We have a coffee-table-sized book in our living room which gets the most wear of any other. Co-written by our friend, Nini Gilder, "Houses of the Berkshires" is well-researched and packed with rare photos never before assembled in a narrative about the impact the Gilded Age crowd and their architects had on the local countryside.
We bought the book the week it was published, but due to the limited market for it, it was soon out of print.
But thankfully, a revised edition has been created and is on sale at TheBookLoft.com. Until June 11th, it is 20% off.
I completely recommend this book as required reading for anyone who loves the Berkshires.
The Great Estates and the clusters of mansions that line the streets of Lenox, Stockbridge and Great Barrington represent the well-spring of all that is cultural about our area.
The Tanglewood estate became the summer home of the Boston Symphony. Cranwell, Wheatleigh, Blantyre, Canyon Ranch, Eastover and Kripalu's property are all estates that have become resorts and spas. The local Stanford White-designed gambling house became the Berkshire Theatre Festival. The critical mass of culture attracted Norman Rockwell, Sterling Clark and the founders of Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. Ventfort Hall, The Mount, Chesterwood and Naumkeag have become historic house tours and museums. Elm Court hosts high-end weddings. Belvoir Terrace is a presigious arts camp. This list could go on and on.
So...who built these houses and why? What did they look like in their day?
First step....buy the book. Second step, plan a trip to Hampton Terrace and let us help you see every house you can. Since 1999, we have had 15,000 couples stay at Hampton Terrace and I assure you, they do not spend their days here staring at the walls. We send people out to sightsee and we have prepared lists to help them plan their stay. Want your list?
Hampton Terrace is 6,000 square feet and some might call it impressive. If I had low self-esteem, however, I might be intimidated by our across-the-street, 28,000 square-foot neighbor, Ventfort Hall.
In 1893, J. P. Morgan's sister, Sarah, spent over $900,000 of her inheritance constructing her summer home. You and I are the beneficiaries of her vision.
Scheduled to be demolished in the mid 1990s, Ventfort Hall was saved and is under renovation, room by room. To this point, visitors have marveled at the architectural detailing and sheer audacity of its scale, but have had to imagine how the building might have served as a home. Except for a dining room table and sideboard on loan, Ventfort Hall has been mainly on display for a decade as a building, devoid of furnishings.
No longer. As of this Saturday, fourteen restored rooms and halls will feature the imaginations of local designers.
As in most designer showcases, these rooms won't attempt to make you feel like you have walked into 1893. They will try to paint a modern patina over a Jacobean Revival palate. I suspect some will succeed spectacularly...and some will fall short.
That is part of the thrill of this type artistic exercise.
The showcase will be open seven days per week until January 15, 2012. Times vary by day so check their website for details.
Roger St. Pierre, a free-lance UK writer, recently published an article in the Belfast Telegraph about a visit to Boston and the Berkshires. His review of his night at Hampton Terrace:
"Lenox is the place to stay in these parts. The site of Tanglewood – summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra – it’s the inland alternative to the Hamptons for the rich and famous yet is affordable and unpretentious.
I’d recommend the delightfully renovated 1897 Hampton Terrace, a welcoming and elegant B&B whose ebullient proprietor, Stan Rosen, is an entertaining former jazz impresario who counts many of that music’s greats among his personal friends. Style and service are both impeccable here."
About the jazz impresario part: Roger writes about a lot of topics, but he is very well known in music circles. He recently produced a six-part BBC radio series on American Music, but his first-person experience with British music dates back to the 60s, when he handled PR for the Jackson 5, James Brown, Bill Haley, Marvin Gaye and dozens of other iconic American acts touring the UK for the first time. He has written over 1000 album liner sleeves, and thousands of music articles for various magazines. He also has written two encyclopedias of music and the definitive biographies of many important musicians, including Jimi Hendrix, Bon Jovi and Madonna.
And, in 1969, he was co-promoter of the historic ‘Peace For Christmas’ concert, which headlined John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band – and outfit which included that night Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, George Harrison, Billy Preston, Alan White of Yes, Delaney & Bonnie, the Manfred Mann Band’s Klaus Voorman and, of course, Yoko.
So......those of you who know me......know that I was in some kind of personal heaven hosting this guy in my living room. We shared wine, swapped stories and dropped names for hours in front of the Hampton Terrace fireplace.
Most recently, Roger has shared his love of music with a passion for travel....having visited over 100 countries and more than 35 states. He edits UK's Holiday and Leisure World, and writes hundreds of travel guides and reviews throughout the world.
So imagine our excitement to have "made his cut!"
Anyone heard of Google Alerts? It is very easy to sign up for an e-mail "ping" every time a certain phrase pops up anywhere on the Internet.
Blogging and Facebook posting are ways I keep in touch with our guests, expose Hampton Terrace to new customers, and raise Google search engine awareness.
So to measure my effectiveness, I want to see every time Berkshire, Berkshires, Lenox or Hampton Terrace are used on the Internet in any context. I am looking for my "reach."
First...and let's get this out of the way: Kate Middleton is from the Berkshires UK (pronounced "Barkshers") so I have received SO MANY NOTICES about her and William....that if anyone confiscated my laptop they might think I am a Royal Wedding stalker.
Secondly, Warren Buffet, the billionaire owner of Berkshire Hathaway has been in the news a lot lately...or so it seems...based on the number of articles currently being posted about a scandal in his company. Most people are probably not noticing....but every mention of his name somewhere on the web pings my Blackberry. Very irritating.
Lenox: I learned that the power went out yesterday in the subways under the Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta, they are still making Lenox china, the Lenox hotel in Boston has specials, and the Lenox Hill section of Harlem has a lot of stuff going on.
Most interesting, however, is how many Hampton Terraces are out there. I knew there was a massive Hampton Terrace Resort on the Savannah River near Augusta, GA at the turn of the century. It burned down, and as far as I can tell, we are the only Hampton Terrace "lodging" establishment in the last 100 years in the world.
But there is a Hampton Terrace (street) in North Hampton, Mass., a Hampton Terrace subdivision in Libertyville, IL, a Hampton Terrace Neighborhood Association in Tampa.....and Hampton Terrace Bed and Breakfast in Lenox, MA, located in the Berkshires!
That is what I am looking for!
Kate and William Photo: John Stillwell/Getty
With the bad comes the good. By all accounts, this was the worst winter on record in the Berkshires...over 100 inches of snow and temperatures that averaged under 20 degrees for three months. That caused the snow to pile higher and higher, causing damage to pretty much everything: roofs, roads, shrubs...
Now the good: all of the melting snow and runoff has caused a saturation of the ground that is resulting in the greenest, thickest grass I have ever seen. Bare trees have exploded in foliage.
Yesterday, we took Susan fishing for Mother's Day. Yes, that is what she asked for....so we drove from Lenox down to Benedict Pond in South County. The vistas...the valleys, pastures and rolling mountains were so vivid that if someone had painted them in oil....you just would not accept it as real.
On a related note, the road to the top of Mount Greylock opens in a week, a chance to see all of Western Massachusetts in one sweeping panoramic vista.
See you soon.
I have always said come to our inn in June or September. The rates are still off-season, for most part, and almost everything is gearing up for the summer or still going full strength.
I have to admit...at the moment, I am in a place that is SO FAR from civilization that I have no cell service (Verizon..what happened?) and I am paying for internet by the minute using a card I purchased from the front desk of our hotel.
Yes, we are in Dominican Republic...and for those with Google maps in front of you...we are in the upper right corner, at the end of the Samana Peninsula. Hola!
We are neck deep in the third world for 10 days. Hola!
But this is our break....so onward soldiers, onward...
I know the importance of staying in touch with those who need to call or e-mail me, so thankfully I paid my credit cards down and my sister-in-law Lynn is running the inn and managed to unforward the inn phone from my cell to hers. So the calling part is handled. And I have some internet.
And I know how important it is to try to stay in touch with our guests and prospective guests via our blog.
So imagine my relief to find a link today that I can send you to which describes a LOT of good reasons to consider a June trip to Lenox, the Berkshires and Hampton Terrace.
Called BerkshireLinks.com, I highly recommend checking this list out. And then check our website for availability. Our pool will be open and our rates will stay below $200/night for every night in June except for June 17/18, June 24/25 and June 30.
A lot of guests who come to Hampton Terrace bring their bicycles, and others probably will once they read an article that I happened to find on-line.
Hancock Shaker Village: Soon after setting out on the 26 mile round trip from Lenox, a short climb over Lenox Mountain yields a panoramic view of Stockbridge Bowl and the craggy face of Monument Mountain. Spend a couple of hours at Hancock Shaker Village, with its wonderfully preserved shops, kitchen, barns and heritage garden cue sheet map
Stockbridge, Monterey and Tyringham: We start out past "Gilded Era" mansions in Lenox and through rural farmland on our way to popular Stockbridge. The ride continues along the edge of Beartown State Forest to tiny Monterey, then drops down to the Tyringham Valley. Have lunch in Lee before returning to the Apple Tree Inn along Undermountain Road, for a total of 45 miles. Cue sheet map
Alford and Stockbridge: We check out of our rooms at the Apple Tree Inn in the morning, but leave our cars here as we head out on a 35 mile ride through Stockbridge and past the Norman Rockwell Museum. After cycling along the rapids of the Housatonic river, we pass through tiny Alford and stop for lunch in West Stockbridge. We often take a break from the 2 mile moderate climb out of West Stockbridge for a walk through the Berkshire Botanical Garden. This ride is 35 miles. cue sheet map
This ride heads east to Becket MA, one of the Berkshire "hilltowns" with some steady climbing and a long descent to Pittsfield before returning to Lenox . cue shee
t map Housatonic River ride
Follow the course of the Housatonic River from Lee and Lenox to where it enters Connecticut, then back for a complete loop. cue sheet map Lenox-Williamstown
This long ride starts similarly to the shorter Hancock Shaker Village ride but continues past two large lakes through Pittsfield, Lanesborough and New Ashford before circling back after entering Williamstown. cue sheet map
We give all the credit to you, our guests...with extreme appreciation. Hampton Terrace has earned a 2010 TripAdvisor "Certificate of Excellence."
With over more than 300 reviews, you have made us #1 in Lenox for years...with a "satisfaction index" of 99.3 over the last 6 months and 98.8 over the last six quarters.
This is a full six points over the average score in Lenox....which many, including USA Today and BedandBreakfast.com consider the highest concentration of upscale inns in the country.
TripAdvisor is far-and-away the #1 source for evaluating lodging properties. 400,000 properties are listed with 45+ million reviews. Reviews are posted anonymously...and everything is accepted, unless fraud can be proven. It is the ultimate empowerment of the traveling public.
Google considers public-offered content...especially reviews...the most relevent social interaction possible. Therefore a MULTITUDE of travel-rating platforms have been created....but TripAdvisor has become the Facebook of this genre. At this point, there is such a critical mass at TripAdvisor that the race is over.
And the lodging industry fought it. Obviously. Transparency has changed the face of travel. No longer can someone renting out their spare bedroom pass themselves off as an inn. No longer can the flea-infested motel on the side of the road take your money without remorse, knowing that there are plenty of drop-ins after you. Now you....on your computer or on your phone..have the ability to see what percentage of guests before you posted "do not recommend."
Nowhere has this been most felt than the bed and breakfast industry. There are tens of thousands of b&bs and inns. You have expectations...and frankly until now...some of those properties had no way to fill them, and you had no recourse. Ask for your money back? Contact the local BBB?
Now your negative review is feared by every one of them who hopes to stay in business. Their options are to close, or upgrade. You win.
Several weeks ago I covered this subject in Romantic Getaways: Four Ways to Pick the Perfect Inn or B&B.
I also covered the subject of b&b stereotypes in Nailed It! Parks and Recreation's Take on B&Bs.
So, thanks again to you....our guests for your feedback, positive and negative. We ask for your opinions, and we do act on constructive comments.
Here's the deal. Yes, you can go to Fenway in Boston. There are no tickets left so you pay 3 times face from Ace Tickets or StubHub.
Now that the Red Sox have their 0 and 35 start behind them, nothing that they could throw at us could be worse, right?
That was on purpose, I know. For the typical Red Sox fan, the sky is always falling. Theo Epstein is thinking...let's start with the season in the toilet...that way.....if the season ends that way...no one feels like the rug was yanked (pardon sincerely the pun).
Back to my point. After all, I run an inn, not a sports column.
The Boston Red Sox are on television just about every night. NESN, channel 1849. Every one of our rooms has a tv. But that also is not my point. The Berkshires have numerous sports bar options, so stay at Hampton Terrace, watch the game at a local watering hole, and use our terrific breakfasts to cure the hangover.
If you want to walk...the Olde Heritage Tavern down the street from us has cheap beer, good bar food and plenty of televisions, which will all be turned to the game.
Five minutes north of us is Halpern's Pub and Grub, voted the Best in the Berkshires in the sports bar category, and five minutes south of us is Lee's Locker Room...a place where I have personally watched many football playoff games and Superbowls with my twin boys. Great Barrington has "The Well," and if you are really serious about this, I will help you research a list that could be 5 times longer.
I mention Yankees in the headline. While it is probably true that the typical sports bar in the area will NOT be showing the YES Network....this IS a great area in which to WATCH a Red Sox-Yankees game. Why? Because the Berkshires are pretty evenly split RED/BLUE.
We are literally ten minutes from the New York state line and Albany television is more pervasive than stations in Springfield or elsewhere. So there ARE a lot of Yankee fans here. I would say until the Red Sox recent run, it was 50/50. Now, it is probably more 60/40 Red Sox...but that does not mean the bars are any less fun during a game.
So on Red Sox-Yankee nights, you will find the bars full and the crowd mixed, making a raucous atmosphere probably unlikely either in Boston or New York where only a brain-damaged (or soon to be brain-damaged) fan would walk into a bar in the other team's garb.
Welcome to the Berkshires...where we can help you have a great sports bar experience and provide the bed you need afterwards.
James Taylor lives in Lenox. We see him in the coffee shop, grocery store line.... of course, every summer at Tanglewood for multiple shows.
Many of our guests know this and ask.... why here? Notwithstanding the fact that among his most famous lines...
Now the first of December was covered with snow
And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Though the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go
So why does he live here, in a town of less than 5,000? I ran across an interview with him in Berkshire Living Magazine. Rather than paraphrase...here is the link.
Taylor's wife, Kim, was marketing director for the Boston Symphony, and much of her job centered around promoting Tanglewood, down the street. She is from Albany, an hour away, and went to college in North Hampton, an hour the other direction...so landing in the Berkshires was natural for her.
And for James as well, having spent part of his 20s in Stockbridge. He met Kim at Tanglewood in 1993 at a John Williams conducted Pops concert. They married in 2001.
But the deciding factor was when they had twin boys in 2002. They started looking for a place to raise their sons...and after careful consideration, and a couple of false starts in other places, they landed in Lenox.
Tanglewood itself is the major beneficiary of this decision. James performs multiple shows every summer, with the majority of the cash flow remaining at the venue as a contribution. This has amounted to millions of dollars.
But going beyond Tanglewood....little known is the fact that Taylor jumped into action within days of the Haiti earthquake to do what he could to help.
He arranged a private show at the Mahaiwe Theater in Great Barrington (680 seats), and said he would match all ticket proceeds with a personal donation. WAMC Northeast Public Radio broadcast the show live to solicit call-in donations. When the show sold out quickly, Taylor added a second show the next night. Total donations collected: $600,000. From the concept of the idea...to the end of the second show...less than a week.
Welcome to the Berkshires...where there the quality of life never ceases to amaze. Come visit!
Photos by Stan Grossfield/Courtesy of the Boston Globe