containing "The Mall" which is Lincoln's central commercial area.
The money received from the various sales became assets of the Ogden Codman Trust and in the years that followed have been productively invested.
Portrait of Dorothy Codman
Links to documents on the history of the Codman Family and the Estate:
Lincoln and the Codmans by Thomas Boylston Adams Published in the Bulletin of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities 1981