Transitional in style between the Queen Anne/Shingle style and the Colonial Revival, the house at 120 Main Street in Lenox was built in 1884 by John M. Cook, a farmer and manager for E.J. Woolsey. He sold the house in 1886 and it became known as “The Willows,” a property rented out to summer visitors. In 1905 it was purchased by Father William F. Grace and in 1912 became the rectory for St. Ann Catholic Church. Later in the twentieth century, the house was sold and is now home to Roche Funeral Home.
Associated early on with the Cook family, the Elijah Northrup House in Lenox was built around 1790, when it was a tavern and farmhouse. Richard Sands Tucker of Brooklyn, NY purchased the house in 1866 and his widow later sold it to Henry Sedgwick. His son, Manton R. Sedgwick, sold the house to Caroline Katherine Carey, who purchased the property in 1928 so it could serve as the Lenox branch of the Berkshire County Home for Aged Women. In more recent years the house, located at 114 Main Street, has served as offices, most recently for Winstanley Partners.
To be a graduate of Lenox Academy was not only a distinction, it was a passport to any college, and often to the sophomore class of a higher institution of learning. The papers of the day within a radius of a hundred miles refer to this preparatory school with glowing commendation. Its pupils came from widely separated portions of the country and the fame of its examinations, which were of unusual rigidity, attracted visitors from long distances, who repaired to their homes to spread the report of them. The tuition was very moderate, —$7 a term of fourteen weeks; and board reached the not exorbitant sum of “$1.25 to $1.50 per week in good families.” The tradition has survived that one pupil (long a distinguished educator and only lately deceased) ” lived like a dandy because he had rooms at the hotel, for which he paid $2 per week.” Lenox Academy flourished until 1866.
The building housed various schools until the 1920s and was saved from demolition in 1947 when the town took it over. It housed various public organizations and today it is the headquarters of the Lenox Historical Society, which operates the Museum of Lenox History.
Ventfort Hall, a Gilded Age mansion in Lenox, was built in 1891 by George Morgan and his wife, Sarah, the sister of J. Pierpont Morgan. The house was designed in the Elizabethan Revival style by the Boston architectural firm of Rotch & Tilden. The name of Venfort Hall is from vent fort, or “strong wind.” The house stands on the site once occupied by the Italianate villa owned by the Haggerty family. Annie Haggerty married Col. Robert Gould Shaw, who commanded the famous black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts, in the Civil War. After the Morgans died, the house passed through various renters and owners, eventually serving as a dormitory for Tanglewood students, a hotel, a summer ballet camp and housing for a religious community. In danger of being demolished, the Ventfort Hall Association (VHA) purchased the house in 1997, restoring it and opening it for tours and exhibits. The mansion appeared as the orphanage in the film The Cider House Rules (1998).
Edith Wharton‘s first book, The Decoration of Houses (1897), written with Ogden Codman, Jr., was very influential as a guide to interior design. The work was a reaction to the Victorian style of heavily curtained and cluttered rooms, instead emphasizing the style of the harmonious and simply proportioned classical rooms of Europe. The main house of Wharton‘s country estate in the Berkshires, called the Mount and located in Lenox, was built in 1902 and displays the principles she had advocated in her book. The house, designed by Wharton with assistance from Codman, was inspired by the seventeenth century English estate, Belton House, but the Mount‘s design also drew strongly on classical Italian and French architecture. The gardens and grounds were also designed by Wharton, with the kitchen garden and drive being designed by Wharton‘s niece, Beatrix Jones Farrand.
Wharton and her husband, Edward, lived in the Mount from 1902 to 1911. The house was later used as a girls’ dormitory for the Foxhollow School, and the site of Shakespeare & Company. In the 1980s, the property was bought by Edith Wharton Restoration, which has restored the grounds and much of the house. The house was opened to the public in 2001, but in 2008 the institution, which had spent millions to acquire the surviving half of Edith Wharton’s collection of books, defaulted on loans and faced foreclosure. Please help save the Mount by visiting and spending money there! There is an online video available of Bob Villa taking a tour of the Mount. Below are some pictures and descriptions of some of the rooms at the Mount and the gardens: Read More