Category Archives: Places

Lenox as a Resort – Kemble St. Cottages

Frelinghuysen Cottage

Frelinghuysen House (xx Kemble) - 1888
Frelinghuysen House (2 Kemble St.) – 1888

Frederick T. Frelinghuysen, who served as Secretary of State under Chester A. Arthur,  and his wife Martha Griswold Frelinghuysen built this house in 1888 (some sources say 1881)  The house, designed by Roth & Tilden, was handsomely furnished, and the

Frederick T. Freylingjuysen (1817-1885)
Frederick T. Freylingjuysen (1817-1885)

Frelinghuysen’s entertained lavishly, with former President Arthur among their many guests. Frederick Olmsted was consulted on the landscape.

Both the Griswold and Frelinghuysen families had distinguished histories with many past and present ties to Lenox.

The house was subsequently owned by Thatcher Adams, who renamed it “Sundrum House” R.J. Flick purchased the property in the early 1930’s and lived in it while his estate “Uplands”, was under construction. It was then sold to Mrs. Charles F. Bassett who gave the school to the Lenox School for Boys for use as a dormitory.  It is (2016) currently Kemble Inn.

The Hive/ Spring Lawn

"The Hive"
“The Hive”

Lenox is a great place to play the “what used to be here?” game on a grand scale.  Charles and Elizabeth Sedgwick purchased property on what is now Kemble Street and moved a house there.  They quickly expanded to “The Hive” to accommodate their growing family and many guest.

Spring Lawn (1904)
Spring Lawn (10 Kemble St.) -1904

It was replaced in 1903 when J.E. Alexander built Spring Lawn – still standing today; shown here from the same angle as “The Hive.” – not as usually seen from Kemble Street.

John Ernest Alexandre (1840-1910) was a wealthy shipping executive.  He,  his wife, Helen Lispenard Webb (1857-1929) and their daughters had been coming to Lenox for a decade and were renting the Frelinghuysen house next door when Spring Lawn was being built by Boston architect Guy Lowell.

The house was used by Lenox School for Boys and Shakespeare and Company.  When used by the Lenox School for Boys, it was known as Schermerhorn Hall.  It is currently (2016) slated to be part of a time share development.

Sunnycroft (Gone But Not Forgotten)

Sunnycroft - 1888
Sunnycroft – 1888

George Griswold Haven (1866-1925) built Sunnycroft in 1888 using John D. Johnson as architect and John Huss for landscaping.  In 1926 it became the first building used by the Lenox School for Boys and was known as Griswold Hall.  It was demolished in 1940 after St. Martin’s Hall was built.

George G. Haven seemingly had all the gilded age trappings:  two wives (Elizabeth Shaw Ingersoll, then Dorothy James), distinguished family ties, business in all the turn of the century favorite — coal, railroads and banking.  However, he had a nervous breakdown in 1924 and took his own life.

Clipston Grange

Clipston Grange (30 Kemble St.) - 1850 and 1894
Clipston Grange (30 Kemble St.) – 1850 and 1894

The paneled core of Clipston Grange is an old village house, which originally stood at the junction of Main and Cliffwood Street. George G. Haven, New York stockbroker, Lenox real estate

Clipston Grange as it Appears in 2016
Clipston Grange as it Appears in 2016

speculator and future next door neighbor to Clipston Grange moved the old house to Kemble Street in 1893. Frank and Florence Sturgis enlarged the house in 1894 in the colonial revival style adorning the roofline with a parapet, installing elegant bow windows in the dining room and study, and adding a new reception room at the south end. The architect is unknown.

F.K. Sturgis
F.K. Sturgis

A childless couple, the Sturgises were devoted to animals. Florence Sturgis’ family property is now the Bronx Zoo, and Sturgis was a founder of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He served a term as president of the New York Stock Exchange, and on the building committee of Madison Square Garden, on the boards of the Jockey Club and the New York Coaching Club. Florence Sturgis died in 1922, four years later Sturgis left Clipston Grange to the Lenox School for Boys, which was at the time based in Sunnycroft next door to Clipston Grange.

Currently (2016) the property is a private home.

The Perch/ Winter Palace

The Perch(1849) - Fanny Kemble
The Perch (1849) – Fanny Kemble
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The Perch
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The Perch

Fannie Kemble (Butler), actress and all round character, is mentioned by just about everyone who swarmed to mid 19th century Lenox.

She spent some time at The Curtis and various rentals but eventually carved out a place for herself across from what is now Canyon Ranch on Kemble Street.

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Young Frannie Kemble
Older Frannie Kemble
Older Frannie Kemble

It was razed and replaced in 1900 by “The Winter Palace.”

The Winter Palace - 1900
The Winter Palace – 1900

The owner, Courtlandt Field Bishop owned property from here through Old Stockbridge Road to Winden Hill–overlapping the current Bishop’s Estate Development.

Cortland Field Bishop
Cortland Field Bishop

His home, Ananda Hall was built in 1924 on Old Stockbridge Road and razed in 1940.


Postcard of Bellefontaine in all its Glory - Rear Entrance
Postcard of Bellefontaine in all its Glory – Rear Entrance

Bellefontaine was built in 1896-1898 for Giraud and Jean Foster. Giraud Foster (born in 1851) lived at Bellefontaine until his death in 1945 and could be considered to have watched over the sunset of Lenox’s Gilded Age.

Somewhat reconstituted after a fire, it is now Canyon Ranch (165 Kemble)

Bellefontaine and its inhabitants were extensively described in a recent lecture at Ventforet Hall by Richard Jackson, Jr.


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

Lenox as a Resort – Evolution of Beecher’s Hill

Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe
Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe

Henry Ward Beecher became minister of Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn (shown here with his equally famous sister Harriet Beecher Stowe) in 1847. He spent time in Lenox 1853-1857. A progressive active in the anti-slavery movement, he became part of the early Lenox intelligentsia.

His stopovers included visiting the Lenox Sedgwicks and preaching at Church on the Hill. He and his family stayed at a house they called Blossom Farm.

Blossom Farm
It was located on what is now Route 20/ Lee Road in an area called, for awhile, Beecher Hill.

In a great example of historical connect the dot, this property was part of a 75 acre plot sold in 1770 to Timothy Way and Samuel Jerome. Samuel Jerome is alleged to be an ancestor of Jenny Jerome, Churchill’s American mother who had come to Elizabeth Sedgwick’s school at the Hive.

In 1803 the hill was sold to Ezra Blossom — the gaoler of Lenox (jailer/sheriff). Blossom built a farmhouse, planted fruit trees, and named the property Blossom Hill.

Blossom Farm
Blossom Farm

In December 1814, Blossom’s advertisement for the sale of Blossom Hill included a description: “26 acres with a good orchard which makes about twenty barrels of cider annually…a house on the premises, nearly new and well-furnished, and a convenient barn and other out-buildings.”

In 1850 the property was sold to Charles Hotchkiss, Headmaster of the Lenox Academy.

In September, 1853, Hotchkiss sold Blossom Hill to  Beecher. Standing on the brow of his hill, Beecher wrote, “From here I see the very hills of heaven.” He claimed he could see “a range of sixty miles by the simple turn of the eye.”

In his day, Beecher was called one of the most famous men alive, but his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, would eclipse him.

Beecher was named correspondent in a divorce case – not a proper role for a clergyman – and his fortunes began to unravel. Before the scandal, the $4,500 to purchase Blossom Farm was raised by a grateful congregation and a grateful publisher.

From Blossom Farm to Wyndhurst I

General John F. Rathbone
General John F. Rathbone

After the scandal, Beecher lost his New York pulpit and was forced to sell the Lenox property. Beecher sold it to General John F. Rathbone for the tidy sum of $8,000.
The old farmhouse was moved to accommodate the first Wyndhurst in 1857. Although quite opulent by mid-century standards it was destined to be replaced.

The First Lyndhurst - 1857
The First Lyndhurst – 1857

In 1893 Lenox was dubbed “the Queen of resorts,” and Rathbone sold Wyndhurst to John Sloane for the amazing price of $50,000. Sloane retained the name Wyndhurst, but razed the house and Blossom Farm

J.D. Sloane was the brother of W. D. Sloane (Elm Court). Together they established WJ Sloane & Co. in New York City.

The Second Wyhdhurst - 1894 - Now Called Cranwell
The Second Wyhdhurst – 1894 – Now Called Cranwell

Sloane’s Wyndhurst met the new standard in Berkshire Cottages. It was a Tudor mansion built of Perth Amboy brick designed by Peabody and Stearns. The landscape architect was Frederick Law Olmsted.

There was a stable with 16 boxes, a poultry shelter, and cow barn. Milk and cream were shipped daily to the family in New York and produce was shipped three times a week. Everything necessary was on the estate to maintain the Gilded Age lifestyle including obligatory visit of President of the United States (McKinley) as a dinner guest in 1897.

Luxurious Coldbrook Neighbor

Coldbrook, begun in 1882
Coldbrook, begun in 1882 Became Joseph’s Hall as Part of the Jesuit Boy’s School 1939-1975

Meanwhile, at the back of the hill, another family had built their own enormous cottage. U.S. Naval Captain, John S. Barnes, Flag Officer of the North Atlantic Fleet during the Civil War, purchased the land for $10,000 in 1882 and erected Coldbrook. The railroad entrepreneur kept expanding the Peabody and Stearns original shingle style Queen Anne.

Pinecroft (Gone but not Forgotten)

Pinecroft -
Pinecroft -1865
Adeline Schermerhorn?
Adeline Schermerhorn?

Pinecroft is described as being adjacent to the Haggertys (Vent Fort) and later, across the street from Thistlewood.  It is identified as one of the properties combined with Coldbrook and Wyndhurst to form a hunt then golf club.  From that evidence, best guess is that it was roughly between the modern location of Schmerhorn Court and the Pinecroft development.

To picture the combined estates, you have to imagine a world without Route 20.

Unusual for Lenox at the time, it was brick and stood at least until 1890 since it is, as noted above, mentioned in the article sending up the construction of Thistlewood.

It was built for the recently widowed Adeline Schermerhorn.  She is particularly remembered in Lenox for purchasing the second courthouse (now out of use with the court having moved to Pittsfield) in 1872 for use as the town library.  One of her daughters, Ellen, married Richard Tylden Auchmuty.  They would go on to build The Dormers and play a very active role in the construction of the new Trinity church.


Highlawn (Maybe) – 1870’s?

The southeastern end of this cluster of “cottages” began its story with another adulterous clergyman.  Another celebrity preacher, Rev. Russell Salmon Cook (1811-1864).   In 1853 he purchased property in Lenox that included a ramshackle farm house.  In a dust up over money and the Reverend’s third (fourth?) marriage, he needed to abandon his property.

It was taken over by two New York brothers (one a bachelor, the other a widower), Francis and George Dorr.   They expanded the house and planted the grounds – including large specimen trees. Their property made up about half of the several hundred acres acquired by Robert Paterson for what would become Blantyre.

Blantyre - 1902
Blantyre – 1902

Robert Paterson was introduced to the Lenox area in the late 1890’s by his friend John Sloan (of W&J Sloane).

Paterson tore down the modest Dorr house, keeping the outbuildings and started  building a property on a grand scale,  He  told his architect, Robert Henderson Robertson. that he wanted a castle of “feudal architectural features,” replete with towers, turrets and gargoyles.

Mr. and Mrs. Paterson at Their Large Organ
Mr. and Mrs. Paterson at Their Large Organ

The house was modeled after his mother’s ancestral home in Blantyre, Scotland. Construction began in 1901, at times employing over 300 people on the grounds and buildings.

The main house was furnished in the English style with all the furniture being brought in from England. The family used the house for the summer and fall and there were garden parties with musicians imported from New York and grand dinner-dances with each party becoming more and more lavish.

Blantyre - 1902
Blantyre – 1902

In the 1920’s the property evolved with its neighbors Wyndhurst and Coldbrook.  Blantyre deteriorated considerably in the 1970’s.  In the 1980’s it was restored by the late Ann Fitzpatrick Brown and is now run as a luxury hotel.

Properties Rise and Fall Together

By 1928, the party was over. The Gilded Age was ended, and the cottages were relics of a bygone era. On the hill, an ambitious plan for aBerkshire Hunt and Country Club combined four former estates – Wyndhurst, Coldbrook, Pinecroft, and Blantyre. Woodson R. Oglesby, former New York Congressman, started buying the estates at foreclosures.

On August 10, 1929 there was a full page spread about the second season of the Club. On an adjacent page it was reported that a Williams College professor warned, “Unemployment is a problem in need of an immediate solution.” A column on the financial page predicted, “The Stock Market will rally after a minor dip.” The Market crashed on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, two months and 19 days later.

The country was in depression. For a moment it looked as if those Club members would be untouched and the Club would continue. By 1933 the Club was assaulted by lawsuits and swamped in debt. In 1939, the land on the hill was sold for (approximately) $9,000 in back taxes.

New Identities in the Twentieth Century

For that price, Edward Cranwell bought the hill with two Berkshire Cottages: Wyndhurst and Coldbrook. In 1939, he gave it to the Jesuits to use as a school. The Jesuits named the school in honor of the donor — Cranwell Preparatory School.

The school closed in 1975. Coldbrook and Cranwell (Wyndhurst) are now operated as a condominium and resort complex, Pinecroft has been demolished, and Blantyre is a luxury hotel.


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, Cornelia Brooke Gilder with Julia Conklin Peters, The History Press, 2008

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

Lenox as a Resort – Plunkett, Lee Road

The Mount

Photos of the Mount, Edith Wharton Restorations Photos by Kevin Sprague
Photos of the Mount, Edith Wharton Restorations
Photos by Kevin Sprague

Fortunately both the buildings and grounds of Edith Wharton’s 1902 masterpiece have been largely restored.

Edith Wharton6a00d8341c562c53ef01901cc296b9970b-250wi
Edith Wharton (1862-1937)


The Mount is notable for its lightness and modernity in comparison to the many brick, Elizabethan houses being built in Lenox at the time.  The Mount, on Plunkett Street, is open to the public.





Nowood/Shipton Court

Shipton Court - 1911
Shipton Court – 1911 (Lenox Library)

Just down the street, the former 1885 “cottage” of Robert Spencer, Nowood (no pictures found) was purchased in 1911 by Another highly pedigreed family.

Gen. Meredith Read – Portrait at Shipton Court (Lenox Library)

Emily Meredith Read Spencer was a descendent of William Bradford and her husband descended from one of Stockbridge’s founding families.  In true gilded age fashion, Emily imported staircases from England, doubled the size and renamed it Shipton Court.

Emily hesitated to build her own “cottage” because she was afraid she wouldn’t live long enough.  Forty at the time, she apparently (no dates found) lived well into the 20th century (Cleveland Armory, The Last Resort) and entertained distinguished guests such as Isadora Duncan with Emily’s pet piglet “Rosie” running through the parlor.

Today it is an inn named Seven Hills.

Erskine Park

ErskineparkBefore there was Erskine Park there was Larchmont (dated 1879?).   We have little information about Erskine Park’s predecessor but we know that George and Marguerite Westinghouse bought the Henry De Bois Schenck farm of 100 acres overlooking Laurel Lake at the Lenox-Lee line.  After adding 500

Margaret Emerson Vanderbilt
Margaret Emerson Vanderbilt

acres, landscaping and completing the elaborate Queen Anne shown above in 1893, the Westinghouses split their time between this house, a house outside of Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C.

After they died in 1914, their son George Westinghouse Jr. sold the property to Margaret Emerson Vanderbilt, the widow of Alfred G. Vanderbilt.

Foxhollow including some recent additions.
Fox hollow (Holmwood) including some recent additions.

She demolished the existing house and built a large Colonial Revival house designed by Delano and Aldrich in 1919.  She named it Holmwood and spent a few weeks a year there.  In 1939, it was purchased by the Foxhollow School for girls.  In 1942 the school also bought The Mount next door.  The school closed in 1976 and the property became a condominium complex and  resort.

High Lawn

Lila Vanderbilt Sloane Field in Her NY Apartment
Lila Vanderbilt Sloane Field in Her NY Apartment

Margaret Emerson’s friend Lila Vanderbilt Sloane (1877 – 1934) decided to build her cottage, High Lawn, next door.

Like so many gilded age estates, High Lawn replaced an existing set of buildings.

Hockey at High Lawn - Built 1909
Hockey at High Lawn – Built 1909

Already called High Lawn, the original farm had been substantially improved by local horse breeder Elizur Smith.

Lila was the daughter of the  Sloane’s of Elm Court, so she stayed close to home.  She chose a very different (and more contemporary for the early 20th century) formal design by Delano & Aldrich.

Lila’s  husband, William Broadhurst Osgood Field (1870-1948) was a mechanical engineer and bibliophile.  With Morris Kellogg, Field became a leader in design and construction for chemical process plants.

High Lawn Farm Buildings
High Lawn Farm Buildings

The home remains in private hands and the farm is run as a professional dairy operation.  Many of the fanciful farm buildings, largely designed by estate architects Burnett & Hopkins of New York, remain standing as well and can be easily seen from the road.


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

Church on the Hill Evolution of the Buildings

Started in 1805 and dedicated January 1806, the Church on the Hill remains one of the loveliest buildings in Lenox.  Information on the architecture and the nearby burying ground and early members have been described.  Here is some background on the evolution  of the its church buildings.

Required Meeting House

190px-Congregational_Church,_Lenox,_MAAt the time Richmond and Lenox were being formed, church and state were still closely aligned.  Citizens were taxed for support of the church and men had to be members of the church to vote.  A meeting house that was to function as both church and town meeting hall was a requirement for government approval of a town.  Because of the mountain range running down the middle of Lot#8, two locations were needed for meeting houses and by 1767 the lot was split into the two towns we know today.

The church was organized in 1769 by Rev. Samuel Hopkins of Great Barrington.   Land for the meeting house and nearby burying ground was donated by the heirs of Rev. Reynolds – one of the holders of the Ministers Grant that included much of current Lenox.

By 1770, Rev. Samuel Munson had been called to be minister and the original meeting house had been built slightly southwest of the site of the current church.  Rev. Samuel Shephard was called to minister to the church in 1795 and remained pastor until his death in 1846.

New Church in 1805

By 1803, town population had grown to 1,000 and the original meeting house had outlived its usefulness.  In fact  the old  meeting house’s condition and size  made congregants hesitant to hold services there.  A commitment was made at town meeting to construct a new church.

Much of the princely construction cost of almost $7,000 was paid by the sale of the box like pews (floor plan re-designed in 1840).  Sale of the pews brought in $6,811 and sale of the old meeting house brought in $205.51.

The contract for construction specified it was to be made conformable to the plan of a steeple laid down in plot No. 33 in ‘Benjamin’s Country Builders Assistant.”  The builder, Benjamin Goodrich is thought to have also played a role in the design.  Official documentation (Form B) attributes design to architect Captain Issac Daman.

Evolution of the Church Design

The original floorplan, as noted above, consisted of high sided box pews.  The circular pulpit was high so the preacher could see the worshippers.  No fires were allowed in the church so parishioners probably brought boxes of coals – foot warmers – into their pews.  During the winter the minister preached in a large blue overcoat and wore with a red bandanna around his neck and woolen mittens on his hands.  The long services broke at midday and parishioners went to nearby houses to warm themselves.

img_0424In 1840 the box pews were replaced with bench pews similar to those in use today.  The center alley was eliminated and replaced  by two large side aisles.  The pulpit and the gallery front were lowered and stoves were installed in the back of the main room.

New MA Constitution and the Church

In 1834 the new Massachusetts state constitution formalized separation of church and state by prohibiting town support for church operation or buildings.  This had no effect on the Church on the Hill building but did require relinquishing the acerage of the burying ground and all the land around the church except for the footprint of the building itself.

Churchyard Was Planted with a Row of Trees Given by 90 Year Old Eldad Post in 1870; in 1832 Mr. D. Williams Gave this Strip of Land to the Town That Was to Be Forever Kept Open to Preserve the Outlook from the Church.

In the early days there were few hymn books and it sounds like music was – to say the least – not a center piece of worship.  Use of the violin and flute was specifically criticized because they unpleasantly resembled the flute, harp, sackbut and dulcimer which accompanied the worship of Nebuchadnezzar.  By 1850, thinking on music had evolved and the rear gallery was resigned to house an instrument called a “Seraphim” to support the singers.  In 1850 the seats in the gallery in the porch were appropriated “for the use of those who assisted in singing”.  In 1868 the present organ was installed.

From “Buildings” by Rev. Harris B. Hinchcliffe in Church on the Hill History Gathered 1769-1970.

“In 1866, the floor plan of the meetinghouse as it presently exists was set up, and in 1880 a society of young women of the church financed a projection of the front wall of the building and installed the present platform and pulpit…….”

“…..In the late 1940’s and throughout the 1950’s the meetinghouse received rather continuous efforts of modernization.  Electricity was finally brought in, oil heating was installed so that for the  first time in many years services might be conducted at main church building throughout the winter.”

In the early days, worshippers were called to services by the beating of a drum.  A bell was installed at some point prior to 1838 when the Centennial History makes reference to a second bell being hung in the steeple (still in use as of 1906).

Fanny Kemble donated a clock in 1849 that was plagued with difficulty and was followed by the gift of a second clock by Morris K. Jesup  in 1899.

The first Bible gift recorded was from William Walker in 1818; another (still in use as of 1906) was donated by his son William P. Walker in 1852.  The baptismal font and tablets at the rear of the pulpit were placed in 1882 in memory of Sarah and Thomas Egleston.  The two pulpit lamps were given by Mrs. Robert E. Hill in the name of her husband Robert E. Hill, in memory of his grandfather Dr. Robert Worthington.

In 1896 Mrs. Mary Hill present a pulpit in memory of her mother Mrs. Jane Worthington Hill.

In 1864 Ammi Robbins donated the iron fence with stone posts.  His heirs gave the church society $1,000 the income of which was to be used to maintain the fence and the church grounds.  Needless to say that income didn’t last to the present day!  Fencing, church grounds and the cemetery owned by the Town of Lenox and maintained by the DPW

Church on the Hill Chapel

In response to the need for space for more social activities, the church authorized construction of a chapel in 1876. The official completion date (Form B)  is listed as 1877.

The site selected had been the location of the Lenox Library until the library moved to its current location in 1873 to what had been the second county courthouse on Main St.  The building on the site had been a wooden octagon building.  Foundation stones from the old library building were used in construction of the chapel

The Gothic Revival chapel was designed by J.F. Rathbone of Pittsfield and built by J.W. Cooney.  The original design had frescoed walls and a Gothic window facing the street.

It was used primarily as a meeting place until 1900. The chapel was re-designed, a dining room was added in the basement, the present entrance on the north side was added and a glass memorial window, in honor of Blanch F. Ferguson, was installed replacing the Gothic window.

Until the installation of oil heat in the main church in the 1950’s, winter services were held in the chapel.


The Chapel was severely damaged by fire in the mid 1930’s but insurance was sufficient to restore the chapel to its turn of the century appearance.

. In the 1950’s oil heat was installed at the Church on the Hill and services returned to that building.

A Church School held in the Chapel had increased its enrollment to the point that it overflowed the building by 1968. The interior of the Chapel was remodeled at this time to accommodate the school activities.  The chapel space was reduced so two classrooms and office space could be added.

Note:  Both the Church on the Hill and the Chapel are on the National Register.

Church on the Hill Parsonage

136 Main St., Congregational Church Parsonage
136 Main St., Congregational Church Parsonage

Rev. Hinchcliffe describes the various parsonages in The Church on the Hill History, Gathered 1769-1970.

“Dr. Samuel Shepard is reputed to have lived in a house on the old Bradford Tract, approximately across the Pittsfield Road to the east of the State Building on Routes 7-20.  This Pittsfield Road was not then so now, the main roads north being Cliffwood and East Streets.  Where the other early pastors lived is unknown.

During the pastorate of the Rev. E.K. Alden, a house was purchased for a parsonage. It was located just north of the present rectory of St. Ann’s Church on Main Street.  During the pastorate of the Rev. Edward Day, the parsonage having fallen into a dilapidated condition, plans were made and a committee was elected to build a new house and barn on the same site.  These were completed and Mr. Day occupied the new parsonage (which still stands*) for several years before he was dismissed in 1898.

The present* parsonage on Cliffwood Street was willed to the Church in 1919 by Mrs. Mary H. Barrett.  She was the granddaughter of Dr. Robert Worthington, a former deacon of the Church and staunch admirer of Dr. Shepard, who build and first occupied the house sometime between 1815 and 1820….”

*refers to 1970…the parsonage occupied by Mr. Day still stands (pictured above) as of 2016.



Form B

Centennial Anniversary of the Dedication of the Old Church on the Hill, Press of the Son, Pittsfield, MA 1908

The Church on the Hill, United Church of Christ, Lenox, Massachusetts, History, Gathered 1769-1970, 










Lenox Historic District

The Lenox Historic District was established in June 1975 by a vote at a special town meeting of 162 in favor, 20 opposed.  It was one of the first Historic Districts in the area.  In 1960 the state had passed legislation to encourage the formation of local historic districts (40C)

From what we can learn from existing documents and newspapers, the level of interest was high because the village had, since being re-zoned commercial, started to lose its unique character.  As early as the late ’60’s planning documents  identified keeping Lenox Village as a unique type of shopping area the best way to compete with ubiquitous strip malls and shopping areas.

The first report (town meeting 1976) of the Historic District Commission re-iterated its purpose:

“The By-law expects the Commission to be a watch-dog over the Historic District to prevent alteration or construction which, in its opinion will be out of keeping with the character and history of the Town.  It is the right, duty and purpose of the Commission to insure the Town and all its members against such violent change as would destroy or impair its character in any significant way.”

The town website provides guidelines on the process to be followed to get the approval of the Historic District Commission and suggestions of what changes will be considered consistent with the goals of the District.

Maps of the historic property and the list of properties follow.

(For larger versions see the Resources section.)

The town also has a Historical Commission which is charged with he Lenox Historical Commission was formed by the Select Board to preserve and protect the historical assets of Lenox; to record (through surveys) the historical assets of the Town; to assist any Town board when asked; to educate the citizens about their historical heritage through exhibits and lectures.  The Historic District is encouraged to turn to the Historical Commission for information on properties in the district.

The work of the Historical Commission has included surveys of the historic properties in town.  These surveys have been reproduced on this website (see “Places”).

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Negotiating Purchase of Lot 8

Lot 8 Put Up for Sale in 1762

Although the French and Indian Wars would not officially end until 1763,  things had turned sufficiently favorable for the English that, by June 1762, the Royal government  in Boston was anxious to get the wild new county of Berkshire settled.  In June 1762  the General Court put Lot #8 (which would later be split into Richmond and Lenox) up for sale.  It was not destined to be a smooth or easy process.

First Bidder Josiah Dean

A response came quickly from Josiah Dean* of Canaan (unfortunately the records currently available don’t say if that was Canaan, NY or CT.) bid 2350 pounds as of June 11, 1762 and paid a 20 pound bond to assure performance of all requirements. (A Josiah Dean of Canaan, NY went on to become a leader in the Revolutionary War.)

* With Asa Douglas, Timothy Holobeard, John Ashley, Ellijah Williams, Aaron Sheldon, and John Chadwick

Negotiations with the Indians

Meanwhile, the Indians complained that the 1000 pounds they had already received from the General Court did  not represent appropriate compensation for their property.  The General Court took the amount up first to 1500 pounds then to 1700 pounds.  Another 650 pounds was to be delivered on actually relinquishing the land.  The record is a bit unclear on this point, but the extra 650 may have been thrown in by Samuel Brown, Jr. to tip the deal in his direction.

Samuel Brown, Jr. of Stockbridge lead a bid (as agent for a group**) against the Dean bid and offered a bond of 650 pounds (not sure if same or different than the 650 referenced above) toward purchase as of Feb. 17, 1763.  Among other things, Samuel Brown, Jr. claimed his group had already paid the Indians for the property.  Samuel Brown, Jr. was the son of one of the English families allowed to settle in Stockbridge.  His father had been among the English of Stockbridge involved in one of many fast stepping land deals that reduced the Indian holdings.  Father and son had both occupied many town offices in Stockbridge and Samuel Brown, Jr. appears in numerous other land and proprietor records.

**Proprietors  as of first and second round of grants – the Brown Group (according to Colonial Registry of Deeds)

Daniel Allen, Moses Ashley, Jacob Bacon, Issac Brown, Jonathan Bull, Christopher Cartwright, Samuel Churchill, Titus Curtis, Israel Dewey, Israel Dewey, Jr., Solomon Glezen, Charles Goodrich, Samuel Goodrich, Eleanor Gunn, Jonathan Hough, Timothy Treat, Ashbel Treat, John Ingersoll, Daniel Jones, Elijah Jones, Josiah Jones, Josiah Jones, Jr., Joseph Lee, Edward Martindale, Elisha Martindale, Gershom Martindale, Stephen Nash, Stephen Nash, Jr. Moses Nash, Asa Noble, David Pixley, David Pixley, Jr. Abraham Root, Abel Rowe, Ezra Whittlesey

Samuel Brown Group Won Bidding for Lot 8

But the award of the bid to Brown may have been partly due to second thoughts on the part of the Dean group.  Perhaps after making the bid, Dean and some of his party came to Lot# 8 to check out their woody, hilly purchase and found another problem.  According to the report in the Registry of Deeds,

Asa Douglas of Canaan, agent of Josiah Dean, some of the grantees began improvement and brought action of trespass against the Indians for refusing to move.  ‘divers persons in possession of the township lying between Stockbridge and Pittsfield under a pretended title from the Stockbridge Indians and as the affair of their removal at this present time may be attended with difficulty and inasmuch as the said Josiah Dean hath agreed to release into the Province the sale of the said township.'”

Dean was given 2000 acres elsewhere – and got his 20 pound deposit back.

Lot 8 Split Into Mt. Ephraim and Yokuntown

On February 26, 1767, the proprietors of Mt. Ephraim and Yokuntown were given permission to split the town along the mountains that made it difficult to administer Lot 8 as one town.  The easterly part was given the name Lenox.  It was supposed to be “Lennox” in honor of the Duke of Richmond but somewhere along the line a spelling error became permanent and it has been Lenox ever since.

George Tucker Manuscript, History of Lenox

Colonial Records and Proprietary Plans, Berkshire Middle District Registry of Deeds

Lenox Massachusetts Shire Town, by David Wood, Published by the Town, 1969

Lenox Land Grants and Holdings Prior to Town Establishment

Lenox Land Grants

Many of the grants made prior to the formation of Berkshire County were in what would become Lenox.
Many of the grants made prior to the formation of Berkshire County were in what would become Lenox.

The land that would comprise Lenox and Richmond was auctioned as Lot 8 by the Royal Colony General Court in 1762. But, the land that was being auctioned for what would become Lenox was only about half the total acerage – the rest had already been bought or distributed as grants. The Indians believed themselves to be holders of most of the rest.  Here is a brief description of the situation at the time of the Lot 8 auction.

1.  The Ministers Grant (~4,000 acres)* –  

Mohegan Sachem Konkaput had given a Dutch interpreter quite a few acres of meadowland along the river in Stockbridge.  Then the interpreter fell into debt, and borrowed 100 pounds from John Sergeant (the Stockbridge Minister) with land as security. The Dutchman then sold,  for 450 pounds, to a group that offered to trade (finalized in 1741-1742) 280 acres of this land for 4,000 acres of woodland to the north east (Lenox).  The group consisted of: Ephraim Williams – 900 acres plus a 130 acre pond, Nehemiah Bull 700 acres; and the remainder to Stephen Williams, Samuel Hopkins, John Sergeant, Timothy Woodbridge, Jonathan Edwards (John Stoddard’s nephew) and Peter Reynolds.

In my opinion a group of pretty sharp operators.

By the time Lenox was officially established, a number of these grants had been passed to heirs.

2.  Grants from the Royal Colony in Recognition of Service to the State (~2500 Acres)

  • The Quincy Grant – In 1737 Edmund Quincy was appointed to a commission to resolve the Massachusetts border with New Hampshire and he traveled to London on this mission where he contracted smallpox and died.  In return for his service his family was, in 1739,  awarded 1,000 acres in what would become Lenox.
  • The Larrabee Grant – 500 acres in 1739 to Capt . John Larrabee for service and expense of managing Fort William (Boston Harbor.)  The grant comprises much of what would become Lenox Furnace/ Lenox Dale.
  • 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 Woodbridge Grant – In 1759, some of the Stockbridge Indians, lead by Jehoiakim Yokun,  granted Timothy Woodbridge 350 acres in gratitude for his services as schoolmaster.

3.  Indian Claims on the remaining land – estimate roughly 6,000-7,000 additional acres –   The King viewed all unclaimed land as his to dispense or sell, but the Royal Colony had accepted the appropriateness of  treating the land as a “purchase” from the Indians for the sake of peace.  Purchase is in quotes here because, in most cases, the purchase price was heavily discounted to ceremonial.  In the case of Lenox, the Indian land claims were actively defended.  Perhaps the Indians realized values were going up as the land was cleared and settled.  In the early days of the Stockbridge reservation (1739-1745) Jehoiakim Yokun and another Indian bought all the  unsold land between Stockbridge and Pittsfield from fellow tribesmen for 12 pounds. He and other principal families claimed  land throughout western Massachusetts (p. 52)* . It is not know This may be the man for whom “Yokuntown” (Lenox) was originally named.

The Indians had clearly learned a thing or two from their sharp dealing English allies since, by 1761,  it took three escalating offers, to get the Indians to sell the lands  they held in Lenox.

Net: The buyers of Lot 8 weren’t dealing with untouched territory.  Clarifying existing property lines, establishing titles  and dealing with households that may have settled without title would have been complicated and expensive.  It’s not completely clear whether these costs would have been bourne by the buyers (the proprietors) or the sellers (the Royal Colony government.)  Undoubtedly, as in modern real estate transactions, there would have been a need for individuals wit the contacts and expertise to work the government angle, the property law angle and negotiate with sellers ranging from Indians to competitive English landowners. Probably the successful fixers were well connected and good at skating on the edge of what would be considered ethical by modern standards.

*The Mohicans of Stockbridge, Patrick Frazier, University of Nebraska Press, 1992

Also see:

George Tucker Manuscript: A History of Lenox

Middle County Berkshire Registry of Deeds, Colonial Records

The Establishment of Berkshire County

Berkshire County was established in 1761 — almost a hundred years after Hamshire (later Hamden, Hampshire and Franklin) County to the East.  Why establish a new Massachusetts county at all?  Why so much later than the rest of the state?

Objectives of Settlement Included Defense ad Revenue

By 1761, the last of the French and Indian wars were winding down, but the English administration had no way of knowing they were going to end up controlling the northeast of what would become the United States.  So, settlement created an obstacle for potential continued raids by the French and their Indian allies.  It also led to road building and increased trade  On the flip side, the winding down of potential raids with the English capture of Quebec September 13, 1759, made settlement along the Hudson and the Housatonic more attractive.

At the time the county was founded, “official” towns were limited to upper and lower Housatonic, and Poontusuck. Although Poontusuck had been temporarily abandoned drinking the French and Indian War.

As we discussed in the history of Sheffield,  New York landholders claimed southwestern Massachusetts based on purchases 1685-1704 from the Indians called the Westenhook patent.  At one time, New York claimed their boundary ran to the Connecticut River.  As indicated by the map below, there was still, as of 1761,  controversy about the border remained.

Early Berkshire County Potential Townships
Early Berkshire County Potential Townships

Settlement, the royal Massachusetts government reasoned, would help establish the border.  In fact, the Massachusetts-New York border was not finally settled until a 1787 survey done by David Rittenhouse and Thomas Hutchins.

Many of the grants made prior to the formation of Berkshire County were in what would become Lenox.
Many of the grants made prior to the formation of Berkshire County were in what would become Lenox.

Detail of the early county map shows the land grants that had been given out prior to the establishment of Berkshire County.  Many of them fell into what would become Lenox.

Finally, settlement meant revenue for the commonwealth from land sales and income from settlers.  The Stamp Act was coming and the English were scrambling to pay for the French and Indian War.

The Wild West

Because of the fear of raids, the border disputes–and of course– the mountains Berkshire County remained largely unsettled. What would become Lenox had only a handful of families at the time.  In Beer’s History of Berkshire County (page 66)* a 1744 Berkshire County population of 500 is estimated.  We have not yet found a source for an estimate as of 1761 but 1,000 would be a reasonable guess based on the 1744 population. As shown below, settlement was still limited primarily to Sheffield and Stockbridge.  Poontoosuc (later Pittsfield) had been settled then temporarily abandoned during the last French and Indian War.

The other demarcations show grants made to individuals.  Many of them would be incorporated into what would later become Lenox.

Trails had only begun to be improved to be anything like roads.  Anything that wasn’t swamp or rock was dense original growth forest with only a few meadows along the rivers.*  The hearty initial settlers would have to have been good with an ax if they intended to farm.

The Governor Makes it Official

gov bernard_191
Sir Francis Bernard (1712-1777

Francis Bernard (Sir Francis Bernard, the title granted after his return to England) was the royal governor of Massachusetts from 1760-1768.

He had an interesting history including being awarded Mount Dessert Island (Maine was then part of Massachusetts at the time) for his service.  HIs service was an illustration of the close circle of patronage of Colonial posts in North America.  His neighbor in England, Thomas Pownall had been an earlier governor of Massachusetts and his wife was a cousin of Lord Barrington who became Privy Councilor in 1755.  Sir Francis had been governor of New Jersey 1758-1760.

The merit of his appointment can be questioned in retrospect.  His strict and harsh enforcement of the Navigation Acts, the Sugar Act and other revenue acts contributed to the Revolution.  He sought to have British troops stationed in Boston and was finally recalled in 1769 after publication of letters in which he criticized the Colonies.

One can imagine him being petitioned by the General Assembly and whatever the lobbyists of the time were to encourage settlement of the western part of the state.  Landowners and speculators, among others, would have been interested in improving the value of their holdings.

Berkshire County UKVirginiaWater_AerialView
Berkshire County, UK; Great Windsor Park

He named the new county for the county of his birth in England.  In 1974 the town of his birth,  Brightwell-cum- Sotwell became part of Oxfordshire.  In southeastern England, Berkshire is one of the oldest counties in England (thought to date from the 840’s) and is the home of Windsor Castle.


*History of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, with Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men, Vol. I,  edited by Mr. J.E.A. Smith, J.B. Beers & Co. New York, 1885



Bellefontaine Talk by Richard Jackson at Ventfort Hall

Richard Jackson Talk on Bellefontaine at Ventfort Hall April 11, 2015
Richard Jackson Talk on Bellefontaine at Ventfort Hall April 11, 2015

Bellefontaine was built in 1896-1898 for Giraud and Jean Foster.  Giraud Foster (born in 1851) lived at Bellefontaine until his death in 1945 and could be considered to have watched over the sunset of Lenox’s Gilded Age.




The estate was sold in 1946 and burned in 1949.  The fire destroyed most of the interior but the shell remained and the mansion was rebuilt.  It has taken on a new life as a key part of Canyon Ranch.

Bellefontaine after 1949 Fire
Bellefontaine after 1949 Fi



The talk included personal reminiscences from Giraud Foster’s granddaughter Jane.

Granddaughter Judy Foster and Great grandson Giraud Foster.
Granddaughter Jane Foster and Great Grandson Giraud Lorber at Ventfort Hall








Estate and Treasures Part of a Prototypical Gilded Age Life

Postcard of Bellefontaine in all its Glory - Rear Entrance
Postcard of Bellefontaine in all its Glory – Rear Entrance

Carrere & Hastings were the architects.

They designed the New York Public Library and the Newport home of Mrs. Foster’s sister, Anna Van Nest Gambrill.  In keeping with the recreational rhythm of the Gilded Age, the Fosters spent summers in Newport and Mrs. Gambrill (and others) spent fall in Lenox.  Of course there were trips in between to Palm Beach; Aiken, South Carolina; and the south of France.

The pillared rear entrance showed some obeisance to the Petit Trianon at Versailles and the interior was furnished in the manner of various Louis’s.

Grand Salons
Grand Salons
Dramatic Hallways
Dramatic Hallways











Venetian Glass and Other Bellefontaine Treasures on Display at Ventfort Hall
Venetian Glass and Other Bellefontaine Treasures on Display at Ventfort Hall

VH Talk on Bellefontaine-7





Fountains and Formal Gardens
Fountains and Formal Gardens







The landscape included statuary (most of which was subsequently destroyed by one of the religious orders that took over the building after Foster’s death), formal gardens and a large greenhouse complex.

Extensive Greenhouse Complex part of the Responsibility of Mr. Jenkins, the Superintendent
Extensive Greenhouse Complex part of the Responsibilities of Mr. Jenkins, the Superintendent.






A Life from Another Time

Although Giraud Foster’s fortune at the time Bellefontaine was constructed was attributed to coal, the Foster family had had a flourishing business in the clipper ship era (some of the tableware from China is in the Ventfort Hall exhibit). The Giraud name traced back to Huguenots who were among the earliest settlers of New York and Jean Van Nest Foster was from an old Dutch family with wealth and property of its own.

Jean Van Nest had suffered from rheumatic fever when she and Giraud met so they delayed marriage until he was 43, she 32.  The birth of their one child more than ten years later was a surprise.  The younger Giraud, known as “Boy” when young,  was Jane Foster’s father.   Jean predeceased Giraud in 1932.

One of the Famous Birthday Parties with the younger Giraud ("Boy") Standing Behind his Father
One of the Famous Birthday Parties with the younger Giraud (“Boy”) Standing Behind his Father

Giraud continued to live a life Downtown Abbey fans would appreciate as a horseman, regular attendee at Trinity Church, and head of the Lenox Club and Mahkeenac Boating Club.  He was an avid bridge player and was famed for his birthday parties.


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

Easter Fire on Lenox Main Street 1909

The Lenox Easter Fire

Lenox Main Street Before the 1909 Fire
Lenox Main Street Before the 1909 Fire

The Easter Fire on Lenox Main Street on April 11, 1909 changed the face of Lenox Main Street and cost six people their lives.

The area now occupied by the Village Shopping Center included, before the fire, the wooden buildings shown here.  They housed Clifford & Sons which stocked the turpentine, paints and oils thought to be the source of the fire.

The Mahanna Building Was Gutted but Rebuilt and is Now the Shops and Apartments of 74 Main

Fire Burned From Main to Church

The fire burned all the way back to Church St. and destroyed the Clifford building shown above, the Bull buildings and the residences of Joseph Gilbert, and Mrs. Rose Colbert and some smaller structures.

Looking Back Toward Main from Church Street
















Lives and Property Lost

Here’s an excerpt from the April 12 special to the New York Times:

Six persons were killed in the fire which almost wiped out the business section of Lenox early this morning. Four business blocks and two dwellings were destroyed. The property loss is estimated at $250,000, with insurance of $111,000. New Yorkers who were at the Curtis Hotel on an Easter visit helped persons driven from their homes.

The six persons who were killed were asleep in the Clifford Building, a three-story structure, when the fire started.

They were:

COOK, Miss ISABEL, 40 years old, a bookkeeper.

FRENCH, Miss ALICE, 41 years old, a bookkeeper.

SPARKS, Miss MARY, 26 years old, a school-teacher.

VENTRES, EDWARD S., 41 years old, an electrician; his wife, 35 years old,
and their daughter, Leslie, 12 years old.

Mrs. Catherine Root and her sons, George and Arthur, were badly burned in escaping from the building.

Explosion Causes the Fatalities.

The fire is supposed to have started from spontaneous combustion in the stock of James Clifford & Sons Company, hardware dealers. They had turpentine, paints, oils, and dynamite stored in the basement.

George Root, who lived in the upper story of the Clifford Block, was awakened shortly after 1 o’clock this morning by smoke that rolled into his room from a partly covered chimney hole. He called his brother and mother, and they ran down the front stairs in their night clothes, shouting to the other occupants of the upper floors as they went. They found the front door in flames, but the men wrenched it open and they dashed through.

The Roots had barely crossed the street before there was a traffic explosion in the building behind them, and in an instant the Clifford block was all aflame. This explosion was heard for a distance of six miles, shattered windows within a wide radius and caused the fire alarm to ring.

Horace Perrill and his wife, other occupants of the top floor, aroused by the shouts of the Roots, had got half way down the front stairs when they saw the flames leaping up to bar their exit. Three women were below them, trying to get out through the front door, but Perrill saw that the attempt was useless. He rushed his wife through a long corridor to the back stairs, and got out in safety.

All the other occupants of the Clifford Block lost their lives. While the fire was at its height a woman was seen to climb out of a flame filled room to a veranda on the second story with her night clothing and hair ablaze. Staggering to the railing, she leaped to the sidewalk, landing in a heap within a few feet of the blazing walls. Some of the onlookers tried to rush in to drag her out, but the intense heat drove them back, and it was hours later before the body, that of Miss Alice French, was recovered. The bodies of the other victims are probably in the cellar of the block, but they cannot be reached until some time to-morrow.

Within ten minutes of the explosion the flames were licking up the Eddy Building on the south. In this block the people had been almost hurled out of their beds by the explosion, and they lost no time in making their way to the street in their night clothes. The night air was cold, the temperature being about 20 above zero.

Lenox has only a small volunteer Fire Department, and until aid came from Pittsfield, Richmond, and Lee the flames spread rapidly. The Clifford, Eddy, Mahanna, and Bull buildings, the residences of Joseph Gilbert and Mrs. Rose Colbert, and some smaller structures were destroyed. Only a shift of the wind from northwest to southwest saved the Public Library and the Curtis Hotel. Seven of the large elm trees, which are the pride of the Lenox Main Street, were so badly damaged that they will have to be cut down.

New Yorkers Aid Victims.

Many prominent New York and Boston society people were at the Curtis Hotel over Easter. When the explosion was heard many of the hotel party thought that burglars were at work in the Lenox National Bank, across the street. The sudden glare and crackle of the flames, however, aroused them speedily and they hurried to the scene, where they at once took in charge the shivering people 20 degrees above zero, were watching the destruction of their property. The sufferers were taken to the hotel, where warm clothes and every care were given to them.

Among those who assisted in this work were Mrs. Frank K. Sturgis, Mrs. John E. Alexandre, Miss Helen Alexandre, Mrs. Lindsay Fairfax, and Mrs. William H. Bradford. At the Curtis Hotel to-night Mrs. Lindsay Fairfax headed a subscription paper to aid the sufferers and $2,600 was raised.

A proposition was made to-night to raise a fund of $10,000 among the New York Summer residents of Lenox for the fire sufferers. All the villa owners will be asked to subscribe to the fund. A committee will meet in New York to-morrow morning to take up the matter. Easter guests at Curtis Hotel may further assist by a benefit entertainment.

Valuable plans for work on the Robert W. Paterson place, the new Lenox High School, and other villas which the Cliffords had under way were burned, and nothing can be done until new plans have been prepared, and many men will be thrown out of work. It is expected that temporary buildings will be put up by storekeepers. Without these shops villa owners would be compelled to purchase in Pittsfield, Lee, and other towns.

Horses Saved

The South Side of Franklin Street was the Tillotson Livery Complex
The South Side of Franklin Street was the Tillotson Livery Complex

At the time, most of Franklin Street was taken up by the Tillotson livery complex.  The horses were released and ran for miles.  It took days to recapture them all.


Fire  Department Better Late than Never

New LaFrance Fire Truck the Next Year
New LaFrance Fire Truck the Next Year

There had been discussion of a Lenox Fire Department but nothing had been done.  After the fire a department was quickly formed and a Fire Truck purchased.