We never want to take for granted that one of America's great mansions is located across the street from Hampton Terrace.
Ventfort Hall is MUCH more than a restored historic home. A very aggressive schedule of tours, performances, special events, teas, parties, lectures, etc. keeps visitors flowing twelve months a year. It is the ONLY "Berkshire Cottage" that attempts to stay open through the winter.
Buit as a summer home in 1893 by Sarah Morgan (sister of J.P.) and her husband, George (cousin and business partner with J.P), Ventfort Hall has 28 rooms, which includes 15 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms and 17 fireplaces. Sarah and J.P. each inherited large estates from their father, and Sarah spent most of hers on this home. As was the case with many of the great Berkshire estates, Ventfort Hall went through a half-century of alternate uses, including abandonment, until a local not-for-profit was created in 1994 to save the property. Over the subsequent years, millions have been raised and invested, primarily through the efforts of benefactor Tjasa Sprague, who can still be seen daily, overseeing projects in the mansion.
One of the interesting angles to note, is that Ventfort Hall is a work in progress. The deterioration was so severe in some areas, that quite a large investment had to be made in "things you do not see," such as the roof, exterior brickwork and foundations, code issues needed to allow occupancy, heating, remediation, etc. And utimately work has been finished on many of the grand interior spaces, such as the Grand Hall, staircase, dining room, parlors, studies and second floor bedrooms.
I am proud (Stan Rosen) to have been added to the Board in the early 2000s, and I was asked to Chair the first event held in Ventfort Hall in half a century. We had to wait until the Building Inspector approved an occupancy of 100, and we planned a party to reintroduce Ventfort Hall to the Lenox community.
We pretended we were George and Sarah Morgan, inviting our friends to see our new summer cottage in 1893. The entire evening was an authentic throwback, including the music played by the string quintet in the minstrel gallery, the food served both at the cocktail reception and at the seated dinner, the wines offered, the after-dinner entertainment and cigars... A wonderful evening, only surpassed by the "White Star Line Party" a year later. Another story, for sure.
Pardon the ramble down memory lane. Back to the present: Ventfort Hall is a MUST-SEE for those visiting the Berkshires and even worth a trip to the area - coupled with several nights at Hampton Terrace. As a matter of fact, mention you are visiting Hampon Terrace because of Ventfort Hall, and I am likely to offer you a discount.
We've often spoken of the embarrasment of riches that are The Berkshires. The Berkshire Theatre Group is a major spoke in the Berkshire wheel - a recent marriage of Berkshire Theatre Festival (established 1928) and the Colonial Theater (built in 1903).
BTF has been presenting Broadway level theater for 86 years, and has featured too many famous actors and actresses to name, in two historic buildings in Stockbridge. Add to this, the new opportunity to mount performances in the Gilded Age era Colonial - and you can see why so many people are excited when new seasons are announced. With the addition of the Colonial, Berkshire Theater Group can now program year-round.
But as demonstrated above, BTG does not stop with its own productions, hosting a variety of comedy, music, touring companies and the like to suit all tastes.
Tickets for all performances can be purchased at the Berkshire Theatre Group Website, or by calling
In this forum I have often mentioned the IS-183 annual costume "ball" as the best party of the year in the Berkshires. Start planning for the 2014 version: The Vermilion Cotillion on April 12th in Lenox.
This primary fundraiser for the area's not-for-profit art school, (children and adult art education) has grown into something whose reputation for insanity cannot be denied.
Susan and I were honored to be named last year's Chairs - and let me tell you how it works:
The party is full costume. Don't be intimidated because EVERYONE dresses up and no one feels overdressed or underdressed. A free, open bar halts anyone's concerns in that category. There are usually 400 to 500 people - and the party floats every year to a different, usually unconventional location. Last year's party was held in an undeveloped shopping center space. The year before that....an abandoned gym in the middle of nowhere. This year - a converted horse barn on one of the Berkshire great estates, Eastover.
The Berkshires are known for attracting "creative" types. Actors. Artists. Musicians. They LOVE this party and the planning committee involves literally many dozens of people. And THAT is why this party is SO crazy.
Last year, our original party theme started with the premise that there is a "Berkshire Energy Vortex" feeding local creativity. The "decorating committee" added the twist that such a vortex must somehow involve Flash Gordon-type 50s sci-fi props and costumes. And then others threw into the mish-mash an "Electric Swing" music theme - which is like Tommy Dorsey with a club beat. Picture a canvas where the paint brush is passed from person to person until there is no more room on the canvas. The IS-183 party.
THIS YEAR, the theme is Vermilion Cotillion, which means "RED." I cannot speculate beyond that for reasons listed above. The decorating committee meets weekly at this point and the team (which is drinking beer and eating pizza) goes whatever direction it wants until literally the final minute before the party. The location is Eastover, one of the original great estates in Lenox. The century-old horse barn, called "Tally Ho" has been hosting parties for many decades, but I dare say it won't see one like this again. The "dance party" portion (which includes open bar and a silent auction) begins at 8 pm and is only $50/person. This makes this fundraiser more "inclusive" than otherwise. But most patrons of the art school will start at 6 pm at $175/person, which includes a full, hosted dinner. Last year, the dinner was held at the location of the dance. This year, the dinners will be hosted by restaurants and private individuals all over the Berkshires.
We TOTALLY endorse this event as a "must do" if you want to get a real sense of the Berkshires. Fun and unpretentious people. A great cause. For information, CLICK ON the IS-183 website, or call 413-298-5252, Ext. 100.
Located about one block from Hampton Terrace, Shakespeare & Company presents its 2014 Summer Season - celebrating the 450th birthday of The Bard.
Tickets are now on sale through their website, and special packages are also available for those who make it a goal to see as many of the summer's offerings as possible. We have plenty of guests who try to do that, but no one is more committed than Judy Newman, who has stayed here 56 nights since 2007. Originally referred by the Shakespeare & Company box office, Judy waits until the S&Co. schedule is announced, and then locks in at least three visits per summer. Judy has been here so many times, we don't even check her in. She goes right to her room and we see her at breakfast.
Although Judy tends to come on weekends, most of our Shakepeare and Company guests like to come midweek, when they can save up to $70/night at Hampton Terrace, compared to the weekend rates. We also do not have a midweek minimum, which helps those who cannot stay three nights on the weekends. This is also true for our guests who are interested in Jacob's Pillow, Williamstown Theater Festival, Berkshire Theater Festival and Barrington Stage Company.
But don't think you are limited to Shakespeare at S&Co. This talented group of actors can do anything - and they also tackle mysteries, romances, comedies - virtually no limit to their range. And they have been known to relocate Shakespeare's most iconic works to a different time and space. After all, where did West Side Story come from?
And here at Hampton Terrace, we are very proud to have hosted many of Shakespeare & Company's most beloved actors: John Douglas Thompson, Malcolm Ingram, Johnny Lee Davenport, Olympia Dukakis, and more.
Additionally, Hampton Terrace has twice hosted actors and the production team for "Broadway in the Berkshires," a bi-annual fundraiser for the Shakespeare and Company educational activities. And we have also twice hosted the after-party, which in 2013 featured an impromptu sing-a-long with Academy Award-winning composer, Alan Menken.
Founded by Tina Packer more than 30 years ago, Shakespeare & Company has reached iconic status in Lenox, home of the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood. How proud we are to have such an important attraction literally walking distance from our inn.
Shakespeare & Company programs all year round, but concentrates its most expansive productions during the June through October "season." During this period, at least four different productions are rotating simultaneously. And then the entire calendar changes over several more times.
From November through Spring, the company presents other interesting shows - usually not Shakespeare. They are committed to helping the Berkshires build and sustain a twelve-month tourist season.
Lisa G. found us through a Living Social coupon a couple of years ago. Since then, she has been back twice with her husband and twice with her mother. Proof enough that she likes it here.
But last week, Lisa resigned from a high profile and high stress job in Connecticut, and she called over this past weekend to see if she could stay at Hampton Terrace for three nights this week. With her husband's blessing, she is enjoying some quiet time before tackling life's next challenge.
This morning at breakfast, Lisa was explaining to me why she considers Hampton Terrace such a respite. Firstly, she likes how she can park her car in our front driveway and leave it. A good thing, since last night it was buried under a foot of snow.... She walked a block to Nudel and had dinner at the kitchen counter, talking with Bjorn, the chef. Today, she said he plans to walk around town, maybe hike a little in Kennedy Park, and grab some lunch at Haven. Tonight, she says she will try Nudel again, since the menu will be different.
Secondly, she volunteered how comfortable she always feels here. She has been reading a book in front of the fireplace in the living room. She said she appreciated how much she feels at home, as opposed to how she would feel reading a book in a hotel lobby.
Finally, she remarked how good our housekeeping is. Convenient. Comfortable. Clean.
I should pay her for creating a new slogan for us.