Tag Archives: Highwood

Tanglewood And Its Impact on Lenox

Beginnings at the Hanna Farm

The First Berkshire Music Festival Performance at Dan Hanna's Farm
The First Berkshire Music Festival Performance at Dan Hanna’s Farm in Stockbridge

Despite the dark days of the Depression, conductor-composer Henry Hadley worked with Gertrude Robinson Smith and others to put together the first Berkshire Symphonic Music Festival in August 1934.  The three performances – August 23, 25, and 26 attracted about 5,000 including Sara Delano Roosevelt – the President’s mother.

Held in the open, reviews included comments such as “Provision for everything has been made except, possibly, for the distant but luckless chauffeur who fell on his F sharp horn during a passage in D flat major.”*  Certainly the atmosphere was more lighthearted than the usual indoor winter symphony performance.  Overall reviews were good and Gertrude Robinson incorporated the Berkshire Symphonic Music Festival in the fall of 1934.

Tent Providing Scant Shelter for Year 2
Tent Providing Scant Shelter for Year 2

In 1935 the three day festival was again held at the Hanna farm.  The performance included a larger orchestra and a local chorus of 300.  Although it provided scant shelter, the second year included a large tent.

 

Serge Koussevitzky and Holmwood

Henry Hadley was too ill to continue and the Festival trustees sought a more permanent solution.  They had the good fortune to perform a bond with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and their “hot” new conductor, Serge Koussevitzky.

The third summer the performance was held at Holmwood (home of Margaret Emerson ).  The famous orchestra and conductor drew an even bigger crowd – the attendance at the three performances was nearly 15,000.

Koussevitzky was lobbying for a longer (six concerts over two weeks) schedule when the group received a remarkable gift.

The Move to Tanglewood

Tanglewood Gifted to BSO in 1936
Tanglewood Gifted to BSO in 1936

In 1936 Mrs. Gorham   Brooks and Mary Aspinwall Tappan donated their summer home, Tanglewood to the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  The home, outbuildings and 200 acres of lawn, trees and garden overlooking the Stockbridge Bowl provided a permanent home in a beautiful setting for the Berkshire Symphonic Festival.

The Famous Rain Storm

Rain Drenches Concert Goers at Tanglewood August 1937
Rain Drenches Concert Goers at Tanglewood August 1937

For the summer of 1937  Koussevitzky had expanded the schedule to six performances over between August 5 and August 15.

One of the performances, on August 12, included a downpour so severe that it interrupted – in a moment of perfect dramatic timing – Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,”

The “Boston Globe” reported that “Gertrude Robinson Smith strode purposefully to the stage when the concert stopped and addressed the record crowd of 5,000, haranguing: “Now do you see why we must have a permanent building for these concerts?’’ In minutes, more than $30,000 was raised.”  Later the sum would expand to $80,000*

Koussevitzky declared that he wold never again undertake a festival season at Stockbridge with only a tent between his orchestra and disaster.*

The planning began with Eliel Saarinen, the Finnish architect and friend of Sibelius.   He proposed a design that proved both too elaborate and too costly. His second, simplified plans were still too expensive; he finally wrote that if the Trustees insisted on remaining within their budget, they would end up with “just a shed.” The Trustees then turned to Stockbridge engineer Joseph Franz. The building he erected was inaugurated on August 4, 1938,

The six 1938 concerts drew 38,000 from all over the country and abroad.  The Festival had come of age in four short years with a Western Union Tanglewood telegraph office on the grounds to handle the copy of the numerous newspaper and magazine writers in attendance and a national broadcasting hookup.

Koussevitzky kicked off the new venue with the Bach cantata built around “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”  (another moment of drama!)

Atmosphere

From the beginning the Festival had set out to expand the reach of classical music beyond the confines of wealthy winter city dwellers.  Educating and developing musical talent was an early goal.  The informality of the shed and the expansive acerage contributed to this desired spirit of accessibility.

*The Tale of Tanglewood (59-61) describes the result:  “in the summer of 1939 there would be found tents in which enterprising members of the orchestra were camping out, chopping wood, cooking their meals…..”

Picnics on the Lawn of the Tanglewood Shed
Picnics on the Lawn of the Tanglewood Shed

Although it’s been a long time since anyone has seen a tent on the lawn, the effort to be open and democratic continues.  Performances  are staffed with volunteers and audiences can still get inexpensive lawn tickets and picnic under the stars (or an umbrella if necessary!).

In 1940 the school of music – the Music Center – held its first session with approximately 300 students and the Festival was expanded from six performances over two weeks to nine performances over three weeks.  By 1941 attendance had grown to about 95,000.

As the Festival grew to national proportions touched off a rash of renting out rooms and starting up “Tourist Homes” and shops.  The peaceful village filled with motor cars and must have touched off all the mixed feelings Lenox experiences today — cheering the business brought in by summer visitors but whining about the traffic.

The War Years

By 1941, the Theatre-Concert Hall, the Chamber Music Hall, and several small studios were finished, and the festival was attracting nearly 100,000 visitors annually.  “Gala Benefits” were added that year to raise funds for war-related causes.  The benefits included music and famous speakers (including Eleanor Roosevelt).

War conditions forced cancellation of the 1942-1945  full Festival schedule.  However the Music Center students performed in 1942 with benefits for Treasury War bonds and Russian relief.  With the assistance of some members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Koussevitzky led a Mozart series at the Tanglewood Theatre Concert Hall in 1944 and a Mozart-Bach series at in 1945.

The Festival returned in 1946 with the full Boston Symphony Orchestra and a nine concert schedule.

Growth and Upgrades

Renamed the Serge Koussevitzky Shed
Renamed the Serge Koussevitzky Shed

In 1959 installation of the Edmund Hawes Talbot Orchestra Canopy, along with other improvements, produced the Shed’s present world-famous acoustics. For its fiftieth anniversary in 1988, the Shed was rededicated as “The Serge Koussevitzky Music Shed.”

Continued musical excellence plus the end of rationing, the post war boom and the completion of the Mass Pike all contributed to growing audiences. Audiences and tourism to the Berkshires continued to expand in the 1950’s and 1960’s

Tanglewood Lawn - c. 1960
Tanglewood Lawn – c. 196

The 1986 addition of the adjacent Highwood estate expanded Tanglewood’s public grounds by 40 percent. The newly acquired property

Highwood (Much Altered Since the 1844-1845 Original)
Highwood (Much Altered Since the 1844-1845 Original)

became the site for a new concert hall to replace the outmoded Theatre-Concert Hall and for improved

Seiji Ozawa Hall
Seiji Ozawa Hall

Tanglewood Music Center facilities. Inaugurated on July 7, 1994, Seiji Ozawa Hall provides a new venue for Tanglewood Music Center concerts, and for varied recital and chamber music concerts.

Today Tanglewood annually draws over 350,000 visitors and continues to provide education and inspiration for young musicians.

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*The Tale of Tanglewood, Scene of the Berkshire Music Festivals, by M.A. DeWolfe Howe, The Vanguard Press, New York, 1946

Tanglewood/Boston Symphony Orchestra website

Wikipedia

Lenox as a Resort – Hawthorne Street

Hawthorne Street as we know it did not exist at the time of some of the early estates discussed, so we’ll have to use some imagination as to location.

Highwood

Highwood (Much Altered Since the 1844-1845 Original
Highwood (Much Altered Since the 1846  Original)

When the Wards of Boston constructed Highwood, they touched off the era of Lenox as a resort.   Intellectually curious and engaging, they attracted others to the lovely setting.

Highwood is now owned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and is used for Tanglewood special events.

Tanglewood

Tanglewood - c. 1865
Tanglewood – c. 1865

Tanglewood was built by Caroline Sturgis Tappan (1819-1888) overlooking the Stockbridge Bowl.   Caroline and her husband, William Aspinall Tappan (1820-1905) had purchased the property in 1849 next door to their friends the Wards.  Until they built their own

Recreation of Hawthorne Cottage (Original Burned in 1890)
Recreation of Hawthorne Cottage (Original Burned in 1890)

property, they stayed at the red cottage that would be home to the Hawthornes in 1850 and then rented Highwood from the Wards.

Given the highly cultural bent of this family, it’s not surprising that Caroline’s granddaughter, Rosamond Dixey Brooks, offered Serge Koussevitsky the family house, gardens, lawns and farm as a home for the summer music festival.

Wheatleigh

Wheatleigh - 1893
Wheatleigh – 1893

Wheatleigh was initially built for railroad financier H.H. Cook, who may have intended the property for one of his daughters from the start. He gave Wheatleigh to his daughter Georgie who had married Signor Carlos Manuel d Heredia. The groom was originally from Cuba and was sometimes called the Count de Heredia. Wheatleigh

Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger at the Lenox Jazz Festival
Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger at the Lenox Jazz Festival

and been designed by Peabody and Stearns with plans for the ground by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Mrs. De Herdia’s husband died in 1918 but she continued to spend part of her year at Wheatleigh, until her death in 1946.

The main house survives as a luxury hotel, but the rest of the estate was broken up and took different directions. Some of the outbuildings were used in the 1950’s and 1970’s for the Lenox Jazz festival which brought a lot of new rhythm and folk music to the

Music Inn
Music Inn

Berkshires. The next step in the evolution of music in the area was Music Inn which drew crowds with acts ranging from Joan Baez to the Kinks.

The outbuildings have now been repurposed as White Pines Condominiums.

Brookhurst 

Brookhurst 1 -
Brookhurst 1

The couple that built (the second) Brookhurst exemplified how closely associated the cottagers were – in Lenox and elsewhere. The husband in the couple, Newbold Morris (1868-1928) was Edith Wharton’s cousin and used many of the same designers that Mrs. Wharton had used on The Mount: Ogden Codman and Beatrix Jones (Farrand).

Caretaker Cottage - May be Left From Original Brookhurst Estate
Caretaker Cottage – May be Left From Original Brookhurst Estate

The original Eastlake style Brookhurst (except for the stable and gatehouse) had burned. That gave the couple a free hand in building a new house and they hired Francis Hoppin to design a very different looking Georgian revival house.

Brookhurst II - 1908
Brookhurst II – 1908

Newbold’s family had roots back to colonial New York and New Jersey. His wife, Helen Schermerhorn Kingsland Morris (1876-1956) was a second cousin with equally deep New York connections.

George and Suzy's Modernist Home on Brookhurst Grounds
George and Suzy’s Modernist Home on Brookhurst Grounds

Of the three sons, one, George Morris, built his now famous modernist home and studio on the property with his wife, the former Suzy Frelinghuysen. It is now a museum open to the public.

Some of the land on the estate was donated to the Town of Lenox for the Morris Elementary School on West. St. As an added gift, George

Morris Elementary with Mural
Morris Elementary with Mural

Morris painted an abstract mural which stands at the school entrance today.

Another brother, Stephen, took over the main house, but had it reduced in size. That house has now been sold out of the family but remains in private hands.

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For much more on the architecture of these houses and the people who lived in them, see

Houses of the Berkshires, 1870-1930, by Richard S. Jackson Jr. and Cornelia Brooke Gilder, Acanthus Press, 2006

The Tanglewood Circle, Hawthorne’s Lenox, by Cornelia Brooke Gilder with Julia Conklin Peters

The Berkshire Cottages, A Vanishing Era, by Carole Owens, Cottage Press, Inc. 1980