Modern day visitors to the Berkshires follow in a tradition that was established at the end of the 19th Century, by Society players of the Northeast, who called this place home – at least during the summer!
Hampton Terrace is one of the “cottages” built by money industrialists and their social brethren in the post-Civil War era known as the Gilded Age. Dozens of these cottages, many of them quite opulent, and hardly what we would call a cottage these days, are still occupied or in-use. Hampton Terrace of course, is occupied as an inn – and has been since the 1930’s. Our property knows a longer history, however, as it was the site of Lenox’s first blacksmith shop.
Our neighbor, Ventfort Hall is occupied 7-days/week, year round, as a museum to the Gilded Age. Currently on display there, are the exquisite Gilded Age Fashions of the “Les Petites Dames Du Mode” (The Little Ladies of Fashion) exhibit. The exhibit features 59 “petites dames” or doll models sporting women’s fashions from 1855 to 1914. It is the culmination of 40 years of work, byt John R. Burbidge, designer and creator and retired Senior Designer for the famed bridal house of Priscilla of Boston. The fashions will evoke a sense memory that you didn’t even know you had – for the “feel” of the era.
Ventfort Hall was originally the residence of George Hale Morgan and Sarah Spencer Morgan. The Morgans, who moved into the house in the early 1890s, were well-known New Yorkers, and members of a prominent banking family. The fortune that Sarah inherited from her banker father funded the construction of her grand home. After the death of its original inhabitants, the property went through a series of incarnations including life as a rental property (to families with names like Vanderbilt), a summer ballet camp, and a small hotel, until it was rescued for preservation and life as a museum.
Another of our Gilded Age neighbors? The Mount. Edith Wharton’s Berkshires home. The Mount is a property that hosts a variety of types of event. If you book a wedding there and need lodging for guests, we couldn’t be closer. Other events include literary events, Wharton-centered lectures and presentations, a summer lecture series, private library tours…and the gardens, the gardens are an absolute must-see. This year, the estate is celebrating the 100th birthday of Edith Wharton’s novel “The Custom Of the Country”. It is a unique celebration – an online serial, to replicate the original manner of publication of the work, in installments. “In addition to Wharton’s delightful prose, we will include commentary from Wharton Scholars, Mount staff, and others giving context and definition to one of Wharton’s most debated works.” – The Mount Website
This former residence of John S. Barnes, and Susan Hayes Barnes, was built in 1882. Captain Barnes was a Civil War naval officer. Their grand home is another Lenox destination. Though the home began its life saddled with contentious energy bred between Captain Barnes and his builder (said builder alleged that the Captain was rather unpleasant to work with), it is now a piece of the tranquil Cranwell Resort, home to a most luxurious spa, resort, golf and fitness center.
This formerly grand 1894 Lenox residence is now but a ghost, replaced by a place for spirit and reflection. It began its life as a residence to Anson Phelps Stokes and his wife, Helen Louise Phelps Stokes. Anson Phelps Stokes was an investment banker and Anglophile. Even the naming of the family followed English aristocratic tradition, by giving each of the children both of the names, Phelps and Stokes, without a hyphen, for a rather stately result.
Though Mrs. Phelps Stokes put much of her own design authority into the decorating of the home, the family did not spend a long time is residence there – Mr. Phelps Stokes had injured a leg while horseback riding, and had that leg amputated. The amputation prevented him from enjoying his country estate as much as he would have liked and so the house eventually fell into new hands. The last private resident of the home was Andrew Carnegie. Upon his death it was sold to a Jesuit order, while called the structure home until it burned down in 1956. A new building was created by the order, and that building is now home to Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, a peaceful place to explore the mind-body connection.
CREATE YOUR OWN GILDED AGE TOUR
The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts website offers suggestions for an excellent, “Gilded Age”-themed tour experience of the Berkshires.
THE WINTHROP ESTATE
The Winthrop Estate, also located here in Lenox, MA is another property that may be of interest to those wishing to soak in the very feel of the Gilded Age. The Estate was originally a country retreat for the US Ambassador to Denmark, in 1875. However, its next residents were ones with an established history in the state of Massachusetts. Early Winthrop family history includes ancestor John Winthrop becoming the founding governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Robert Winthrop was the Winthrop to inhabit the Estate, along with his wife Kate (whose father was the first president of what is now known as CitiBank). Because it is not a museum or dedicated to an alternate use, visitors are able to tour and experience the home as a country home, as its original inhabitants did.
The Barrington Stage Company, just one of the excellent theater companies that call the Berkshires home, has announced their upcoming 2013 Season. This season’s shows explore ethnicity, race and life as only theater can: Up close, personal, and in the moment. The upcoming season will be a busy one. Here’s a few highlights of the upcoming season:
Chaim Potok’s The Chosen explores facets of Jewish life in New York City during World War II, through the friendship of two boys of very different Jewish households. After the July 23rd performance, the cast will be available during a free talk-back session with the audience following the performance. July 18th to August 3rd are the running dates for this show.
Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s Classic Comedies, of course. It is a battle of the sexes fought with witty and hilarious insults. This show, features a talk-back session as well, following the August 13th performance. Barrington Stage Company says “See why many call Much Ado the precursor to the screwball comedy.” This play runs from August 8th to August 25th.
Tony and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Clybourne Park is a comedic and smart play, “a provocative and wickedly funny play about race, real estate and American values” (Barrington Stage Company). Playwright Bruce Norris’s script crackles with honesty. The show runs from September 26th to October 13th.
Bashir Lazhar is the play that inspired the movie 2012 Oscar-nominated film Monsieir Lazhar. Canadian playwright Evelyne de la Cheneliere tells “the story of a French-Algerian political refugee who is hurriedly hired as the teacher at an elementary school in Montreal for a class of distressed students. His unorthodox teaching methods draw him into surprisingly explosive territory.” (Barrington Stage Company) The cast talk-back session for this show is Tuesday, May 28, after the 7:30pm performance.
New play fans will not want to miss the 10 x 10 New Play Festival. This is just one part of the larger 10 x 10 Upstreet Arts Festival that is now in its second year in Pittsfield (just a few minutes’ drive from Hampton Terrace). Theater, film, poetry, music, visual are and much more are celebrated during this festival – another do not miss event!
You can get more information about the upcoming season (including even more shows) and purchasing tickets at the Barrington Stage Company Website. Right now you can purchase season passes starting at $60 for Mainstage Passes and $224 for Combo Passes which allow you access to even more programming.
It’s impossible to experience the Berkshires without noticing the most defining geographic features: The mountain peaks that rise above it all. As winter thaws away and spring comes to roost, roads and trails leading to these majestic treasures will be ready to greet you soon. Time to read up, and plan your tours!
The 3,941 foot peak of Mt. Greylock is the tallest in the Berkshires. It is visible for 60 to 90 miles around, greeting visitors to the region with a quiet, but authoritative beauty. It is full of hikes, drives, and views that are part of what give the Berkshires their fame. It is such an icon, that it has its own gin: Greylock Gin, from Berkshire Mountain Distillers. Greylock Gin received a #1 rating from the New York Times.
Learn a little more about hiking Mt. Greylock, visiting Mt. Greylock, or driving Mt. Greylock.
Berlin Mountain is another prominent presence, with a peak at 2,818ft. It straddles the Western border of Massachusetts and the Eastern border of New York state. Beautiful views of the Hudson Valley await hikers. A variety of trails on the mountain are shared by bikers, hikers, skiers, snowmobilers. The views make the hike worthwhile.
At 2,621 feet, Brodie Mountain is another of our peaks, and just southwest of Mt. Greylock. Formerly a popular ski area, it is currently awaiting its next incarnation.
1,739 ft is the height for Monument Mountain. It is a 2.5-mile long quartzite ridgeline, located in Great Barrington and Stockbridge, and it features hiking trails.
Tekoa Mountain is another hiking possibility, a relatively friendly, though steep, hike, with a dramatic view as payoff at the end. At 1,121 ft, though not technically a mountain, it’s a nice day trip. Located in the towns of Russell and Montgomery.
Check out some off-season photos here. You may want to try the Tekoa Mountain Unkamits Path Trail or the Woronoco Ma Trail.
If hiking is your thing, you’ll also want to check out Berkshires Hiking. They provide online information about the Taconic Crest Trail (a prominent hiking trail through the Berkshires and along the NY border into VT).
The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts website also offers links to great leads on outdoor adventures of all kinds.
And as always, we are happy to point you in the direction of whatever resources you may need, when you a planning your Berkshires vacation. Just give us a call (1-800-203-0656)!
Darlingside are a home-grown treat for music fans. Based in Northhampton, MA, this string-rock quintet raises the bar for musicianship among their pop-rock peers, making music at the intersection of rock, classical, and folk music. The band just released their debut full-length album ‘Pilot Machines’ and are currently shaking rafters along the eastern seaboard with their vibrant live shows.
Pilot Machines, was recorded with producer Nathaniel Kunkel (Sting, Crosby/Nash, Maroon 5). Darlingside takes their audience on a meticulously-crafted journey into and back out of a song, a journey through layers of sound. Mandolin, cello, guitar, drums, a vibrating chorus of vocals and the songwriting efforts of each of five members make for a rich sonic experience.
April 13th they appear on home turf at Mass MoCA, always a hotbed of the up and coming.
Enjoy a sampling of their music at their website. Tickets for this hometown appearance are available at the Mass MoCA website.