Industry Comes to Lenox

Challenges of Early Industry in Lenox

The challenges of early rural industry are illustrated by the number of failed attempts to get a working operation going in Lenox Dale (then known as Lenox Furnace).

To review, John Larrabee had been granted 500 acres encompassing most of modern Lenox Dale in 1739.  Despite the potential for industrialization presented by the Housatonic River, wars (French and Indian and then the American Revolution) prohibited most economic activity.

The water power would have been of interest for wood planing, grain grinding, fulling or other long- standing mill technologies.  The water power to drive the fans and other devices need for creation of iron would have made the  even more appealing after a rich vein of iron ore was found running under Lenox, Richmond, and West Stockbridge.

Iron Industry Finally on its Feet 1788

Nonetheless, there clearly was a great challenge in accumulating the capital and expertise needed.  To illustrate, here’s a list the transactions (per the unpublished George Tucker manuscript) that took place before the iron manufacturing operation got on its feet – 1788 or so.

  • 1760 – Larrabee sells to Charles Goodrich of Pittsfield
  • 1774 – Map shows Larrabee grant divided between Samuel Northrup, Elijah Northrup, Thomas Landers, Elijah Gates, Thomas Gates, James Howland and Elisha Percival (not clear whether they owned or rented given entry below – or perhaps they didn’t own the river front??)
  • 1783 – First record of a “furnace” on this property
  • 1783 – Job Gilbert leased the “furnace” property for one year to Elisha Martingale and Ephraim Hollister
    • Job Gilbert of Bristol, MA was described as someone who understood the iron ore business
  • 1783 – James Perry bought coal for the furnace; and took  to a portion of the iron ore under Bald Mountain (held by Lemuel Collins at the time)
  • 1786 – Clearly Gilbert was having difficulty holding on to enough capital to keep the iron works afloat and William Walker organized a group of 46 local subscribers to bail him out (some of whom would be repaid in hollow ware)
  • Lenox Furnace Early Industry
    William Walker

    1788 – Gilbert sold his interest in the iron works to William Walker; Walker partnered with Joseph Goodwin.

  • 1788 – Partnership divided:  Iron Works and Furnace to Goodwin, saw, oil, grist mill water rights and carding machine to Walker (apparently other small manufacturing investments had been made along with iron making capabilities).
  • 1813 – Walker sold his portion to his son (William P. Walker) and his daughter’s husband (Dr. Charles Worthington).

Iron making prospered mid 19th century – particular in meeting the demand for arms during the Civil War.  By 1877, coke, started to be mined in Pennsylvania – presenting a cheaper, hotter alternative to the charcoal used at Lenox Furnace.

However, in addition to the continued use of water power for the saw mill, another manufacturing venture, glass making, would make use of the water power starting in the 1850’s.



Glass Making in Lenox

Water Power Key to Glass Making

Lenox Furnace Early Industry Iron Works
Lenox Iron Works on the Housatonic River

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.

Blowing a Glass Cylinder

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.

Ruined Glass Works in Lenox Dale
Ruined Glass Works in Lenox Dale

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





St. Ann’s

St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Lenox

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.

St. Ann's Catholic Church Lenox
The Original St. Ann’s Completed in 1870

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

St. Vincent de Paul, Lenox Dale

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.

The Willows as of 1884
The Willows Was Added to St. Ann’s Property in 1907

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.

134 Main St., St. Ann's Rectory - c. 1880
134 Main St., St. Ann’s Rectory – c. 1880
132 Main St., St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church - 1911
132 Main St., St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church – 1911



Music Inn – The Lenox School of Jazz

The Gilded Age Repurposed for Jazz

One of the Outbuildings the Barbers Purchased
One of the Wheatleigh Outbuildings the Barbers Purchased

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.

Stephanie Barber at Music Inn
Stephanie Barber at Music Inn

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

Guests in the 1950's at Music Inn
Guests in the 1950’s at Music Inn
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Alan Lomax, Don Burley, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Annie Wright

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).

Stephanie, Alan Lomax and
Stephanie Barber, Alan Lomax and Don Burley

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.

Early Days at Music Inn
Early Days at Music Inn
Symposia with Marshall Sterns
Symposia with Marshall Sterns

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.


The Music Barn (A Tent Would be Added)
The Music Barn (A Tent/Awning Would be Added)

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.

Dizzie Gillespie and at the Music Barn
Dizzie Gillespie and Nelson Boyd at the Music Barn

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

Dave Brubeck at the Music Barn
Dave Brubeck at the Music Barn

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.

Stephanie and Philip Barber
Stephanie and Philip Barber

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?

The Kingston Trio at the Music Barn
The Kingston Trio at the Music Barn

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).

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Ella Fitzgerald at the Music Barn

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

A Lenox School of Jazz Student
A Lenox School of Jazz Student

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.

The Music Barn Crowds Spread to the Surrounding Hills and Grounds
The Music Inn Crowds Spread to the Surrounding Hills and Grounds

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 folkScreen Shot 2016-02-11 at 7.57.26 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 7.57.50 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 7.59.48 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 8.00.28 PM

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My Peeps

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 8.02.31 PMperformers.  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.


Music Inn Archives (web)

The Lenox School of Jazz, A Vital Chapter in the History of American Music and Race Relations,  by Jeremy Yudkin, Farshaw Publishing, 2006

Tanglewood Music Center History

Tanglewood History Begins at the Hanna Farm

Tanglewood Beginnings with Concert at Hanna Farm
The First Berkshire Music Festival Performance at Dan Hanna’s Farm in Stockbridge

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

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

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

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

Serge Koussevitzky and Holmwood

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

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

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

Music Festival Moves to Tanglewood

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

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

After The Famous Rain Storm Came the Shed

Rainstorm in 1937 led to construe lion of Shed at Tanglewood
Rain Drenches Concert Goers at Tanglewood August 1937

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tanglewood During the Second World War

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

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

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

Growth and Upgrades

Renamed the Serge Koussevitzky Shed
Renamed the Serge Koussevitzky Shed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seiji Ozawa Hall
Seiji Ozawa Hall

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

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


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

Tanglewood/Boston Symphony Orchestra website


Tanglewood Music Festival – People Who Made it Happen

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

Today the Tanglewood Music Festival attracts 350,000 visitors a year.  Although it is on the border with Stockbridge, it is a major contributor to the Lenox tourist industry as well as a great delight to those of us who live here.

In 1934 – a difficult time – the whole county chipped in to launch the predecessor of the Tanglewood Music Festival — the Berkshire Symphonic Festival.  They were inspired by a handful of determined people.

Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge (1864-1953)

Frederick Coolidge, Albert Coolidge and Elizabeth Coolidge - 1901
Frederick Coolidge, Albert Coolidge and Elizabeth Coolidge – 1901

In 1918, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge put her considerable funds and determination to work to produce the first Berkshire Chamber Music Festival at South Mountain,  just over the town line in Pittsfield.  She attracted renowned composers and performers.  The Berkshire’s reputation as a beautiful place to perform and listen to music had begun.  Clearly she had local cachet as the committee trying to get the Berkshire Symphony Music Festival going named her honorary president.

Henry Hadley (1871-1937)

Henry Hadley - (1871-1937)
Henry Hadley – (1871-1937)

Hadley was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, to a musical family and trained in Europe a  for what would become a successful career as a conductor and composer.  He conducted in Seattle, San Francisco in New York.   The symphony he had been conducting in New York ran into fundraising difficulty with the stock market crash, and he moved to other conducting work abroad.  It’s not clear when he visited the Berkshires but he had, for a number of years, a dream of putting on a classical summer music festival under the stars.  In spire of a cancer diagnosis in 1932, he decided to pursue his dream in the Berkshires. Fortunately he was directed to Stockbridge’s Gertrude Robinson Smith.

Henry not only worked with Gertrude and her committee to select the site but gathered 65 musicians from the New York Philharmonic and conducted the first concert at Hanna’s farm August 23, 1934 and again in 1935.  In 1935 he included performers from other orchestras and expanded the orchestra size to 85.

He remained involved in the success of the Festival’s remarkable first three years despite health problems but succumbed to cancer in 1937.

Gertrude Robinson Smith (1881 – 1963)

Gertrude Robinson Smith with Teddy and Joan Kennedy
Gertrude Robinson Smith with Teddy and Joan Kennedy

Gertrude Robinson Smith was born to a wealthy New York family.  Her father was a corporate lawyer and director of Allied Chemical. Her mother had been largely raised in Paris and Gertrude split her childhood between New York and Paris.  When World War I broke out, the family purchased a property in the Glendale section of Stockbridge (that would be on Rt. 183 as you pass Chesterwood) and started spending summers in the Berkshires.  Gertrude would go on to build (literally wearing a tool belt build) with her friend Miriam Oliver and some local help her own house on the property in the 1920’s.

During World War I, she and her friend, writer Edith Wharton, organized medical supplies for France, even traveling to the country in a blacked-out ship and flying over the front lines. Smith was made a chevalier of the French Legion of Honor for her efforts.  So the girl had some skills that set her up well to make the Berkshire Music Festival happen.

She had the magical combination of a cultured background, a CEO- like personality, money and connections….and beginning in 1934 she focused her considerable energy and skill on establishing a permanent summer music festival in the Berkshires.

She worked with Mrs. Owen Johnson (Stockbridge) and Mrs. William Fulton of Great Barrington to launch meetings across the Berkshires.  Everybody was to be involved.  They met with a representative for the festival in each of the 200 towns and planned choral training over the winter that all would be encourage to join.

Despite  difficult economic conditions, the ladies convinced local residents that this was worth the risk and should become a community enterprise.  Remarkably they pulled it off in three months for the first performance in August 1934.

After a particularly dreadful summer deluge in August 1937, she led the successful campaign to construct a permanent shelter – which would become the Koussevitsky Shed.

This video is great.  Gertrude Smith sounds just like Eleanor Roosevelt – Another Female Representative of the Greatest Generation

Serge Koussevitzky (1874 – 1951)

Eleanor Roosevelt and Serge Koussevitsky
Eleanor Roosevelt and Serge Koussevitzky

The Russian born composer and conductor would pick up the baton from Henry Hadley and expand both the program and the stature of the festival to the heights it enjoys today.

By 1936, Hadley’s health forced him to resign as conductor.  Encouraged by two successful years, the trustees sought an orchestra and conductor.

Sometimes its good to know people who know people (presumably) and the Berkshire trustees quickly worked out an agreement with the Boston Symphony trustees and George E. Judd, conductor and manager.

Leonard Bernstein, Serge Koussevitzky and Lukas Foss
Leonard Bernstein, Serge Koussevitzky and Lukas Foss

At the time Serge Koussevitzky, was the “hot” new conductor of the BSO, who had been wowing audiences and critics not just with his conducting, but also with his “aristocratic, European” bearing that simply bowled over the Boston Brahmins — so much so that the BSO advertised itself as “the aristocrat of American orchestras.”  (Interestingly, Koussevitzky was actually of humble Jewish origins which would become more a point of pride as Israel rose and anti-semitism declined.)

Koussevitzky at Serenak - The Beautiful Summer Residence Given to Koussevitzky and Named After His Two Wives
Koussevitzky at Serenak – The Beautiful Summer Residence Given to Koussevitzky and Named After His Two Wives

It would, over the long term, become obvious (he was BSO conductor from 1924 to 1949), that Tanglewood was a match made in heaven for both parties.  The success of the festival made Lenox/Stockbridge a tourist destination and allowed Koussevitzky to fulfill a dream of establishing a music institute that would foster new composition and train young artists.  Leonard Bernstein was among his many proteges.

Mrs. Gorham Brooks ((Hepburn) and Miss Mary Aspinwall Tappan

Now the Tanglewood Visitors Center - the Summer Home of the Tappans
Now the Tanglewood Visitors Center – the Summer Home of the Tappans – c. 1865
View of Stockbridge Bowl from Hawthorne St. Gate to Tanglewood

In 1936, the final piece of the Tanglewood Festival fell into place through a gift from Mrs. Rosamund Dixey  Brooks Hepburn (1887-1948) and Mary Aspinall Tappan (1851-1941).  They gave the Boston Symphony Orchestra their summer home, Tanglewood, including 200 magnificent acres overlooking the Stockbridge Bowl.

Mrs. Brooks (later Mrs. Hepburn) was the granddaughter of William Aspinallwall and Caroline Sturgis Tappan and Mary Aspinall Tappan was a daughter (Mrs. Brook Hepburn’s aunt).

Caroline Tappan at About Age 40
Caroline Tappan at About Age 40

The Tappan family spanned the 19th century history of Lenox as a resort and added a certain creative pixie dust to Tanglewood.  The grandmother/mother was Caroline Sturgis Aspinwall (1819-1888).  She was part of a Boston family that had made its fortune in the China trade.  She married William Aspinwall Tappan, son of noted abolitionist, Louis Tappan.

They first came to the Berkshires to visit their Boston friends, the Wards, and would rent High Wood before building their own home.  When they came to the Berkshires they were a locus point for intellectual conversation, drawing, and musical performances.

Drawing of Cottage Occupied by the Hawthorne's 1850-1851
Drawing of Cottage Occupied by the Hawthorne’s 1850-1851 — Now Part of the Tanglewood Grounds

Caroline Tappan was part of the literary renaissance sweeping the country in the early 19th century and was a contributor to the Dial and a friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Ellery Channing, Henry James, Henry David Thoreau.  Notably, this circle also included Nathaniel Hawthorne, to whom they let the little red cottage on the drive to High Wood 1850-1851.  It was Hawthorne who coined the name Tanglewood.


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

Hawthorne’s Lenox, The Tanglewood Circle,  by Cornelia Brooke Gilder with Julia Conklin Peters, The History Press 2008

Tanglewood/Boston Symphony Orchestra website


Before There Was a Tanglewood Music Festival

The First Berkshire Music Festival
The First Berkshire Music Festival

The summer of 1934 is celebrated as laying the groundwork Tanglewood (even though it was a different orchestra in a different place), but the story really begins earlier.  To get the full background we have to move to Pittsfield (after all Tanglewood is technically in Stockbridge so why not be liberal about town lines!)

Pittsfield Philanthropist Brings First Music Festival to the Berkshires in 1918

Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge was  born in 1864 in Chicago to a wealthy wholesale dealer.  She studied music and became very proficient.   However, it is likely, in her wealthy gilded age home, she would have been discouraged from taking her music too seriously.   In fact , she would go on to become a performer, composer, patron – and popularizer of chamber music in the United States.  The plaque honoring her at the South Mountain “Temple of Music,” dubs her “The Fairy Godmother of Chamber Music.”

Elizabeth Sprague (Coolidge) at 14
Elizabeth Sprague (Coolidge) at 14

On her European Grand Tour she was enthralled by the musical offerings and was taken by the charm of festivals such as the Salzburg Music Festival.

1913 John Singer Sargent Sketch of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge
1913 John Singer Sargent Sketch of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge

She married  Boston born physician Frederic Shurtleff Coolidge who left his Chicago practice and moved to Pittsfield for his health.  They had one child, Albert (who would accompany his mother’s piano performances on the viola).

Her husband died in 1915 and her parents shortly thereafter.    She inherited a considerable amount of money which she used to embark on a promotion of  chamber music, a mission she continued to carry out until her death at the age of 89 in Cambridge in 1953.   Although marked by tragedy, this change of circumstance must have helped Elizabeth liberate herself from the constraints of her Victorian upbringing.

South Mountain Road Site of the Berkshire Chamber Music Festival
South Mountain Road Site of the Berkshire Chamber Music Festival

In 1916, she agreed to subsidize Chicago Symphony Orchestra violinist Hugo Kortschak (1884–1957)  and his string quartet provided they would move to Pittsfield.

The Berkshire String Quartet—Coolidge’s “Berkshire Boys”—became the nucleus for her Berkshire Chamber Music Festivals. She built a summer colony for them, with a performance venue known as the Temple of Music, and established a composition award, the Berkshire Prize, for new The Berkshire Chamber Music Festival ran from 1918 to 1924 annually, and thereafter occurred at irregular intervals in 1928, 1934, and 1938. Along with standard chamber music literature, the Festival highlighted Coolidge-commissioned and prize-winning works from the associated Berkshire Chamber Music Competition. During its two decades, the Festival generated 1,284 new works, and attracted prominent composers and performers.

Laid Groundwork for Berkshire Symphonic Festival

When the much larger Berkshire Symphonic Festival got underway in the 1930’s, they must have recognized the credibility Mrs. Coolidge had established for the Berkshires.  They named her honorary president.

First Berkshire Symphonic Festival in 1934 Advertised in Lenox
First Berkshire Symphonic Festival in 1934 Advertised in Lenox

A spark for further development arrived in the form of Henry Hadley, a composer and conductor enchanted with the idea of an outdoor music performance under the clear starry skies of the Berkshires.  He was (fortunately) directed to Miss Gertrude Robinson Smith and Mrs. Owen Johnson of Stockbridge.  They, and Mrs. William Fulton of Great Barrington, managed to gain enough local support to pull off the first festival – in what must have been a very challenging time to take the risk of attracting sufficient patrons from New York and Boston.

Residents of Stockbridge, Lenox and Lee provided funds and labor for building stage benches and an acoustical shell with the help of Emergency Relief workers.

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

With the use of Dan Hanna’s horse ring, they, miraculously pulled it off.  Henry Hadley had trained and directed 65 members of the New York Symphony Orchestra who performed August 23, 25 and 26, 1934.

Seating had been constructed for 2,000 and the attendance for all three concerts was estimated at 5,000.


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



Lenox as a Resort – Main Street

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 1.22.00 PM
Cornell Inn as of 2016 – 203 Mian

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 4.17.57 PM Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 4.19.41 PMMacDonald Farm/ Twin Maples/ Cornell Inn

The Cornell house was built in 1888 by the Cornell family, having purchased the property from the MacDonalds, next door. For most of its existence the Cornell Inn has been a lodge, an inn, a bed & breakfast or a way house for weary travelers on the road from Albany to Boston. Eventually, when the last of the MacDonald family passed on, leaving no kin, the then-owners of The Cornell Inn purchased the MacDonald house (built in 1777) adding it to the inn.




The Aspinwall

Aspinall Hotel - 1902-1931
Aspinall Hotel – 1902-1931

In 1902 General Thomas H Hubbard built the elegant Aspinwall Hotel in what is now Kennedy Park (Woolsey Woods).  It had

Aspinall Guest House
Aspinall Guest House

spectacular views, luxurious rooms, guest houses, trails and important guests.  It burned suddenly in 1931.




Hillside/ Kuhn Harman House/The Hidden House/ Whistler’s Inn

Hidden House - 1870
Hidden House – 1870

Hillside was built by Mrs. Hartman (Grace) Kuhn of Boston in 1870, and used by her during the ‘season’.

Mrs. Hartman Kuhn (Grace Morris Cary)
Mrs. Hartman Kuhn (Grace Morris Cary)

Mrs. Kuhn, who also purchased Butternut Cottage, owned the entire lot along Main St. from Greenwood to the Kingsland House (at the junction of Main and Cliffwood Streets). By 1890 the house was being rented

5 Greenwood St., Hartman Kuhn House - 1870
5 Greenwood St., Hartman Kuhn House as It Appeared in 2014

to Mrs. Cruger of New York, and around 1911 it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Ross Whistler, who renamed it Hidden House. Mr. Whistler, who had made his fortune in railroads, was a nephew of the famous painter and brother of Joseph of Plumstead on Old Stockbridge Road.










Israel Dewey House/ Hubbard Tavern/ Dana Summer Home/ Birchwood Inn

Birchwood as It May Have Looked When the Dana's Summer Home - 1880's
Birchwood as It May Have Looked When the Dana’s Summer Home – 1880’s

The original portion of the structure (corner of Hubbard and Main) was the home of Israel Dewey, one of Lenox’s earliest settlers. Dewey, who established a home in the area by 1764, was one of the proprietors of Lenox and served in a number of public positions. Like many Berkshire householders, Dewey was licensed as an innkeeper. He left Lenox for Vermont in the early 1790’s, and after several changes in ownership the property was acquired by Zadock Hubbard in 1798. He enlarged the house and opened it as the Hubbard Tavern. In 1806 the building was sold to Azariah Egleston, a locally prominent man, and converted back to a private residence. The house was substantially enlarged and altered after Mary Loring bought it in 1868. In 1885 it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Richard S. Dana of New York and was remodeled for use as a summer home.  Currently it is operated as Birchwood Inn.

Eliza Williams House/ Butternut Cottage/ Garden Gables

Butternut Cottage - Kat Carey Era -
Butternut Cottage – Pre Kate Carey Era – c. 1861

The original portion of this house was built by Susan and Eliza Williams on the site now occupied by 101 Main Street. Eliza Williams lived here until 1873 when the house was purchased by Mrs. Kuhn who had built “Hillside” around 1870. Eliza Williams may have continued to live in the house as a tenant,

Kate Carey - Horsewoman and Philanthropist
Kate Carey – Horsewoman and Philanthropist

as she is listed in the 1885 directory as having a house and lot on Main Street.

In 1905, the house was sold to Caroline Katherine Carey (Miss Kate Carey), who moved the front portion of the house to its present location, adding on an extensive wing containing servants’ quarters and a storeroom, and apparently remodeling the entire

135 Main St., Eliza Williams House - c. 1861
135 Main St., Former Eliza Williams House Now Garden Gables

house. Miss Carey used part of the first floor servants’ wing as a carpentry shop, where she built doll and bird houses. Upon her death in 1945, the property was deeded to Trinity Church, who in turn sold it to Joseph Reynolds. In 1951, it was sold again,  renamed Garden Gables and opened it as an Inn and gift shop.

The Congregational Parsonage

136 Main St., Congregational Church Parsonage
136 Main St., Congregational Church Parsonage – c. 1895

This charming Queen Anne style home stands on the site of the original Congregational parsonage, a brick building dating from 1852. By the 1890’s it had fallen into disrepair and the congregation elected to build a new house on the same site.  It is included in this description of Lenox as a Gilded Age resort only because it reflects the way the prosperity of the time spread out to effect the lifestyle of even the humble Congregational minister.  According to a turn-of-the-century magazine article, “Few Congregational Churches in Massachusetts have so fine a home for their ministers”.

This house was used as a parsonage until 1925, when the Congregational Church was given the Worthington House on Cliffwood Street which became the home of the minister.

Sunnyholm/ Sunnyhome

33 Main St., Andrew Thompson House - c. 1870
33 Main St., Andrew Thompson House – c. 1870

Andrew Thompson purchased this lot in 1836, and built this house. In 1850 Horatio Sears purchased the property and resided in the house until his death in 1861.  It changed hands several times.  When it was purchased in 1872 by Andrew and Harriet Servin it was completely remodeled.   Around 1900 it was purchased by B.K. Stevens, who named in Sunnyhome (also “Sunnyholm”).   It has been, most recently, a therapeutic facility.

The Lanai

17 Main St., Electa Eddy House - c. 1883
17 Main St., Electa Eddy House/The Lanai – c. 1883

This house was built on the site of an earlier house demolished in the late 1870’s. The lot was purchased from the owner of that house, Lucy Cottrell by Electa Eddy in 1880. In 1886, it was sold to John Egmont

J.E. Schermerhorn Home
J.E. Schermerhorn Home

Schermerhorn. Mr. Schermerhorn named the house “The Lanai”, perhaps referring to its original porches.    It is currently operated as the White House Inn.


The Curtis

The original temple front structure, which forms the core of the present building, was probably designed as a counterpart to the Second County Courthouse of 1816 (now the Lenox Library).

This corner has been the sight of an inn of some sort since at least 1773 when the tavern standing here served as a stop on the stagecoach route from Hudson, N.Y. to Pittsfield. Traffic in the town increased after Lenox was made the county seat in 1784.

From about 1793 the Berkshire Coffee House operated on this site, and became famous as the gathering spot for people conducting business at the county Courthouse (then located across the street on the present site of Town Hall).

1839 Print Showing the Red Inn (Curtis) Before the Mid-Century Additions
1839 Print Showing the Red Inn (Curtis) Before the Mid-Century Additions

In 1829 a brick hotel was built by Peck and Phelps, “at the urgent request and demand of persons attending the courts for increased and sufficient accommodations.”  For short time iw was rented to George W. Platner, and was then purchased by major S. Wilson. According to one mid-century guidebook “ the principal hotel – so situated as to command a favorable view, both of the village and distant scenery – has become, under the care of its efficient proprietor, M.S. Wilson, Esq., a favorite resort for visitors from the cities.”

William Curtis and the Mid-Century Hotel
William Curtis and the Mid-Century Hotel
View Showing the Late 19th Century Addition
View Showing the Late 19th Century Addition

The hotel was purchased by William O.Curtis in 1853, and has been known as the Curtis Hotel ever since. The Curtis family was responsible for much of the hotel’s ensuing success, and William O. Curtis and his son, William D. Curtis, were active members of the community. The loss of the County Court in 1868 had little impact on business at the Curtis, which by this time was catering to a growing number of seasonal visitors. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, and accelerating rapidly after the Civil War, a stream of visitors came from New York, Boston, and other cities to experience the healthful climate, take in the views from its veranda, and join in the social activities that took place there.

Reception Area - Curtis Hotel c. 1900
Reception Area – Curtis Hotel c. 1900

Many guests returned year after year: some, desiring more space and privacy than the hotel rooms afforded, rented houses on Main and Walker Streets, also owned by the Curtis’s. These became known as “Curtis Cottages” and their occupants as “cottagers”; this has been cited as the origin of the term “cottagers” to describe wealthy summer residents in Berkshire. By the final decade of the 19th Century the Curtis served as overflow housing for owners of large estates, or was used by the estate-owners themselves before and after the “season” when their homes were not fully staffed. The building was greatly enlarged in 1883 and again in 1898 to accommodate these patrons.

6 Main St., Curtis Hotel as It Looked in 2014
6 Main St., Curtis Hotel as It Looked in 2014

The Curtis family continued to operate the hotel through the 1930’s, but he decline of summer visitors to Lenox (brought about by the institution of the income tax and the stock market crash of 1929, which made the upkeep of a large estate nearly impossible; and the Depression of the 1930’s which restricted the traveling of most Americans) made the business difficult to keep up, and the building was sold after World War II. Although subsequent owners kept it operational as a marginally successful hotel, the building suffered from some neglect and deterioration. After failed attempts to revitalize the hotel by new owners in 1970 and 1976, the town of Lenox acquired the building in 1979 and converted it to use as housing for the elderly, with retail space on the first floor.

Celebrity guests included US President Chester Arthur, abolitionist Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, Sen. Charles Sumner, Gens. George McClellan & William T. Sherman, Newspaper Editor Horace Greeley, Kentucky politician Cassius M. Clay, Robber Baron “Big Jim” Fiske, business magnate John Jacob Astor, poet James Russell Lowell and Curtis’s longtime friend, British actress Frances Ann “Fanny” Kemble, who nicknamed the hotel “The Old Red Hen.”  Writers Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) and Herman Melville (1819-1891) said to have dined together in Curtis Hotel dining room, Nov 1851, possibly exchanging advance copies of their latest books, The Wonder Book and Moby Dick respectively

Lenox as a Resort – Town Life

From Little Women to Downton Abbey

In the 19th and early 20th century, Lenox evolved from farm community and county seat to a resort for the ultra wealthy.  In the early days visitors came for the fresh air and intellectual stimulation of some key families, writers and artists.  They built (by later standards) modest homes, often near town and often lived in Lenox most of the time.

Construction Workers at Shadow Brook
Construction Workers at Shadow Brook
Gardeners at Ventfort Hall
Gardeners at Ventfort Hall
Greenhouses at Ventfort Hall (Morgan Manor Today)
Greenhouses at Ventfort Hall (Morgan Manor Today)

As America moved into the post Civil War Gilded Age, Lenox moved from the atmosphere of Little Women to the atmosphere of “Downton Abbey.”  By the end of the 19th century, the visitors came to build and visit their lavish homes and grounds.  Further from town (partly to accommodate the 100’s of acres of grounds) and much, much bigger and grander (topping out – Shadow Brook – at 250 rooms), visitors came to hunt, golf and party–sometimes for just a couple of weeks a year (for instance, Margaret Emerson at Holmwood).

Parallel Town Development

Unproven but likely generalization:  at the beginning of the century the lives of ordinary Lenox residents were influenced by various local and national trends; by the end of the century, it was all about the estates.


  1. In the early part of the 19th century, the population mix was changing in concert with national trends.  The original families of Lenox were almost entirely descendants of The Great Migration (English Puritans).  Some descendants of those early families remained into the 20th century(Sedgwick, Egleston, Walker, Tucker, Rockwell), but others had started to move on to better opportunities in the west shortly after Revolution (Paterson).  At the same time, European revolutions and hardships were bringing in newcomers from Europe — particularly the Irish.
  2. In the early part of the century, Lenox residents were evolving from strictly agriculture employment to serving the courts, serving the wealthier families or trade.  In keeping with the rest of the northeast, employment was also moving into manufacturing (Lenox Furnace) – and particular to Lenox and Richmond – mining.  The new arrivals from Europe moved into many of these serving and manufacturing jobs.  Over time, they became managers and owners — of stables, of freight handling, etc.  New names began to emerge as families of importance in town:  O’Brien, Mahanna and others.
  3. By the end of the century, Lenox Furnace manufacturing had
    Sears and Cook with Their Wagon
    Sears and Cook with Their Wagon
    Picking up Arrivals at Lenox Station
    Picking up Arrivals at Lenox Station
    Lenox Town Band in Front of Peters Bike Shop
    Lenox Town Band in Front of Peters Bike Shop

    slowed and mining had ceased, but building had taken off.  In addition to the Mahannas, some new names (Peters, Clifford, Bull) moved from doing the work to investing in real estate and managing construction, freightage and other industries that supported their  fellow residents as well as the coming and goings of the estate families and their retinues.  After they were built, the estates employed hundreds to manage their houses and grounds.









Lenox as a Resort – Cottages to the North


Fernbrook - 1904
Fernbrook – 1904

Fernbrook was constructed in 1904 for Thomas Shields and Adelaide Knox Clarke. On West Mountain Road it stands today as Hillcrest School.





Valleyhead - 1902
Valleyhead – 1902

Valleyhead was built in 1902 for J. Frederick Schenck and Mary Louisa Stone Schenck.  It is described as adjoining Home Farm so must have been on   Reservoir Road above Undermountain Road.  After it passed out of the family it was a therapeutic facility for awhile.  It burned in 1987.

Home Farm

Home Farm - 1902
Home Farm – 1902

Rounding the curve from Cliffwood to Undermountain, there is a beautiful vista across Undermountain Farm.  Home Farm looks out over that vista.

George C. Harding built this home for Dr. Henry P. and Caroline Ware Jaques in 1902. It has also been known as Waterford and Highjack Farm.

It was described in David Woods’ Lenox Massachusetts Shire Town (1969) as adjoining the golf course.  Something has changed in the terrain since then.

It is still a private home.

Undermountain Farm, across the street, was built, in the 1870’s,  by Henri Braem (Stonover) as a model farm.

Pine Needles

Pine Needles - 1903
Pine Needles – 1903

Hidden deep in the forest off Undermountain Road,  Pine Needles was built by Winslow and Bigelow for George Baty Blake (1871-1928) and Margaret Hunnewell Blake (1878 – 1967).  Landscape architects Brett and Hall of Brookline laid out the curving driveway as well as the sit of the stable and walls.

To attend to George’s tuberculosis, the couple lived in the house year round.  The home is still privately owned.

Woodcliff – Gone But Not Forgotten

Woodcliff - 1854
Woodcliff – 1854

When William Aspinall built his gothic, porched house on a hill above Church on the Hill, it was out of the mold of the Wards, Sedgwicks, etc.  First, he was from New York (the Pacific Steamship Company) and second he built on a scenic but distant spot.  He arrived in town

Early Photo of the View From Woodcliff
Early Photo of the View From Woodcliff

with a retinue of six coachmen, 21 horses and an army of servants.  The large parties of guests often included Edward J. Woolsey who was married to William’s sister Emily.  William’s brother John was a business partner.  Between 1853 and 1860, the family accumulated 500 acres of the ridge.  In a preview of things to come as Kennedy Park, the Aspinwalls and Woolseys allowed townspeople to wander through the scenic woods.

The house faced north – looking at Mount Greylock; the opposite of the Aspinall Hotel which was to follow in the 20th century – facing the southern view over Parson’s Marsh.

The house is no longer standing.

The Dormers

The Dormers - c. 1868
The Dormers – c. 1868

Richard T. Auchmuty was a Civil War veteran and an architect.  In addition to designing his home in Lenox, The Dormers, he would become active in the

Richard Auchmuty
Richard Auchmuty
Ellen Schermerhorn
Ellen Schermerhorn

construction of the new Trinity Church.  His wife, Ellen Schermerhorn, daughter of the widow Caroline Schermerhorn had grown up at Pinecroft in Lenox.

The Dormers still stands above Route 20 north of town and is part of the Twelve Oaks condominium development.


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

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

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

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