About Us

About Essex Woods

Meeting & Retreat Center

At Essex Woods we hold the belief that every person, business, non-profit, and organization is imbued with often overlooked intangibles that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. These precious qualities are almost always the difference between failure and success. Essex Woods exemplifies this belief in that what we bring to your meeting or retreat goes far beyond the stunning grounds, artwork, and facilities.

The special qualities Essex Woods provides will transform your meeting or retreat into an experience not easily found in a more typical venue. When you choose Essex Woods you can expect a gathering washed in insight, inspiration, and camaraderie. You will instantly recognize these intangible qualities that assist in transcending from good to great.

Discover A Place for Growth

Why Essex Woods?

The Essex Woods Meeting & Retreat Center is a unique event venue committed to providing a natural setting to relax and gain fresh perspectives for a variety of social, wellness, team-building, educational and corporate events. Located on Cape Ann at Boston’s North Shore, we’re just 45 minutes from downtown Boston and 30 minutes from southern New Hampshire.

Our year-round facility has a rich history and has been a leader among New England Conference and Retreat venues for over 25 years. Essex Woods is tucked amidst 16 acres of white pines and oaks, less than a mile from the ocean and surrounded by 250 acres of conservation land. Whether you are hosting a corporate meeting, company outing, college retreat, spiritual retreat, yoga retreat, or team building event, our facilities offer an array of on-site resources and overnight accommodations.

Fresh and Delicious Dining

What could be better than a New England Clambake to complete your next Company Outing or team building day. At Essex Woods we not only provide a great venue for your corporate retreat but a great menu as well! Just bring your team and your appetite and we’ll do the rest. Sample menus are here and include a Clambake, traditional BBQ and we are also willing to work with you for your specific needs.

Our History


The original Essex Woods building was started in 1968 by landscape photographer Stephan Gersh. At the age of just 26, he was the architect and primary builder. He was supported in his efforts on both the building and grounds by many individuals and groups especially those interested in socially conscious building. Built initially as a private home and studio, the main building is constructed of 4” X 14” X 20’ recycled timbers saved from the demolition of buildings built in Boston in the late 19th Century. Most of the timbers are hemlock from South Carolina. The building is a post and beam construction, 45 feet tall, and held together by 2,000 3/4” X 18” steel bolts. At the time of construction there were no other buildings, pond, landscaping or parking areas. Over the years as the needs changed, buildings were added to the property. All with an ongoing focus on respectful use of the land.

Photography School

In 1974 Stephen Gersh, an accomplished photographer exhibited both nationally and internationally turned his home into the Essex Photographic Workshop, a school for visual communication. Twelve darkrooms, a color lab, exhibition space, studio space and teaching rooms provided a setting for residential and community based programs. Some of the most knowledgeable photographers/teachers in America became part of the faculty teaching hundreds of talented students. Companies such as Polaroid provided training at Essex Photographic Workshop utilizing the exceptional staff of the school. During this period, there were frequent requests for a meeting space by various teachers and organizations. Gersh and his wife Judith Arisman began the process of transforming the property into a unique conference facility. Ultimately, Essex Photographic Workshop ended in 1977 but the buildings and groups continued to evolve.

Spiritual Center and Community Living

Essex Woods has a rich history hosting spiritual retreats for almost all faiths from Christianity to Buddhism and more. In fact one of the original uses of the property back in the late 70’s was that of a spiritual center which was housed at Essex Woods until the early 1980’s. This center was one of the first in the country bringing eastern philosophy to the west. Essex Woods welcomes all who believe in the value of spiritual community. Eventually the spiritual community at Essex Woods evolved into both spiritual community and a community living environment. At one time there were as many as sixty people living in the main building with a combination of adults and families with children. As much as possible the needs of the group were provided for with food grown on the property. There were animals including chickens, horses and other livestock.


The spiritual community ended and the grounds were no longer used for food growing and livestock. By the early 1990’s, once again Essex Woods was evolving and major renovations took place. Meeting spaces, bedrooms, spa facilities, and dining facilities were constructed. Not only were the indoor spaces updated but it was also at this time that the extensive gardens and landscaping that surround the Center were designed and planted. To this day the grounds have amazing features including our pond with a beautiful waterfall, dozens of truly unique sculptures, gardens, and fire circle created. Truly the most unique outdoor space you will ever experience. Our main building has space for your gathering with accommodations for about 50 people and creates an environment that lends itself to a powerful experience. We owe a debt of gratitude to the many evolutions that took place at Essex Woods and the beautifully crafted indoor and outdoor space as we experience them now. In January 2016, Adrian Wilkins and Lysa Wilkins began their committed ownership and management of this unique Essex Woods Center. With a foundation of strong environmental commitment, Essex Woods has undergone constant refinement and improvements to serve as a premier Boston venue for off-site meetings, team building, yoga retreats, college retreats and corporate outings.
Come for a visit so you can experience Essex Woods for yourself.