Malabar Farm is the dream of native Mansfield resident, Louis Bromfield. The idea of Malabar Farm came to Bromfield while he was living in France during the 1930s. Tensions in the area were building, and Bromfield no longer felt that he and his family were safe in Europe, so he decided to return to the rural countryside that he remembered from his childhood.
The Big House was constructed during 1939 and 1940 by adding on to an existing farmhouse. A significant portion of the acreage was considered worn out farmland. Bromfield vowed to restore the farm to its former glory using methods that we now refer to as sustainable agriculture. Bromfield would become an avid proponent of eco-friendly farming and would give regular speeches to thousands of people who would travel from all over the country to Malabar Farm.
Throughout his career, Bromfield would produce 19 novels, seven collections of short stories, at least four plays, and 8 nonfiction books. He wrote the script for the award-winning Walt Disney classic, Ferdinand the Bull. Eleven motion pictures were made from Bromfield’s novels and short stories, and a twelfth film was made from an original screenplay.
James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart starred in films made from Bromfield’s work. The Big House would become a hub of activity where Hollywood’s most influential stars and starlets, such as Kay Francis, Joan Fontaine, Humphrey Bogart, and James Cagney were frequent visitors to the farm. In 1945, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall tied the knot at the base of the sweeping grand staircase. Louis Bromfield, a good friend of Bogart, served as best man.
Today, a visit to the Big House and Malabar Farm takes you back to a time and place that was once a hub of activity. The Big House stands much in the same way that it was in Bromfield’s time. The furniture is original. You can see original wallpaper designed especially for the Big House and approved by Bromfield himself. It is in a pristine state and is like stepping back in time. While you roam through the rooms, you can enjoy Bromfield’s eclectic collection of well over 100 pieces of artwork from artists that include Grandma Moses, Anthony Wills, and Jose Antonio Valesquez.
During your visit, you can enjoy hiking the beautiful trails that Bromfield made famous in his first nonfiction bestseller, Pleasant Valley. The kids will enjoy visiting the ever-changing variety of farm animals in the barn. Spring is an especially exciting time with all of the baby animals. You can also stop by the Visitor’s Center for gifts, snacks, maple syrup, and that famous Malabar Farm Fudge.