All posts by lenoxhistory

St. Helena’s Chapel New Lenox

St. Helena’s Chapel – 245 New Lenox Road


The 1893 Romanesque Revival chapel was designed by Pittsfield architect, Charles T. Rathburn.  It was donated by John Parson  in honor of his daughter Helena (1867-1892) who had died at age 24 of scarlet fever.  It is affiliated with Trinity Episcopal Church in Lenox.

Helen Reed Parsons


At the time the chapel was built, New Lenox was a working village unto itself with mills, train stop, general store, post office and school.

A wing was added in the 1950’s.  The current rectory was once the farm of C.E. Dewey.  As an illustration of how rural this part of Lenox remained, that property had been a working farm – complete with cow-into the 1950’s.

There is cemetery, now run by the Town of Lenox, across the street.








Fernbrook Thomas Shields Clark

Designed by Pittsfield architect, Wilson Eyre, Thomas Shields Clark completed his Lenox estate, Fernbrook in 1904.

Fernbrook – 1904, 242 West Mountain Road

Featured in the 1909 House Beautiful, Clark’s Lenox estate and studio was considered the epitome of arts and crafts design.  It included gardens (gone today) flowing from the house and a teahouse. Clarke was active in the Lenox Garden Club.


Princeton graduate Clarke married Adelaide Knox in 1886 in Geneva, Switzerland.  The Clarkes and their three children lived in Europe for 11 years returning to the US in 1894.


The painter and sculptor is best known for his sculpture “The Cider Press” at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco.














The mansion survives, in stripped down form, as the Hillcrest Educational Center.

Fernbrook now Hillcrest Educational Center

Wayside and the Bradfords



For over a century, the traveler on the road from Lenox to Pittsfield would be impressed by a series of fine brick Federal style houses.  North of the village the first one was a fine farmhouse overlooking the intersection of West Dugway Road. It is said to have been built around 1830 by John Steele and long owned by Walter Richards (c.1803-1875) and his family. The three-bay wide brick dwelling stood gable end to the road with a distinctive fanlight in the attic.

After 1882 this house became known as “Wayside” when purchased by New Yorkers Anna Dexter Bradford (1838-1919) and William H. Bradford (1812-1895). She was the daughter of a successful drug merchant in Albany, and he was son of a Connecticut merchant who made a fortune in New York City in railroads and commercial real estate. He was named after his distinguished forebear the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Mrs. Bradford outlived her husband W.H. Bradford by many years and was a fixture on the Lenox social scene well into the 20th century.

In 1882 when he came to Lenox, William H. Bradford was in his seventies. He, like his father, was investing in New York commercial real estate but is said to be an unassuming man more interested in art collecting and farming the 380 acres purchased in Lenox.

His property went across Route 7 and went from West Dugway Road to East Dugway Road.  The 1881 purchase was four farms; one of which they would renovate and expand into Wayside, another would become Brushwood Farms and was sold to the Godwins.

Mr.Bradford supplied the town with stone from old walls to fill muddy stretches of the road. He regraded the road banks and planted a tremendous number of roadside trees (probably comparable to the High Lawn ones on Rt 7).
Pittsfield Road at its most beautiful

For the next thirty some years the Bradford family farmland along Route 7 (originally a mile of road frontage) set the tone for this once-beautiful road. Supervising the property was John Hughes, who was orphaned as child and brought up by the Bakers across the road from Wayside.

Wayside supervisor John Hughes is the not very happy looking man at the upper left.

The Bradfords’ son, George Dexter, an aspiring entomologist died, at the age of 21, in 1894. The Museum of Natural History in New York was bequeathed his collection of 5,000 beetles (many presumably found at Wayside).

Another son, William, was one of Lenox’s earliest automobilists. In 1900 he set up a short-lived enterprise on the Wayside property building cars suited to the Berkshires’ hilly terrain.

William H. Bradford (son of original Wayside owner) and early auto enthusiast



In 1919 Mrs. Bradford died in Paris. Her will authorized her two surviving children, a widowed daughter Grace Fairfax, and the motor mechanic, now settled in France, William H. Bradford Jr, to sell Wayside.

A later photo of Wayside.

Subsequently it passed through a number of owners and was known as the Cardinal Inn and various other names.

In March 1953 Genevieve and Frederick Bashara were operating the house as the Cardinal Inn when the 122-year-old landmark burned in a spectacular blaze.

Until the latest demolition, a succession of hotels has stood on this site since then.

Many thanks to Cornelia Gilder for this original research on Wayside and the Bradfords.

The Auchmutys of the Dormers

Col. Richard T. Auchmuty (1831-1893),  architect and owner of the Dormers, had a distinguished heritage. His great grandfather was rector of New York’s Trinity Church in 1763.  He joined the Union army in 1862 and rose to the rank of Colonel.  He was often seen riding his horse, Mrs. Gaines around Lenox.

Charming side story: Mrs. Gaines was the last (or nearly the last) surviving horse who fought in the Civil War. She died at age 36, the day before Col Auchmuty.

In Lenox Col. Auchmuty was chairman of the new Trinity Episcopal Church building committee, did much  of the design work, and contributed as much as $20,000 of the cost of the new church.

The Auchmuty’s enjoying their living room at the Dormers.

He built and then contributed a school in 1883. It was most likely in New Lenox as it was as of the mid 1930’s manuscript of George H. Tucker in the hands of Oscar Hutchinson.

His obituary also cited his work on the town’s water and sewer works, Memorial Day celebrations, dedication of the Patterson monument, and the design of the new town hall.

In New York he established, in 1881, the New York Trade Schools, after studying the trade systems in Europe.  According to the 1893 Century Association (thank you Cornelia Gilder)he contributed substantial amounts and his wife contributed to a foundation to permanently fund the school.  Trade unions boycotted the Trade School graduates so Auchmuty saw to it that they got jobs working for his architectural firm.

The lead paragraph of his New York Times 1893 obituary captures the love and respect he had generated in Lenox:

“LENOX, Mass., July 22. — The death of Col. Richard T. Auchmuty ia a great blow to Lenox. The cottagers were much shocked when they heard on Tuesday morning that he was dead. What he has done for Lenox cannot be told in a single paragraph. He was one of the pioneers, coming here in 1866, when he bought a large tract of territory on the Pittsfield road.”

Mrs. Auchmuty was the former Ellen Schermerhorn–another family important to Lenox.








She too was from an old New York family and her mother was one of the earliest Lenox cottagers having built Pinecroft which stood between Walker and Kimball Street encompassing modern Schermerhorn Park, Pinecroft and substantial additional acreage.

Pinecroft  – c.1865







To picture the bucolic surroundings of Ellen Schermerhorn Auchmuty’s youth, we have to imagine Lenox with no Route 7.

Haying at Pinecroft

Adeline Schermerhorn remembered particular gratitude  for purchasing the second county courthouse in 1874  (now the Lenox Library) and donating it to the town.

Ellen must have been a charming reminder of a gentile past as the Cottager Era waned at the time of her death in 1927.  For most of her early life she traveled by special train from New York to Lenox where she stayed at Pinecroft from April to October.  She, with a major fortune of her own,  had been a major charitable donor to her husband’s work with trade education in New York, Trinity Church in Lenox and numerous other causes.

In her obituary it was noted that she had never ridden in a motor car, had no phone and no steam heat.  It further noted that she went for a weekly ride in her Victoria carriage with a team of horses, stayed sharp, and followed the stock market.





The Dormers – Twelve Oaks

R.T. Auchmuty served in the Civil War and built the dormers in 1868 after marrying Lenox heiress, Ellen Schermerhorn.  Col. Auchmuty was a major contributor to civic life in Lenox and New York.

An architect, he designed the brick mansion himself and placed in a setting with sloping lawns and panoramic views to the East.










The extensive property is indicated in blue on the map below.  To envision how rural it would have been we have to imagine today’s Route 7 as a dirt lane that one could easily stroll across.









Like many cottagers, the Auchmutys required a full time property supervisor.  That residence stood until recently.


Fortunately, the mansion remains (138 Pittsfield Road) as a private residence.

Along with some of the outbuildings – repurposed for modern use.







The mansion remains nicely hidden on the East side of the hill with a charming town house community, Twelve Oaks, built out on the West side facing Route 7…complete with clubhouse and pool.






North Lenox – Pleasant Valley Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary – Powers and Crockett Farms

In 1929, the Roadside Committee of the Lenox Garden Club purchased the Powers and Crockett Farms at 472 West Mountain Road.

With that purchase they created the 300 acre Pleasant Valley Bird and Wildflower Sanctuary – largely with financial support from Lenox heiress Mary Parsons. From the swampy location we can guess that this was not the most desirable farmland and that the owners must have been thrilled to get rid of it in the 1920’s.

The Garden Club Ladies at Audubon Bird Sanctuary

The sanctuary began with a book. Dallas Lore Sharp, a professor at Boston University, published Sanctuary,  a call to protect the land, and he came to Lenox to speak. Sharp saw the landscape changing around him. The mountains had been logged, and the beaver were gone. Roadside flowers and songbirds were disappearing. He wanted people to know the plants and animals around them, familiarly.

Mary Parsons felt that call in 1928, walking in the fields. She knew that if she and her fellows could not preserve the land, “the wood would be sold and the hillside stripped,” she writes in a Pleasant Valley publication from the summer of 1940. She led the way in raising funds to buy the 250 acres of the old Power Farm. Then the Lenox Garden Club had to sort out what to do with it. They held their first meetings in the barn, on piles of hay. (Becky Sharp – Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary).

Maurice Broun, an energetic urban naturalist became the sanctuary’s first superintendent. Broun had grown up looking for birds on Boston Common, Cushing says. The mountainside was a new world to him, with its old orchards, glens and gorges.

In his own essay, Broun recalls those founding years as restoration at a full sprint. He put up 225 wooden bird boxes and hauled chestnut logs out of the woods to support them, with the help of a local farmer and a team of horses. He created five miles of trails and bridges with a World War I veteran named Charlie Hartman. He walked the new trails, recording ferns and wildflowers, and he spent his evenings identifying them.

In 1929, the sanctuary acquired 50 more acres of farmland from a neighboring family. Harriet Crockett sold them the land and stayed with the sanctuary to run a tea room on the ground floor of the old farmhouse. Her family had lived in the Berkshires for generations, Cushing says. Her father had served in the 54th regiment, the first regiment of black soldiers in the Civil War, and the house had been built just after the revolutionary war.

Broun moved on in the early years of the Depression, and the sanctuary brought in more willing workers—including beavers. Reintroduced by warden S. Morris Pell in 1932, they turned the alder swamps into natural ponds. (from writeup of 90th anniversary of Pleasant Valley in Town Vibe August 2019).

North Lenox – Thomas Steele House

The exterior of the current Arcadia Shop, 91 Pittsfield Road,  was built by Thomas Steel in 1759. We don’t know where he was born but his son, Thomas Steel, Junior, was baptized in West Hartford, CT in 1766 (born 1761 in Lenox). That area of Connecticut was home to a lot of Lenox early settlers, so it is reasonable to assume he and his wife Desire Stanley took Tom Jr. there to visit the grandparents. Thomas signed the non-importation agreement and was a Revolutionary War veteran.

Thomas and Desire lived into their 80’s, but the rest of the family record from the Church on the Hill Cemetery tells a tale of some sadness. Thomas Steel, Jr. married the daughter of the first sheriff, Gen. Caleb Hyde—an early Lenox mover and shaker who moved to Lisle, NY with Major Gen. John Paterson. Unfortunately, Elizabeth Hyde Steel died young in 1797. Their son, Chancey, died in 1818, age 24. Tom Jr. remarried and had a daughter with Candace. The daughter, Betsey Jerusha (interesting that she had the same name as Tom Jr.’s late wife) also died young in 1823, age 20. Cholera was going around in the 1820’s. Perhaps a culprit for the deaths of Steels young and old at that time.

Osceola Lenox Gilded Age Cottage

In 1889 Edward Livingston and his wife Sarah Pollack Livingston hired revered architect George Thomas Tilden (1845-1919)  to build their beautiful Cliffwood Street mansion – Osceola. (some sources report the build date as 1909).

It’s named for Osceola Mountain – one of the peaks of Yokun Ridge which would have been visible in the treeless days of the late 19th century.

Osceola Tour of Restored Interior

The current owners have restored the inside and outside to it’s glory including a new grey and cream paint job, restored plaster and wood exterior detail.  Ventfort Hall’s Cornelia Gilder recently gave a talk on Osceola and we were able to also see the beautifully restored interior.

















The house is described as Beaux Art, Renaissance with Colonial Revival details.

It is one of four houses in Lenox built by Rotch and Tilden.

151 Walker St., Thistelwood 1888
2 Kemble St., Frederick T. Frelinghuysen House – 1881
104 Walker St., Ventfort Hall 1893










Interestingly the second Mrs. George Morgan (Ventfort Hall) was Mrs. Livingston’s aunt. Skilled restorers Steve Baum and Jeffrey Gulick studied these Rotch and Tilden houses as well as others for clues on restoration of moldings and carpentry detail.

The Livingston’s Gilded Age Life

It’s hard to imagine a more typical gilded age couple.  Here they are in 1921 (passport photos):







Edward Livingston was part of the Livingston family that started life in America in 1686 with 160,000 acres in New York and New Jersey.

Married in 1882, Sarah Pollack Livingston also came from wealth.  Her father was a major Pittsfield textile manufacturer.  Their estate in Pittsfield, Grey Towers, encompassed acres of profitably subdivided land around Elm Street.

The Livingston family home on the Hudson had been rebuilt during the Revolutionary War and may have been one of the many places the peripatetic Livingston’s visited.

Clermont 18th Century Home of the Livingston’s on the Hudson






During the years they owned Osceola (1889-1921) the Livingston’s spent a good deal of time renting estates in England in hunt country and in Pau, France.  In the Pyrenees, Pau was a Gilded Age rendezvous for fresh air, scenery and sports.

Not the Livingston’s Home But a Typical Pau Luxury residence







For much of the time they owned Osceola it was rented to other well known Lenox families including David Dana (who later purchased what is now known as the Birchwood Inn).  The Livingston’s  had limited involvement with Lenox social life and sold Osceola in 1921 to Ellen Barker, the widow of Albert Smith Barker.  (Other sources say sold to Mrs. Dwight Collier).

Osceola in Recent Times

By 1966, Osceola had become a retreat house for General Electric.  After passing through several other owners, the house was used as a bed and breakfast starting in 1986.  The current owners have turned it back into a beautiful private residence.






North Lenox Early Settlement

Much of the area north of the village of Lenox was part of the Quincy Grant. Well before Lenox became a town (1767) the royal governor granted land in return for favors or service. One such grant, the Quincy Grant, occupied much of the area between what is now Lenox from Route 7 and 20 past East Street.

In 1737 Edmund Quincy was appointed to a commission to resolve the Massachusetts border with New Hampshire.  As part of that commission he traveled to London where he contract smallpox and died.  In return for his service his family was, in 1739, awarded 1,000 acres in what would become Lenox.

Other smaller grants in the northern part of Lenox:

• The Stevens Grant – 250 acres in 1756 for the support of the widow and children of Capt. Phineas Stevens. Capt. Stevens had, with 30 militia men, held off put to 700 French and Indians during King George’s War, at Fort Number 4 – the northernmost British outpost on the Connecticut River in modern day Charleston, NH, on the border with modern day Vermont.

• The Lawrence Grant – 353 acres granted in 1758 to compensate for land given to New Hampshire when the new border was drawn.

The fourth grant shown on the map below, the Hooker Grant, was a different situation. It wasn’t made until 1801 and seems to have been an adjustment of boundaries from Washington township.

As with the rest of Lenox proprietors (think of them as investors) picked up the remainder of the land. The map below shows the initial distribution to proprietors and grant holders in the northern part of Lenox. Many of these proprietors and grant holders would fairly quickly sell land to people who would actually do the hard work of cutting down trees, building homes and cultivating the land.

Some of the proprietors shown above would settle on the land they invested in and become major Lenox families including Dewey’s, Roots and Millers.  There are dozens of Dewey’s buried in the Church on the Hill Cemetery and the family remained a major presence in New Lenox well into the 20th century.

North Lenox

“ For three weeks I drove every day 7 miles and back through a lovely hill country in richest livery of summer.”

…..From “Central Berkshires” by George Blatchford (Thank you Cornelia Gilder) quoting Constance Cary Harrison re driving back and forth to Pittsfield in 1898 to visit her son recovering from appendicitis.  The 1901 photo reflects what her drive on today’s Route 7 would have been like.

The area of Lenox (roughly from the DPW north to Dan Fox Drive and from Lenox Mountain to the Housatonic East-West) that would have remained rural and agricultural the longest is today the most altered.

In this series of posts we will try to reimagine the area now heavily commercial along Route 7 as well as the turn of the century bustle of what is now residential New Lenox.

Here is a (thank you Cornelia Gilder and the late Judy Conklin Peters)annotated map of the area to be “re-envisioned.”