Thomas Baxendale was a highly respected businessman who invented the box-toe shoe, a predecessor of the steel-toed shoe. Mrs. Esther Baxendale was a longtime president of the Brockton Humane Society and a close friend of Anne Harris Smith, founder of the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Both loved music, art, travel, nature and animal and bird life. They were concerned with child welfare and educating children about nature and animals. Some Cape Codders believed the Baxendales possessed a slightly “mystic” side.
While at Amrita, the Baxendales built their own kingdom to share with scholars, their minister, physician and the animals that they loved. Initially, they built an Oriental bathing pavilion and a distinctly English stone bridge on which a white heron, carved in high relief, bears the old family motto, “Safe from Snares.” Their home, known as Island Haven, was a Moorish villa. They later built cottages including Sorrento, Castle-la-Mare, and Guardian for visiting professors from Harvard University. All together their kingdom included seven magnificent cottages, a mausoleum, pump house, two carriage houses, and two ornate bath houses. The Baxendales also purchased Lawrence Island and over 26 acres of nearby mainland properties.
Facing the sunsets, nestled under the bluff at the water’s edge, stands the imposing mausoleum where the Baxendales and their dogs were laid to rest. The soul of the place is impressed in marble; over the massive bronze doors are the words, “Love is Eternal.” The Egyptian-inspired mausoleum also features lotus designs and a pink-veined marble interior.
Mr. Baxendale wished to preserve the island as the spot he loved best, intact in its beauty and freedom. Indeed, Amrita served as both a memory of his own boyhood struggles and his last wish to make it the seat of an educational foundation. After Thomas’ death in 1914, Mrs. Baxendale established the Baxendale Foundation to further the humane education of animals and children, and to preserve the natural habitat of Amrita Island and surrounding properties. For 12 years, scholarly courses were conducted on the island, with lectures on Cape Cod, animal life and bird life.
Upon her death in 1926, Mrs. Baxendale left a detailed will stipulating that Amrita and Lawrence Islands, and the surrounding properties, be left to Harvard University. The will instructed:
- That Amrita Island property be the seat of the foundation;
- That the main purpose of the foundation is educational;
- That the principal subject of education should be the relationship between human and animal life, particularly the preservation of wild birds and animals through human kindness.
With the purchase of Amrita Certified Pure® Coffee a portion of the profits will be donated to organizations that support the wishes of the Baxendales or have objectives similar to the Baxendales.