Round Hill is a gated condominium community, composed of
a variety of summer and all-season living units ranging from
single family homes to 16 condo units in an original,
ocean-side mansion, built in 1921 by Colonel Green. Located
in South Dartmouth, MA, and situated on the shores of
Buzzards Bay, recreational amenities include a 9-hole
private golf course, private beaches, an in-ground pool,
club house, tennis courts, walking paths, and a playground
from a Research Paper by Keith William LeDuc of Worcester
Polytech, January, 1984 and Barbara Bedell, author of
"Colonel Edward Robinson Howland Green and the World He
Created at Round Hill".
The Round Hill estate's rich history extends back 300 years.
It's most colorful epoch occurred during the life of the
late Colonel Edward Howland Robinson Green. Green, in the
early 1920's built the grand mansion on his ancestral land
of 277 acres overlooking Buzzard's Bay.
The Colonel's first American ancestor was Henry Howland,
beginning the legacy of one of America's most wealthy and
successful families. Throughout the next two hundred years,
the Howland family developed the largest whaling company in
the U.S. The Colonel's great-grandfather, Captain Isaac
Howland Sr., made his fortune on the West Indies trade, and
by having the foresight to invest in whaling when that
industry was still in its infancy. The Captain settled in
New Bedford, a coastal town which was to earn its reputation
as the world's whaling capital. Isaac Jr., as ambitious as
his father, continued to develop the family whaling
business. He subsequently founded the whaling firm of Isaac
Howland Jr. & Company, which was to become the largest and
most successful such company in the United States.
The fortune amassed by Isaac Howland Jr. passed, upon his
death in part, to Edward Mott Robinson, a Philadelphian who
married Howland's granddaughter, Abby, and who, because of
this marriage, had become a partner in the family whaling
On November 21, 1834, Edward Mott Robinson and Abby became
parents to Hetty Howland Robinson, the Colonel's mother. In
1865, the Colonel's grandfather, Edward Mott Robinson, died,
leaving Hetty, six million dollars. Unlike most of her
female contemporaries, Hetty had learned all the necessary
skills needed to run the family business while accompanying
her father on his daily business rounds. She was an
eccentric woman. While sometimes referred to as the "richest
woman in the world," her clothes were shabby by any
standards and her living arrangements seedy for someone of
her social stature. Her parsimonious behavior earner her the
unenviable nickname, in some quarters, the "Witch of Wall
In 1868, Hetty and her husband, Vermont millionaire, Edward
Green, had their first child, Edward Howland Robinson Green.
For the rest of her life, Hetty exerted a paralyzing
influence over Edward and his sister Hetty Sylvia.
Hetty died in 1916 and left between $100 and $200 million to
Edward and his sister, Sylvia. Edward's nature was the
opposite of his mother. Where she was conservative and
frugal, Edward's lifestyle was opulent and his spending
In July of 1917, one year after his mother's death, Edward
married his lover of more than two decades, Mabel Harlow. He
then embarked upon his most extravagant project, the Round
Hill mansion. The mansion, an imposing granite structure
designed by New York architect Alfred C. Bossom, was
completed in 1921 at a cost of $1.5 million dollars.
In that first year, many smaller buildings were put up to
house the help that had been hired to plant thousands of
apple trees, plum trees, cherry trees, quince trees, and
acres of vegetables.
The Colonel also purchased and repaired the sole remaining
American whaling ship, the "Charles W. Morgan", which once
had been owned by his ancestors. At the time, 1924,
the ship was owned by Dartmouth artist, Harry A. Neyland,
and was in a state of disrepair at a wharf in Fairhaven.
After an unsuccessful bid at giving it to the city of New
Bedford, if the city would agree to keep up the ship's
maintenance, Neyland agreed to accept an offer from Colonel
Green regarding the old whaling vessel. Green would pay all
expenses for renovating and refitting the ship, and for its
keep, if it were moved to Round Hill. He then completed the
whaling era scenario by setting up a replica of a counting
house, a whale oil refinery and a cooper shop at Round Hill.
He moored the Morgan at Round Hill in a cofferdam off the
south beach area. The exhibit was called "Whaling
Enshrined", and attracted about 100,000 visitors each year
until the Colonel's death on June 8th, 1936. The "Charles W.
Morgan" was moved in 1941 to Mystic Seaport in Connecticut
where it is still berthed.
The Colonel built a complex where scientists from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology engaged in
unprecedented experiments in radio communication, aircraft,
high voltage and meteorology. In 1922, Colonel Green's
interest in wireless radio experimentation lead to the
establishment of the Round Hill Radio Corporation, known as
the "Voice From Way Down East." The Colonel installed a
public address system and allowed thousands of visitors onto
his estate to listen to the station's broadcasts. A
newspaper account described the scene as a "sort of
listening device which enabled 125,000 people to hear
distinctly President Harding's inaugural address."
The Colonel was a gregarious fellow. While most men of his
wealth and stature limited their social lives to those of
similar background, he loved to socialize with the "common
man." The grounds of his vast estate were open to the public
and on summer weekends hundreds of automobiles took to Round
Hill's winding roads and enjoyed the beach, the old whaling
ship and the radio broadcasts. It was not unusual to see the
Colonel chatting with these visitors as if they were old
In 1925, Colonel Green placed the estate at the disposal of
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which used
the site for a variety of research projects. The Colonel
supported the research by making available his radio
station, an airstrip, several buildings and considerable
During the ten year period that MIT used the estate, MIT
scientists used the radio station for high frequency radio
transmissions and were able to communicate with Admiral
Byrd's Antarctic expedition. Radio research at Round Hill
aided in the development of the "equilsignal" method of
aircraft landing techniques, which enabled piloting of
planes through darkness or fog. Round Hill became a center
of aeronautics and the Colonel had large neon tubes spelling
"Round Hill" placed on the roof of the mansion to guide
pilots during night flights. The blimp hangar was converted
to accommodate Dr. Robert Van de Graaf's lab generator and
his experiments in high voltage.
The apparatus, capable of generating seven million volts of
electricity, the world's highest at the time, was built in
the hopes of splitting an atom.
There was no smashing of atoms at Round Hill. This famous
generator is now the featured attraction at the Museum of
Science's Theatre of Electricity in Cambridge,
In 1927, a young man named Bert Hill had landed on the front
lawn of the Mansion because it looked so beautiful. In doing
so he tore up the lawn, and the Colonel walked outside to
talk to the young man and a friendship was born. By the end
of 1928, the Colonel had the construction of his private
airport well underway and contracted Bert Hill to manage the
Round Hill Airport.
Following the Colonel's death in 1936, the estate fell into
disrepair as litigation between his wife and his sister over
the Colonel's vast fortune continued for eight years. The
1938 Hurricane also contributed to the decay, destroying
several buildings on the shorefront.
Finally, Mrs. Hetty Sylvia Wilks, the Colonel's sister, was
ruled the sole beneficiary and the state of Massachusetts
was granted the right of taxation of the estate.
In 1948, she bequeathed the estate to MIT, which used the
site for microwave and laser beam experiments. The giant
antenna, which still stands and is a landmark to sailors on
Buzzards Bay, was erected on top of a 50
thousand-gallon water tank to better radio communications.
Another antenna was erected on top of the rocks next to the
mansion and was used in the early development of the
Ballistic Early Warning System.
used Round Hill until 1964, when it was sold to the Society
of Jesus of New England for use as a retreat house. The
upper floors were converted into sixty-four individual rooms
to be used by those on retreat. Skylights were installed on
the third floor. The main floor was redesigned to include a
Chapel, conference rooms and a library. Much of the estate's
beach area was sold to the Town of Dartmouth in 1968, In
1970, the Jesuits, unable to justify the expenses of
maintaining the property of 240 acres, sold the land and
buildings to a local woman, Gratia R. Montgomery. She
purchased the property to preserve it.
In 1981, Mrs. Montgomery sold most of the land to Round Hill
Associates, developers who tried to preserve the history,
grandeur and abundant natural environment while converting
the property to a condominium community complete with a 9
hole golf course. Mrs. Montgomery's family continues to own
land on the point beyond the Round Hill Community land.
For additional historical information:
- "Colonel Edward Robinson Howland Green and the World He
Created at Round Hill" by Barbara Fortin Bedell.
- "Hetty; The Genius and Madness of America's First Female
Tycoon" by Charles Slack
- "The Greens as I Knew Them" by John M. Bullard
- "The Witch of Wall Street" by Sparkes, Boyden and Moore