The Mass 54th was the first unit of African American soldiers to be raised in the North during the Civil War. Massachusetts did not have many African American residents, but by the time the unit headed off to training in 1863 they had 1,000 volunteers.
Lenox has special ties to the 54th through both its commander, Robert Gould Shaw, as well as the surprising number of volunteers from a small town like Lenox.
Commander Robert Gould Shaw
Shaw, from a distinguished Boston abolitionist family, was the commander. He married Annie Haggerty and honeymooned at the original Vent Fort. Shaw died along with 2/3 of his fellow officers and half his troops at Fort Wagner, SC as immortalized in the film Glory. Annie remained a widow and is buried at Church on the Hill.
African American Soldiers Faced Prejudice
The heroic charge of Fort Wagner is made more heroic by the fact that the African American soldiers in the 54th weren’t paid. They were offered pay less than their white counterparts and they refused. The war was almost over by the time they received the pay they had rightly insisted on.
Mass 54 Volunteers from Lenox
From grave markers and MA military lists we identified nine Lenox residents in the Mass 54th. There may have been more among a regiment that grew to 1200. By the end of the Civil War, one in ten soldiers in the Union Army were African Americans. Information from these records plus census and Ancestry. Asterisk indicates buried at Church on the Hill.
Jeremiah L.W. Bradley* B 54thMASS Inf. GAR 1861-1866
Enlistment Record shows 34 YOA as of 12/8/1863, enlisted Adams, MA got a $100 bounty for a 3 year enlistment, farmer, born Sheffield, MA, 5’11”, Ancestry – Married Mary Jane Whitford in GB; various other wives and children; death 10/13/1865 Adams; mustered out 8/20 1865 at Mount Pleasant SC, same
Michael Broderick* D 49 MASS. Mil. INF Civil War
George M. Brown* H 54thMASS Inf. GAR Civil War
Birth abt. 1842 Pittsfield? Lenox? Per enlistment record-barber 5’11”, Enlisted 11/25/1863, corporal 11/29/1864, reduced per order of Col. Adams March 28, 1865 colored cavalry MA 5th, Enlisted in Company I MA 5thCavalry on 3/26/1864, mustered out on 10/31/1865 at Clarksville, TX, death 4/7/1887
4. Alfred Michaels B, 5thMASS. CAV GAR Civil War
1880 Census, Black Married to Susan, Laborer, Not employed for 4 months, Mary Michaels (6), Florence Michaels 5&1/2, Military records – born 1845, enlisted 9/3/1864 in 5thMA Colored Cavalry, mustered out 5/24, 1865 at City Point, VA, death 4/22/1890
5. George Peters, Lenox, farmer 19 YOA
Spouse Sarah L. Fletcher, Children Mary Agnes, 1850 census HH Charles Peters 29, Henrietta Peters,; 1870 census Sarah L. Peters 22, Hattie A. Peters 3, Mary A. Peters, 2, George, G 24, military – Co. A 54thon 3/30/1863; Mustered out on 8/20/1865 at Mount Pleasant SC
6. Richard A. Adams, Lenox, farmer 18
7. George F. Waterman, Lenox, farmer (married, 2 children) 27
Enlisted in Co. A MA 54 3/30/1863, mustered out 7/18/1863 Fort Wagner S.C.
8. John Peters, Lenox, farmer (married) 37 literate
1855 State census HH with Sarah (?) age 25 and Charlotte(?) age 6; 18 “B” on that page; 1880 census 55 YOA in Stockbridge – still laborer on farm; several marriages? Death Tyringham? 1897?
9. Charles Vanalen, Lenox, farmer (married, 1 child) 29 literate
Enlisted 2/27/1863 Co. A, MA 54th; 3/30/1863 assigned to regiment; mustered out 5/9/1863 Morris Island S.C.; 1850 census – Richmond, MA spouse Elizabeth Vanallen 23 – application for widow’s pension?
With many thanks to Cornelia Gilder for this wonderful write up of 17 West Street.
Cozy Nook Built Civil War Era
With its tall proportions, pitched roofs, dormers, gables and multifarious porches, “Cozy Nook” appears to be a “summer cottage” of the 1880s, but actually immured with in it, is a substantial Civil War era house. This year-round dwelling was built in 1862 by the Tuckers, one of Lenox’s leading families associated with the County government. The Berkshire County Court, housed in magnificent federal-style building on Main Street (the Lenox Library), dominated the economic and social structure of Lenox for the first seventy years of the nineteenth century.
Tucker Family Moved from House Built Over the Ore Mines
The house, which would become known as Cozy Nook, was built in 1862 by Berkshire County Treasurer and Registrar of Deeds George J. Tucker (1804-1878) and his second wife Harriet Sill Tucker. The Tuckers previously lived on Main Street opposite the Lenox Academy. That house in November 1862 (while the West Street house was under construction) was undermined by the iron mine tunneled beneath it. George’s lawyer son, Joseph Tucker (1832-1907), came home from Camp Briggs in Pittsfield where he was training with the 49thRegiment, and found the house “sunken down to the second story windows.” (His half-brother, George H. Tucker recounted this in A History of Lenox p. G-4).
The George and Harriet Tucker apparently moved to Pittsfield with the County Court around 1871 and for awhile rented the Lenox house. (Among their tenants was Adelia Taintor (1804-1881) of Hartford a cousin of Adele Kneeland who lived across West Street at Fairlawn.) Then in the second half of the 1870s the family house became known as “Judge Tucker’s House” after Joseph Tucker’s marriage in 1876 to Elizabeth Bishop. The bride, daughter of Judge Henry Bishop and Sarah Bishop, was a lifelong Lenox friend and had been taking care of her elderly mother in the house next door (now site of Paula Almgren’s office). The 44-year-old groom was a Civil War hero having lost his leg in Louisiana in the Union victory at Plains Store. After the war, he went into State politics and in 1873 was appointed judge of the District Court in Pittsfield.
Cozy Nook Robbery in 1878
The Gleanerreported a nighttime burglary at Judge Tucker’s house on May 15, 1878. First drugging the dog and then climbing through the kitchen windows, the robbers “knew exactly where to go and where not to go” and made off with nearly all the Tuckers’ silver and “other smaller things.”
A quiet, evening wedding occurred in the Tuckers’ house in August 1879. Elizabeth Tucker’s orphaned niece, Lucy Pike, who had grown up as Elizabeth’s little sister was married to schoolteacher Harlan H. Ballard in the rooms of the house. Six months later Elizabeth Tucker died. Bereft, Judge Tucker sold the Lenox house in 1882 and moved nearer the Court in Pittsfield, but he remained active in Lenox. He appears in an 1886 photo of men posed on the porch of the Lenox Club.
Helen Parish New Owner
The new owner, a New York heiress of a dry-goods business, Helen Parish (1843-1925) transformed the twenty-year-old Judge Tucker house to its current stately appearance. She named the place “Cozy Nook” and summered here until her death 43 years later.
She was the twelfth and youngest child of Daniel and Mary Ann Parish and bought the house two years after her father’s death. In January 1883 The Lenox Echoreported “ The George Tucker estate recently purchased by Miss Parish will be scarcely recognizable when the house and grounds are finished.” Indoor plumbing was installed, as well as fine woodwork with classical motifs.
Supporter of Library and Lenox Band
Helen Parish was a supporter of two nearby institutions, Lenox Library where she served on the Assistant Board of Managers, and the Lenox Band, which held summertime concerts in front of the Curtis Hotel within earshot of Cosy Nook’s porches.
After Helen Parish’s death in 1925, her neighbor George Turnure purchased the house for his recently divorced daughter, Irene Kissel. In 1940 Norah Codman (1873-1961) bought Cozy Nook with her brother Frederick Chadwick. She was a longtime frequenter of Lenox and widow of lawyer Julian Codman (a glamorous literary and social figure in his Harvard years in the circle of George Santyana, and later during Prohibition of the 1920s, a leading opponent or so-called “Wet”). After selling Cozy Nook, Norah Codman lived on in Lenox, renting rooms at “Heathercroft” on Walker Street, (next to today’s Talbots).
Became Home of Author Robert Smith
In 1945 author Robert Smith bought Cozy Nook, and for the next sixty years his family lived in the imposing Victorian house. Here Smith wrote some six novels and many books in collaboration with sports and military heros. His best known work, entitled Baseball,was published by Simon and Schuster in 1947. When the book first came out, editor Norman Cousins began his lengthy review inSaturday Review, “I dare anyone to meet me under the grandstand who says this isn’t the best book on baseball ever published.”
Ninety-one year old Smith died on a fishing trip in Maine in 1997. His second wife, Jean Kelly Smith (1923-2016), who married Smith in 1955, made Cozy Nook her home for half a century.
Thanks to Victoria Salvatore and the Lenox Historical Society for this information. The cabinet is a gift of Joann Sukel Lewis in memory of her parents.
At the Lenox Historical Society every piece of furniture (well almost every piece) tells a story. This beautiful cabinet was made in 1828 by sixteen year old Wells Colton, whose father, Rodolphus Colton, was a cabinet maker. Clearly 19th century teenagers had a lot of sticktoitiveness.
Wells and his father lived on Cliffwood Street where Rodolphus had his workshop.
Wells went on to practice law in Illinois with the Hon. Judge David Davis, who was President Abraham Lincoln’s campaign manager.
Wells Cotton Practiced Law with Lincoln’s Campaign Manager
The following information is provided by Patricia Schley who has spent many years transcribing the correspondence of Judge David Davis and his wife Sarah Walker Davis; and, most recently, the letters of Wells Colton and his family members.
“Wells Colton graduated from Lenox Academy and went on to Williams College, graduating in 1834. He moved to Bloomington, Illinois in 1837 where he practiced law with Judge David Davis. Davis would marry Colton’s Lenox friend, Sarah Walker, daughter of Judge William Walker.
In January 1845 Colton moved to St. Louis, Missouri. During the tragic Great St. Louis Fire, May 17-18, 1849, Colton and a friend, both volunteers with the as yet unorganized St. Louis Fire dept., were badly injured by debris from an exploding building. Colton died a week later. His friend died in July of that year.”
Lenox native James Van Der Zee (1886-1983), was an African-American photographer whose studio portraits and other photographs document the lives of middle-class African-Americans. He gained fame for his photographs taken during the Harlem Renaissance, from 1919 through the mid-1930s.
Van Der Zee was born on Hubbard St. in Lenox on June 29, 1886. His family lived in a house that was eventually razed to make way for the construction of the by-pass. James and his five siblings enjoyed the rural small-town life in a community that showed no prejudice. Van Der Zee learned how to play the piano and violin at an early age. He attended grammar school in Lenox where he enjoyed painting and drawing. This fostered his interest in photography and he jumped at the opportunity to win a camera by selling ladies’ sachets. By the time he turned 14 Van Der Zee had left school and was working. He took a job at The Aspinwall Hotel as a waiter and with his second camera, was photographing family, friends, and wealthy summer guests staying in Lenox.
Van Der Zee had a keen eye and his photography skills quickly developed. In 1905 he left the shelter of the Berkshires and moved to New York. His career progressed in fits and starts but by 1917 he was working out of his own studio, the Guarantee Photo Studio. It was an immediate success.
Van Der Zee’s photographs taken during the Harlem Renaissance solidified his reputation as the most influential studio photographer of that time. Using his elaborate hand-painted backdrops he posed families during celebrations and bereavement, in playful and somber times. Decades later his images, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 1969 photographic exhibition “Harlem on My Mind”, would reach millions of people who had never known of his life’s work.
The private school era in Lenox goes on in various forms, but the private boarding school era largely came to an end in the 1970’s. The rise and fall of the private boarding school era — and subsequent re-development – was a great example of Lenox’s ability to re-invent itself.
The prosperity of the immediate post war era presented a unique opportunity to make use of the moribund “cottages” that dotted the Lenox landscape. The expense of maintaining these white elephants, heating them and the economic and social pressures of the 1970’s brought the era to an end.
The Lenox School for Boys (1926-1971)
The Lenox School for Boys will be discussed first because there is extensive historical information available from the school’s alumni association and because it had the most influence on downtown Lenox.
It is described as “loosely affiliated” with the Episcopal Church because the driver of the school’s founding, Rev. Dr. William G. Thayer, was an Episcopal minister and one of his reasons for founding the school was to provide quality education for Episcopal families of modest means. However, religious affiliation was not a criteria for admission and, although the church made some donations, the school was not directly funded by the Episcopal Church.
Vision became reality under the coordination of Trinity Rector, Rev. Latta Griswold, who lobbied the diocese and his parishioners for contributions to purchase what was then called the Huntress Estate(from the name of the most recent owner) but is better known as Sunnycroft, home of GC Haven. It became known as Griswold Hall and would serve multiple purposes for the school until it was torn down in 1938. The school continued to use the various outbuildings of the estate as Thayer Hall, East Cottage and North Cottage.
The school eventually took on:
–Clipston Grange (called Griswold Reading Room/ Library and now a private residence) and its outbuildings used by the school as 1927
–Spring Lawn (called Schermerhorn Hall and now being developed as part of a timeshare estate) was used by the school fall 1957
-the Freylinghuysen home (called Bassett hall and now Kemble Inn) was used as a school residence in 1959 and its carriage house (now a private residence)
-the gatehouse of Ventfort Hall on Kemble St. (now a private residence) which was used by the school beginning in 1959
–Walker House (called Jones House by the school – now being developed as apartments) was the Headmaster’s Residence starting in 1968.
-The Bel Air Estate (on Walker Street…probably where Morgan Manor and private homes are found today across from Ventfort Hall) also known as the Starks House (acquired in 1965 for use by Berkshire Country Day* students; burned in 1965)
Many of the buildings were painted a uniform yellow and white and would have formed an even more noticeable presence in Lenox than than successors do today.
The school also acquired the Lanier farm (Lithgow Estate) on Old Stockbridge Road (1937) and much of the remaining property of Cortland Field Bishop after his death in 1935. Bishop had purchased the 20 acre Lanier Farm which dated from the 1850’s had ceased any active farming and was purchased by Mr. Bishop at Mr. Lanier’s death in 1925. The Lanier’s had lived across the Old Stockbridge Road in the Allen Winden Estate. In the 1960’s the school purchased the Lithgow estate (dating from the 1790’s on Old Stockbridge Road).
Some of the outbuildings of the various estates were used by the school and stand in disrepair today.
Some of the land acquired was used by the school to build new facilities such as Saint Martins Hall in 1938, Lawrence Hall in 1964, the hockey rink (1964) as well as various other sports and classroom facilities repurposed on the estates combined to form a campus.
The school had expanded in the 1960’s at just the time when the desire for private schools was going down and interest rates were going up. The school closed in 1971 touching off a scramble to make intelligent use of the buildings left behind. An organization called Bible Speaks took over much of the campus from 1976 to 1987. After numerous other attempts at development the “new” buildings constructed for the school were bought in 1999 by Shakespeare and Co. which has succeeded in re-purposing some of the buildings for its popular theatrical performances. The fate of the remaining buildings remains in doubt.
*Berkshire Country Day shared facilities and faculty with Lenox School for Boys until 1963 when it moved to Brook Farm (below today’s Kripalu on West St.) where it still operates today.
The Windsor Mountain School (1944-1975)
The progressive Windsor Mountain School targeted a different educational segment. It prided itself on open education and diversity. Discussed in detail elsewhere, it had its own challenges but basically succumbed to the same triple threat as The Lenox School for Boys: declining enrollment, rising costs and over expansion.
Today Groton Place, the former Winthrop estate, is used as a summer music school for high school students. It is run by Boston University (BUTI or Boston University Tanglewood Institute).
Overlee was a private school for a brief period before becoming the Hillcrest Educational Center which it is today. More information on the prior educational institution is being sought.
Foxhollow School for Girls (1939-1976)
Foxhollow had its origins in an earlier school in New York. In 1939, Miss Farrell moved the school to Holmwood, the former seasonal home of Margaret Emerson Vanderbilt. . As the enrollment expanded, the school bought the adjoining estate of Edith Wharton, The Mount.
We have no information on the specific reasons for the closure of Foxhollow. It is likely they suffered the same cost/enrollment squeeze as the other schools discussed.
Much of the grounds of Holmwood (which used to be Erskine Park – the home of George Westinghouse) have been built up with condominiums. The main building was Enlighten Next for some time and is currently for sale. The Mount was used by the school until 1976. Starting in 1978, Shakespeare and Co. performed at The Mount and continued for several years after the buildings were taken over by Edith Wharton Restoration in 1980. Today The Mount is a major tourist draw as a historic house museum.
The Cranwell School (1939-1975)
In 1939 Edward Cranwell gifted the property to the Society of Jesus of New England. With that donation and several other private donations it became
a preparatory school encompassing today’s Cranwell and Coldbrook.
Again, specifics on the reason for closure in 1975 have not been found but are likely similar to that of the other private schools.
Coldbrook became condominiums and Cranwell became a resort and spa affiliated with Fairwynds Condominiums.
Immaculate Heart of St. Mary’s/ Our Lady of Mercy Seminary/ Bellefontaine (1946-1972)
One of the grandest of the “cottages” Bellefontaine was completed in 1898 by Giraud Foster. His son inherited the property in 1945 and sold it in 1946 to various parties. Mr. Cook bought the main house, ninety-six acres of land, the gate-house, the stables, and a green-house for a summer estate. He turned them over to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in 1947. In 1949 much of the main building burned. The library survived and remains today as a reminder of the splendor of the original estate. The owners, the Fathers of Mercy, rebuilt and in 1960, the Priests of the Sacred Heart, acquired Bellefontaine from the Mercy Fathers and they continue to utilize the buildings as a minor seminary for young men interested in the Priesthood and Brotherhood.
In 1972 the Mercy Fathers presumably ran into the same cost problems as the other secular private schools. In addition the 1970’s saw the beginning of declining interest in entering the priesthood.
Today Bellefontaine has been resurrected as a nationally known spa, Canyon Ranch and is soon to add a condominiums complex.
The current beautiful Church on the Hill building was dedicated in 1806, replacing an earlier meeting house. In 1906 a centennial celebration was held and the Hon. Francis W. Rockwell described the men who had been members of the congregation up to 1806.
Early Members Recognized in Dedication Centennial
At the time of the dedication of the new building in 1806 there had been 205 members, 89 men. Many of them were active in early town business and records suggest 61 of the early members were living in 1806. Nineteen or more were in Lenox in 1774 and signed the Non-Importation Agreement. At least 15 served in the militia active in the defense of Boston and the Battle of Saratoga. The initial members and the information available on them(from Centennial Anniversary of the Dedication of the Old Church on the Hill) in the Church Centennial history follow. The tidbits of information paint a picture of a patriotic, peripatetic and ambitious town founders.
Gordon Hollister* lived in the northwest part of town.
Deacon Gordon Hollister, Jr. lived on Stock Street and married a daughter of Enos Stone.
Enoch Hoskins (Haskins) was also a soldier.
Zadock Hubbard owned part of Bartlett Farm (East St.) and built the rear of the house about 1800.
Deacon Nathan Isbell lived in the East St. house built in 1798 by his father as of Noah’s death in 1801. He furnished a room in the second story called “the lecture room,” which was used for neighborhood prayer meetings.
Noah Isbell, came from Salisbury CT in 1770 and was an ancestor of Deacon Isbell. He lived on the corner of what is now East and Housatonic Streets on land owned in 1906 by F. Augustus Schmerhorn. Noah first built a log house and in 1798 built the house where Samuel Howes lived at one time. At the time of its construction, it was one of the largest and best houses on East. St.
John Ives lived on the road from the meeting house to Rev. Samuel Munson’s (modern day Main St.? modern day Cliffwood?)
Uriah Judd came from Pittsfield and was the grandfather of George U. Judd.
Daniel Keeler* came from Ridgefield, CT in 1773, lived on East Street and moved to Manlius, NY in about 1790.
Lot Keeler and his wife are noted as dismissed in 1795; not record of their admission.
Olin Landers was admitted in 1786.
Thomas Landers* was one of the first settlers coming from Kent, CT to Stockbridge. He was a short time in the army and lived near Lenox Dale. (described in 1906 as south of the Sedgwick School House?)
Josiah Lee, whose daughter married Major General John Patterson*, came from New Britain, CT and later moved to New York state.
Dr. Eldad Lewis, a surgeon in the army, was in Lenox by 1776. He published the first Lenox newspaper (“The Lenox Watch Light,”), drew the earliest map we have of Lenox (1792), gave a eulogy on Washington in 1800 (he was a strong federalist), and wrote a hymn for the new church building dedication. He lived on Cliffwood St.
Andrew Loomis lived on the Shattuck property on the old road which ran westerly.
William Lusk came from Wethersfield in 1767 to Richmond and Stockbridge.
Edward Martindale lived in the northwest part of town.
Deacon Charles Mattoon* came from Waterbury, CT in 1768 and served in the Revolutionary war.
Joseph Merwin, in 1775, sold 25 acres in lot 18 in the 2nd division to Stephen Merwin.
Peter B. Messenger was admitted to the church in 1786.
Allen Metcalf lived on Bartlett Farm (East St.) and built the front part of the Bartlett House. He had “The Coffee House” for a time
Josiah Newell lived on the Bourne Farm.
Abraham Northrup* died in 1798.
Job Northrup lived near Scott’s Pond.
David Osborn was a clockmaker and lived in the village.
Rev. Jeremiah Osborn was pastor in the states of New York and Ohio from 1806 to 1839.
Josiah Osborn was, in 1807, associated with the James Porter & Co. saw mill on the Housatonic River in Lee.
Elisha Perkins sold land in Stockbridge in 1779.
Eldad Post came to Lenox in 1803. A prominent man, he was the father of the Hon. Thomas Post.
James Richards* was in Lenox as early as 1764 (and is noted as living in the village), was buried in his farm (smallpox) in 1777. He is also described as living on the road west of Cliffwood St.
John Robinson was first at Stockbridge, then in Lenox living near the Furnace.
Thomas Rockwell, son-in-law of John Whitlock, bought John Whitlock’s coffee house in 1790 and sold it in 1793. He first settled on what, in 1906, was known as the Bartlett Farm on East St.
Joseph Rogers had two acres on East Street next to Philip Sears and Titus Parker* above Yokun Brook.
Issac Sears, born about 1765 lived on East Street and bought the hotel property from Enos Blossom in 1799 and sold it in 1802. His wife died in Lenox in 1799.
Issac Smith lived in a northeast part of Stockbridge that came over the Lenox line.
Jonathan Smith and his wife Rebecca were admitted by letter from Ashfield in 1799. They are marked as dismissed in 1811 to join certain members of the church at Lee who were about to remove to Ohio. (Another Jonathan Smith is shown as admitted in 1803; both are recorded as dismissed in 1811.)
Amos Stanley* came from West Hartford, CT about 1765, was an ancestor of John and Orrilla Stanley, was one of the first selectmen, was a deacon in the church as of 1785 and died in 1811.
Thomas Steel* came to Lenox about 1767 and settled near Jacob Bacon.
Enos Stone was born in Litchfield, CT and is thought to have come to Lenox as early as 1770. He was a captain in the 12th Mass. Regiment in the Revolutionary War and was captured and imprisoned in Hubbardton, VT in January 1777. He had land in Brighton (now Rochester) NY, his son Enos Stone being one of the pioneers there. He kept his residence in Lenox (on Stockbridge Street) until the spring of 1815 when he moved to Rochester and died there that year. His daughter Mary married Deacon Gordon Hollister, Jr.
Deacon John Stoughton, Jr. (known as “Deacon” before coming to Lenox) came to Lenox about 1779 and moved to Troy, NY where he died. He owned a farm on Bourne Road and was magistrate in Lenox.
Jonathan Taylor lived, in 1802, on the north line of Stockbridge (described in 1906 as south of Depot Road)..
Abidjah Tomlin lived in Lee near the Lenox line near what is described in 1906 as below the Porter corner as well as Moses Way.
Thomas Tracey* was first a member of the church at Pittsfield. A soldier of the Revolution, he died of small pox contracted in the service and was buried at his farm in 1776.
Timothy Treat lived in the northwest part of the town.
Deacon James Wadsworth lived, at one time, in the village where Henry Sedgwick lived at the time of the Centennial celebration.
William Walker was a Revolutionary war veteran, Judge of Probate in Berkshire County until he resigned in 1840 and his son William P. Walker assumed the post. He was an investor in Lenox Furnace and other important commercial ventures.
Moses Way (with Abner Way) sold 40 acres in the Hopkins Grant to Timothy Way* in 1786.
Stephen Wells lived in the village.
Deacon Stephen Wells, Jr. was a partner of Rudolphos Colton, a cabinet maker and lived in the village.
Daniel West was a tanner who lived near the Congregational parsonage.
Rev. Elisha Yale, D.D. was born in Lee in 1780 and joined the church October 20, 1799 He died in 1853 and was the pastor an Kingsborough, NY for more than 48 years.
By 1818 the Lenox Anglican community had finally amassed the funds to complete its first church. It was in the center of the village at 33 Church Street.
It was consecrated Sept. 7, 1818 by Bishop Alexander Viets Griswold. The bishop was a nephew of the first Anglican priest to visit Lenox, Roger Viets (probably 1763).
The white wooden church was described as Gothic Revival or Carpenter Gothic. The stylistic indicators include the window shape and the steeple parapets. This may have been an early example of the style common in New England in the 1830-1850 period.
In 1873 a new chancel and transepts were added.
When the new Trinity Church was built at Walker and Kemble, the old church building was purchased by parishioner L.C. Peters and stands (without its spire) on Church St. today.
Trinity became the legal name of the congregation in 1918 but there is reference to “Trinity Church” in the 1819 vestry records.
The Episcopalian Church in Lenox Struggled in Mid 19th Century
The consecration must have had some interesting interpersonal chemistry since the rector at the time, Samuel Griswold was the brother of Bishop Griswold and was dismissed ten days later!
After Rev. Griswold’s departure, only one dedicated Lenox rector for (1840-1844-Rev. George Waters) is listed in John Allen Gable’s history. For the rest of the time, services were shared with other parishes and revenue was supplemented by the missionary society.
In 1832 only 18 adult members were listed. and by 1850 services were only held occasionally. The absence of a regular rector certainly contributed to the fall off in membership but undoubtedly was not the only factor. During the first half of the 19th century, new Episcopal parishes proliferated. Ironically, they included (Pittsfield, Stockbridge, Otis and others) towns that had spun off from early worship in Lenox. At that time the pulpit at Church on the Hill was manned by the very popular Rev. Shephard. Also, it was the era of revivals and new sects to the area — including the addition of a Methodist church that was established down the street on the now aptly named Church St.
As with many churches then and now, the flame was kept burning by a few dedicated volunteers. One, Debby Hewes Quincy, is singled out with a plaque in the current Trinity Church.
Several other factors contributed to turning things around for the little Trinity congregation. Bishop Manton Eastburn wanted a strong priest in Lenox to turn back the tide of Unitarianism. Also, train service was now available and the early generation of wealthy summer visitors (frequently Episcopalians from New York) had started to arrive. Finally, a popular priest, Thomas Pynchon led the congregation from 1850-1854. A quote from Charles Palmer’s early history of Trinity paints a picture of his interaction with a particularly demanding visitor:
“As he went out of the church he (Mr. Pynchon)saw a figure seated on the steps. It arose as he approached, and shaking a forefinger at him said in a very deep and impressive voice: ‘Your music is execrable, execrable! If you will have the organ sent to Pittsfield for repairs and tuning, I will pay for it.’ The seated figure was Miss Fanny Kemble. She became a regular attendant at the services, a liberal contributor, and a warm personal friend of Mr. Pynchon.”
Despite the popularity of Mr. Pynchon and several other well thought of but short term priests (Rev. William Henry Brooks, Rev. Henry Albert Yardley), the Lenox continued to struggle and Lenox again required missionary aid.
Leadership of Rev. Justin Field
The full potential of the resident and visiting Anglican congregation was achieved under the leadership of the long-serving Rev. Justin Field who was rector 1862-1890.
Construction of New Trinity Church, Rectory and Chapel
The first official mention of a new church building is found in 1882. The building effort was led by architect, philanthropist and church warden Colonel Richard Tylden Auchmuty.
The church purchased the triangle formed by Kemble and Walker (known as Lyman’s corner – for – according to maps of the time – the location of the Lyman’s residence/ store).
The building committee hired McKim, Mead and White and, like any other self respecting church committee proceeded to dabble. Five designs later the very handsome result reflect some McKim, some Auchmuty and some Renwick (a friend and associate of Auchmuty’s).
The cornerstone was laid September 8, 1885 by former President Chester A. Arthur. Arthur’s Secretary of State, Theodore Frelinghuysen from New Jersey had built the lovely Georgian “cottage” across the street in 1881. A plaque honoring the 21st President stands in Trinity today.
The new church was consecrated June 19, 1888 and was filled with Tiffany windows and other elaborate furnishings donated by a who’s who of wealthy summer visitors.
The church interior as of 2016 reflects substantial additional decoration and re-staining in the 1920’s
Undeterred by having spent three times their budget on the church, the parishioners proceeded to construct a handsome rectory in 1892 and a chapel in 1896.
At last the wealthy visitors had a place of worship consistent with their gilded age “cottages.”
Originally called the Union Chapel, the New Lenox Episcopal Church was completed in 1893. Later called St. Helena’s, it was donated by John E. Parsons in honor of his daughter, Helen Reed Parsons.
Mr. Rathbun is referenced as the architect in a Pittsfield Sun article. Mr. Rathbun was also thought to be the architect of the Church on the Hill Chapel on Main St.
In the then thinly settled New Lenox, the chapel’s use was highly ecumenical with Rev. Grosvenor conducting services two Sundays a month, the Methodists on another and the Baptists on a fourth.
St. Helena’s remained a part of Trinity Church until 1980 when it was established as a separate parish. The two churches have just completed an agreement (2016) to share services.
Trinity Rectors 1801-1895
Samuel Griswold (1801-1818)
(1819-1820 – Rev. George Thomas Chapman served Lenox, Lanesborough and Great Barrington)
Aaron Humphrey (1820-1825)-one Sunday a month, the rest of the time in Lanesborough
Benjamin C.C. Parker (1826-1832) – also Otis
Samuel P. Parker (1834-1836) – also Stockbridge
(1836 Rev. Mr. Walcott of Stockbridge conducted services in Lenox)
George Waters (1840-1844)
(1845 Rev. George Thomas Chapman – again conducted some services in Lenox)
Samuel T. Carpenter (1846-1847)-of Van Deusenville – one Sunday a month in Lenox
F.A. Foxcraft (1848-1849) – of Van Deusenville – conducted some services in Lenox
Thomas Ruggles Pynchon (1850-1854)
William Henry Brooks (1855-1856)
Samuel P. Parker (1857-1859) – also Stockbridge
Jesse A. Penman (1859-1861) Samuel Parker’s assistant
Henry A. Yardley (1861-1862)
Justin Field (1862-1890)
William Mercer Grosvenor (1890-1895)
Sources of Information
History of Trinity Church, Lenox, Massachusetts, 1763-1895 by Rev. Charles J. Palmer, John Wilson and Sons University Press, Cambridge, 1895
The Goodness That Doth Crown Our Days, A History of Trinity Parish by John Allen Gable, Lamb Printing, North Adams, MA, 1993
The water power of the Housatonic had already been put to work in Lenox Furnace to drive a sawmill, gristmill, fulling mill and iron works. In addition to water power, the nearby countryside also contained high quality raw materials that made glass manufacture a natural next step.
Berkshires Had the Right Kind of Sand for Glass Making
At one time, the Berkshires were ocean front property and – to make a long geological story short – high quality sand was buried and scrubbed in the North Berkshires. As early as 1812, high-quality sand from Cheshire was sent to Boston for glass manufacture. High quality silica was also found near October Mountain.
To this rich mixture, rail transportation and increased money capital could be added by the 1840’s. All the ingredients were in place for glass making in the Berkshires.
In the History of Lenox Furnace and Lenox Dale, Jan Chaque describes the elaborate glass making process and the vagaries of glass making in Lenox Dale. The Lenox Glass Works officially began in 1853, burned in 1854, rebuilt and continued making window glass until 1855. This proved unprofitable – perhaps somewhat of a commodity by this time.
Fire at the Lenox Glass Works
James N. Richmond, who had developed a process in Cheshire for making plate glass, leased the glass works and organized the National Plate Glass company to make rolled glass. This too failed and in 1858 the Lenox Iron Works again took on manufacturing until destroyed again by fire in 1862. It became an independent entity, the Lenox Glass Company and relocated in 1869 to land north of the depot. The new glass works claimed to be – at 600 feet by 100 feet, the largest building in the world and sat next to a Gas Works to heat the ovens. The facility made rough plate glass used used for translucent floors, roofs and tables.
Theodore Roosevelt and the Lenox Crystal Company
Down the street (where St. Vincent DePaul stands today) the Lenox Crystal Company was built for the more complex manufacturing of fine plate window glass. This too failed but was temporarily rescued by an infusion of capital by the James Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. (father of the later to be President Theodore Roosevelt).
Young Theodore visited Lenox with his father, stayed at the Curtis and would return later when campaigning for a fateful accident on the road from Pittsfield.
But, like iron making, glass making was not last in the Berkshires and the Lenox Crystal Company closed in 1872. Why? Shipping charges were high. The cost of shipping from the Berkshires to New York was said to be as much as shipping from Belgium to New York. Also natural gas found in Pennsylvania had proved less expensive than any power source available in New England.
Although other manufacturing businesses would be initiated in Lenox Furnace, none would be of the scale of the iron or glass industries.
History of Lenox Furnace and Lenox Dale, Jan Chaque, published by the Lenox Historical Society
Unpublished manuscript of George Tucker, Lenox Historical Society
Lenox Massachusetts Shire Town, by David Wood, published by the Town of Lenox 1969
The Berkshire Glass Works, William J. Patriquin & Julie L. Sloan, The History Press, 2011
Today (2016), St. Ann’s is the largest church in Lenox. But Catholic settlers were few and far between in the early days. John Grace who bought land in north Lenox in 1783 is noted as a Catholic. It’s not clear how we know that but perhaps it is because he applied for exemption from the requirement to pay tax (required in those days) toward support of the Congregational church.
An early Catholic of some notoriety, Patrick Plunkett, worked as gardener for the important town founder and county judge, William Walker. He came to Lenox in 1794 when it was experiencing one of its early building booms. As many immigrants who came later would do, he rapidly moved from personal service to the wealthy to being a contractor. He and his wife Mary Robinson Plunkett provided a launch point for other Irish immigrants who started coming to Lenox and his descendants became major manufacturers in Pittsfield, Adams and Lee. There were no nearby Catholic churches and the Plunkers and other loyal Catholics went to Albany or Hudson for religious services. He bought Levi Glezen’s home in 1830 and died in 1839.
Irish Emigrants and the Catholic Church in Lenox
The pace of Irish immigration picked up through the 1840’s – both because of conditions in Ireland and because of work opportunities in Lenox. The Housatonic River drove sawmills and iron furnaces and ore had been discovered under Lenox and Richmond. Servants were needed to take care of the visitors to Lenox courts (now the county seat) as well as laborers to staff the mills and mines.
By 1846 there were 12 or more Catholic families in town and they convinced Father Brady of Cabotsville (Chicopee) to come to Lenox to say Mass. Services were held in the home of William Gorman who lived on what is now Housatonic Street (near Orbed Road). Father Brady or Father O’Cavannagh (from Pittsfield) continued to visit and hold Mass in Gorman’s home or in the home of his daughter Bridget Gorman Mahanna.
On the Sundays when no priest came to Lenox, the Catholic flock went to Lee, Great Barrington or other towns where Mass was being said.
Father Cuddihy organized Lenox as a mission for Pittsfield in 1852 and said Mass as frequently as he could in Mrs. Mahanna’s home, the Academy building, or the town hall (old courthouse).
By 1856, services got closer with Lee being made a parish with Lenox now a mission for Lee. From that time, Lenox Catholics worshiped once a month in Lenox at the town hall. In 1864, Father Brennan, the Lee priest, started holding Sunday School in the town hall. Wealthy convert Grace Sedgwick had already started conducting catechism classes in her home.
First Catholic Church on Main Street – 1870
The first step toward having a Lenox domicile – even if still a mission of Lee rather than its own parish – was to purchase property. With the assistance of Miss Sedgwick, Father Brennan purchased property on Walker that was later exchanged for the current Main St. property.
Through the generosity of the town’s Catholics and others, Lenox finally had its own Catholic church in 1870.
In 1885, the northern part of town was annexed to the parish of Lenox so St. Ann’s now covered the entire town.
In 1891 St. Ann’s became a parish with Father William J. Dower as the first resident pastor. Father Dower was active in town activities and fund raising for the parish.
Lenox Catholic Cemetery
Near the Gorman cottage where early services had been held, a large tract was purchased from the Washburn estate in 1888. William Mahanna, Bridget’s grandson, assisted in obtaining the property and having it set up as a cemetery.
New Building in Lenox Dale to Accommodate Growing Parish
By 1903 the congregation had grown to 1100 (1500 in summer). The next priest, Father William F. Grace went to work on a church at Lenox Dale. St. Vincent de Paul was dedicated in 1904 and became an independent parish in 1912.
In 1907 the frontage of the St. Ann Main St. location was expanded by purchasing the Willows, a summer rental property.
In 1912 Father Grace started using the Willows as a rectory. (Later the property at 134 Main became the rectory).
On August 26 that same year, the new St. Ann’s, standing today, was completed.
The Countess de Heredia died in 1946 and in 1947 the magnificent mansion, Wheatleigh, that her father constructed in 1895 plus 25 acres was sold to the Boston Symphony Orchestra as a dorm for Tanglewood students. A New York couple, Stephanie and Philip Barber bought what remained of the rest of the estate–outbuildings and about 100 acres — in 1950. The outbuildings were extensive: a barn, carriage house, ice house, potting shed, greenhouse, stables – and more.
Philip was a public relations executive. Stephanie (his fourth wife) had been a fashion journalist before joining Barber and Barr. She stayed at the inn and organized all the day to day operations while her husband commuted from New York on weekends.
They had friends such as poet Langston Hughes and folk singer Alan Lomax. They had decided to refit the space as an inn to accommodate 65 guests. They also had decided they wanted the property to focus on music making and music study.
Audacity of Their Concept in 1950
It’s easy to forget how conformist and conservative Western Massachusetts — and most of the US — would have been at that time. Integration and diversity were concepts of the future– particularly in Lenox at the time. Also Tanglewood was doing fine just down the road limited (at the time) to classical music by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and appropriately sedate audiences. Tanglewood still had a dress code at the time Woman who had neglected to wear skirts were given wraps to cover their shorts or slacks. It was a time when Pete Seeger was turned away from performance venues because he was suspected of being a communist, Jews could not find lodging in the Berkshires, and people of color — forget about it (see Festival House).
In contrast the Barbers, close to the New York world of modern artists wanted to bring jazz and folk music to their venue.
As early as the summer of 1950, the Barbers arranged music symposia at their Inn. Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger performed. Marshall Sterns lead discussions and weeks followed of calypso, African drumming and ragtime.
It is important to clarify that the Music Inn was an umbrella name that covered – between 1950 – 1979 – an inn, a performance venue (sometimes called the Music Barn) and the Lenox School of Jazz. Often the students attending the music symposia and later the School of Jazz or the musicians stayed at the inn and at various points some of the buildings were joined in some way.
The attraction of the artists (many famous now but little known at the time) performances and discussions contributed to the growth. In 1954 they dubbed a three week music season a “jazz festival.” Although a jazz festival seems commonplace today, it wasn’t at the time; 1954 was also the first Newport Jazz Festival.
By 1955 interest had grown and the Barbers converted a barn into and indoor/outdoor space seating 750 (later to be expanded to 900) and expanded their season to five weeks. They called the new venue the Music Barn and readily attracted famous jazz and folk musicians who were often limited otherwise to small club audiences.
In 1956 Louis Armstrong played the opening night at the Music Barn to an overflow crown of over 1,000. He was one of many jazz and folk greats who played at the Music Barn — beautifully described in Jeremy Yudkin’s book The Lenox School of Jazz. Consistent with the Music Inn’s beginnings, performances were accompanied by lectures and symposia. The Modern Jazz Quartet was in residence for the season.
The Lenox School of Jazz and More Expansion
In 1957 the Barbers expanded their operation to include a separate not-for profit to teach and foster the study of jazz. They selected 34 students to study, practice, perform and compose for the summer under the directorship of John Lewis.
The appearances of jazz greats continued along with the introduction of another revenue option – dinner at the Potting Shed set up to seat about 60 indoors and 60 outside.
The same year the Barbers bought the Wheatleigh mansion from the Boston Symphony and offered more luxurious quarters for 50.
In 1959 the Dave Brubeck Quartet also took up seasonal residency.
Too Much Popularity?
In July 1959 the Kingston Trio performed. They had recently hit the charts with “Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley,” and “M.T.A” (if this means nothing to you – ask your grandparents).
To all appearances, things had never been better. The Newport Jazz Festival was still only four days; the Jazz Festival at the Music Inn lasted for several weeks and there were 27 events at the Music Inn from June to September. In addition , the Potting Shed now offered live music throughout the season. Courses conducted by Marshall Sterns and others for the general public continued and the reputation of the Lenox School of Jazz grew.
However, the operation that the redoubtable Stephanie had taken on had become huge — accommodating 150 guests, 125 aces of property to be maintained, major touring groups coming to the Music Inn for performances to 1,000 or more, the Potting Shed restaurant and entertainment – and the now world famous Lenox School of Jazz.
Welcome to the 1960’s
Financial pressure meant the Barbers had to sell all but the Wheatleigh mansion to local entrepreneur Don Soviero. They planned to continue the Lenox School of Jazz at the mansion. However they almost cancelled the 1960 session as of July for shortage of funds. Fortunately, Mike Bakwin, owner of the Avaloch (now Apple Tree Inn) chipped in enough to keep them going for one more year.
Soviero focused on leveraging the success of the performance venue. He expanded the capacity to include loudspeakers to the lawn for crowds of 5,000-6,000. The repertoire still included jazz performers but moved more and more to popular folk
performers. The popularity of the venue lead to some neighborhood complaints about parking and noise but these issues were largely resolved and it remained a destination for young people.
However, by the ’70’s other venues had started to offer popular music (including Tanglewood – right next door).
The era of flower power was coming to an end and the ’70’s in the Berkshires, as well as many other areas, spelled the end of good manufacturing jobs.
Soviero went bankrupt in 1967 and the new owners opened shops, movie theatre and continuous live music as well as marquee performers such as Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, the Kinks, and Tina Turner.
As the size and noise of the crowds grew, neighborhood complaints grew. Locals claimed audiences were as large as 15,000.
Matters came to a head at an Allman Brothers concert in 1979. Concert goers stormed the gate and were clubbed by security forces . By the end of the ’70’s the youthful charm of the Music Inn had pretty well ended. It remains a fond memory for many Berkshire County residents.
Stephanie and Philip had continued to run Wheatleigh as an inn. They separated in 1972. Eventually the mansion was sold, significantly upgraded and now operates as a luxury hotel and restaurant. The outbuildings that had been the scene of so much music and magic became the White Pines condominiums.