Tag Archives: Holmwood

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

Margaret Emerson, Holmwood, and Ventfort Hall

On May 9, 2015, Cornelia (Nini) Gilder, co author of Houses of the Berkshires*, gave a great talk at Ventfort Hall about Margaret Emerson McKim Vanderbilt Baker Amory (1884-1960).

Local Connections

Nini Gilder Channeling Her Mother’s WWII Red Cross Service

In a clear case of six degrees of separation, Nini shared a photo of Margaret as a Red Cross Director at Hickam Field in Hawaii.  Nini had the photo because Margaret (now going by “Mrs. Emerson”) had been Nini’s mother’s boss during WWII.  In the spirit of that remarkable coincidence, Nini sported her mother’s natty Red Cross uniform for part of her talk (with a photo of Margaret in the background).

Margaret’s management experience came from supervising her 20+ servants, multiple households…. and lots of money.

Margaret Emerson as a Young Beauty

To Begin…Rich and Beautiful

We can only hope that someday Margaret’s colorful, old money life gets made into the movie it deserves.  Before marrying money, it helps to start beautiful and with a fortune of your own.  Margaret was heir to the Bromo-Seltzer (started in Baltimore by her father) fortune and married a wealthy Baltimore physician,  Dr. McKim.  She went to Reno to obtain a divorce, on the grounds of cruelty and failure to provide**, in 1910.  She wed fabulously wealthy AlfredVanderbiltAlfred Vanderbilt in London in 1911.  One source reported that Dr. McKim was on the verge of bringing an alienation of affections suit against Vanderbilt (whose first wife had divorced him claiming adultery) but was paid $200,000 by Margaret’s father to drop the suit**. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

Vanderbilt Hotel, Built 1913, 4 Park Avenue

A grandson of family patriarch, Commodore Vanderbilt, Alfred was a sportsman and coaching enthusiast but also made a few decent real estate deals such as the Vanderbilt Hotel. (It helps if your family’s holdings include a home on what would become Park Avenue and Grand Central.)




VisitorstoSagamoreIn 1901 Alfred had purchased a magnificent Adirondack Lodge at Sagamore Lake.  It would remain in Margaret’s family until 1954 and be the site for entertainment of notables such as Gary Cooper, Jerome Kern and General George Marshall.***

Alfred had two children, Alfred II (1912-1999) and and George III (1914-1961) with Margaret before sailing on the doomed Lusitania, in 1915,  for an the Annual Meeting of the Horse Breeder’s Association and to bring supplies to the Red Cross.   A gentleman to the end, Alfred allegedly perished after giving his life jacket to a woman who could not find hers.

The Widow Comes to Lenox

The widow would have been familiar with Lenox as a visitor to her husband’s cousin (Emily Vanderbilt Sloane – Elm Court) as well as other society cottagers.   Mrs. Sloane’s daughter (Lila Vanderbilt Sloane Field) was a good friend would become a neighbor having built High Lawn in 1909.   Shadowbrook,_Lenox,_MA So it is not surprising that Margaret chose, a month after her husband’s death to come to Lenox where she rented a modest summer place – Shadow Brook.  In 1916 she had to find new quarters as the property had been sold to Andrew Carnegie who could no longer, because of the war, go back and forth to his castle in Scotland.

From 1916 to 1917 she rented Ventfort Hall.  Nini had several pictures of the children enjoying the grounds including a birthday party photo that included Nini’s mother.

Erskine Park and Holmwood

Erskine Park_NEW
Erskine Park Which Was Razed to Make Room for Holmwood

Erskine Park had been built for George and Marguerite Westinghouse in 1890 and was, by 1911, surrounded by 600 landscaped acres.  Margaret bought the property on the condition that the elaborately decorated house be razed.

Holmwood (Later Foxhollow and More Recently Enlighten Next)
Holmwood (Later Foxhollow and More Recently Enlighten Next)

She went right to work to build a brand new Delano and Aldrich designed Colonial Revival home with a large music room and portico.  She particularly liked the fact that the grounds included space for croquet, tennis, and a gymnasium for the boys.  Nice pad for a few weeks a year (since the family also lived in Palm Beach, New York,  and the Great Sagamore).  Holmwood, named for a spot in England that was the site of a memorial to Alfred Vanderbilt, was sold to the Foxhollow School for Girls in 1939.

More Husbands and More Adventures

Margaret Wed Raymond Baker at Holmwood in June 1918

Margaret barely made it into Holmwood in time to marry husband #3, Raymond T. Baker (1875-1935).  In another “you can’t make this stuff up,”  she had met Baker in Reno when she was getting a divorce from husband #1.  One of the social columns** reported, before she married Alfred, that “Mrs. McKim created quite a stir in San Francisco on one occasion when she departed for the orient, waving kisses to Ray Baker, the novelist and clubman, when the steamer left the dock.”  They had a daughter, Gloria (1920-1975).

Ever the Sportswoman, Margaret (Left) at Saratoga
Ever the Sportswoman, Margaret (Left) at Saratoga

They divorced in October 1928.  Not one to let the grass grow under her feet, Margaret married husband #4, Charles Minot Amory (he was from Boston – they had met in Palm Beach) in November 1928.  They divorced several years later.




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

**San Francisco Call, Volume 112, Number 115, September 23, 1912, “New Vanderbilt Heir is Born, Stork Crowns Reno Divorce.”


Also Wikipedia on Alfred Vanderbilt