Designed in 1893 by the Boston architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns, Wheatleigh is an early example of Renaissance Revival architecture which became popular for country estates in the early 20th century. The estate was constructed for Henry Harvey Cook, who purchased over 250-acres of forest and lawns overlooking Lake Maheenac for his summer “cottage”. Cook was a New York-based businessman who made his fortune in the railroad and banking businesses, and he wanted a summer house to escape to every year. He named his home “Wheatleigh” as an homage to his family’s ancestral home, Wheatley, Oxfordshire. The mansion is approached by a circular drive that terminates in a formal entrance court partially enclosed by a buff brick wall and evergreen trees, centered on an octagonal marble fountain decorated with a shell and leaf motif. Upon Cook’s death in 1905 Wheatleigh passed to his daughter, Georgie, the Countess de Heredia. Under her ownership the formal garden was opened for evening worshipping services and musical events. Following de Heredia’s death in 1946 the property was divided and changed hands numerous times. In 1976 the mansion and 22 acres were opened as a resort hotel, known as the estates historic name. The Wheatleigh remains one of the most esteemed luxury hotels in the country.
“Highwood”, was completed in 1845, and is likely credited to architect Richard M. Upjohn the son of Richard Upjohn Sr., who was known best for New York City’s Trinity Church, who was building a church for the Episcopal congregation in Stockbridge at the time. The home sits near Tanglewood, both since being absorbed into the Tanglewood Music Center campus today. The home was built for 27-year-old Samuel Gray Ward (1817-1907) an American poet, author, and minor member of the Transcendentalism movement. He was also a banker and a co-founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Among his circle of contemporaries were poets and writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller. He desired country living with his family and became a “gentleman farmer” while he wrote in his home, overlooking the large lake. The family lived here year-round until he was called back to Boston to assist his father in business ventures. In 1857, the Wards realized their time at Highwood had come to an end and sold the estate to another Boston couple, William Story Bullard and his wife, Louisa Norton Bullard who settled into their new home, which they were not afraid to alter, including the addition of a mansard roof. The home was occupied by the family 1960. The home was later acquired by John Mason Harding, a New York lawyer and his wife, Mary Riker Harding. Idyllic summers did not last long for the Hardings as in the late 1970s, Tanglewood and the BSO sponsored rock concerts began playing. Mr. Harding complained that he didn’t expect to have Woodstock in his backyard and brought suit against the BSO to limit the length and noise level of the concerts. The home was eventually purchased by the BSO in 1986.
The 200-acre campus of Tanglewood, where the Boston Symphony Orchestra spends its summer months, spreads the grounds of two historic summer cottages in the charming town of Stockbridge, MA. One of the summer “cottages” Tanglewood, where the music center gets its name, was constructed around 1865 for Caroline Sturgis Tappan, husband William Aspinwall Tappan and their two daughters, Ellen Sturgis Tappan and Mary Aspinwall Tappan. Mary, with her niece Rosamund Hepburn, donated the family summer home, Tanglewood in 1937 to Serge Koussevitzky, a Russian-born conductor, composer and music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949. The campus has since grown astronomically as it hosts musicians and tourists from all over the region and globally to experience the arts in the charming town in the Berkshires. The Tanglewood house retains much of its historic architecture and siting, overlooking the Stockbridge Bowl (lake).
The Mission House, erected by the Reverend John Sergeant in 1739 on Prospect Hill in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is an excellent and little-altered example of Georgian architecture as constructed on the New
England frontier. The home is a lasting remnant of early missionary efforts toward the local Mohican tribe. Reverend John Sergeant, the first missionary to the Housatonic Indians, moved to Stockbridge and preached to the native people here and at the Congregational Church. Sergeant and his wife Abigail moved to town, but she had made it clear that she wished to live on the hill, away from the village and the native people. Sergeant then built this home, a spacious and distinguished house for its frontier location. Though covered in part by a grant from the General Court, the cost of constructing such a house must have been a severe strain on Sergeant’s slender financial resources, as his salary at that time was 100 pounds per year. The home remained in the family until the 19th century. In 1928, long unoccupied and badly in need of repair, the house was purchased by Miss Mabel Choate, daughter of noted lawyer and former Ambassador to Great Britain, Joseph H. Choate. The house was taken down piece by piece, moved and reconstructed, on Main Street, in its current location. The Mission House was furnished with pieces appropriate to Sergeant’s economic status and his wife’s taste, many of them dating from the 1750’s or earlier. Since 1948, the home has been owned by the Trustees of Reservations.
The Stockbridge Casino was built in 1887-1888 according to the design of Stanford White, a principal architect of the firm McKim, Mead & White. The building was not what we think of casinos today, it was a ‘casino’ in the older sense of the term, having been established as a place for a reading-room, library, and social meetings, for the richest in town to hang out. For forty years, it offered its members tennis, billiards, dances, theatricals, and lectures throughout the summer seasons. After a period of decline after WWI, the group sold the property to Mabel Choate, who wished to move the Mission House (home of the first missionary to the Stockbridge Indians) from up on Prospect Hill to Main Street. There was reluctance to see the casino torn down, so a group of local citizens — led by Walter Leighton Clark, President of the Grand Central Art Galleries of New York; Austen Fox Riggs, psychiatrist; and Daniel Chester French, sculptor — acquired land at the end of Main Street and moved the Casino to its present site, saving it from the wrecking ball. The building was renovated and reopened in 1928 as the Berkshire Playhouse, and was later renamed the Fitzpatrick Main Stage, a theater run by the Berkshire Theatre Group.
Chesterwood is the former summer home, studio and gardens of American sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850–1931), who is best known for creating two of our nation’s most powerful symbols: the Minute Man (1871–75) at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, John Harvard in Harvard Yard, and Abraham Lincoln (1911–22) for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Daniel Chester French was one of the most successful artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, producing more than 100 works of public sculpture. In the fall of 1895, he and his wife drove by horse and buggy and discovered the resort town of Stockbridge. They returned the next summer and purchased the Marshall Warner farm from the family who had purchased the land from Mohican Native Americans. The French family and two maids moved into the white clapboard farmhouse the next summer. To ensure that his summer would be productive as well as restful, he improvised a studio in the barn. He asked his friend and colleague, architect Henry Bacon, to design a studio for him (Bacon would later work with French on the Lincoln Memorial). Soon, in spite of renovation, the original farmhouse was deemed inadequate and French commissioned Bacon to design a residence, completed in 1901. The family owned the home for decades, even after Daniel Chester French’s death. Much of the credit for Chesterwood’s preservation and metamorphosis from summer retreat to public site belongs to Margaret French Cresson (1889–1973), the sculptor’s daughter. After her parents’ death, she maintained the property and began to use it year-round, assembled the work of her father, and established the estate as a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Citizens Hall, which was built in 1870 in a small village within Stockbridge, MA, is a small-scale version of the civic buildings constructed in the Second Empire in American towns and cities following the Civil War. The building is the architectural epicenter of Curtisville (now sometimes referred to as Interlaken), a small community within the Town of Stockbridge, which grew up around twelve mills. The mills are gone but several significant structures remain, also retaining their rural character. Citizens Hall was designed by Charles T. Rathbun, and inside, the two rooms on the first floor housed the public school and the second floor was the community assembly hall. The building was threatened with deferred maintenance in the mid-20th century and its future was uncertain until 1975 when a local group worked with the State Historic Preservation Office and acquired a grant to make needed repairs on the building. Today, the structure is maintained and houses the Art School of Berkshire (now known as Interlaken School of Art). Look at that historically appropriate paint scheme!
The historic Stockbridge Railroad Station was built in 1893, replacing an original wooden structure, with funds partially furnished by the Laurel Hill Association, the nation’s first village improvement society. The society was instrumental in preserve the attractive character of Stockbridge, which appealed to many New Yorkers, who began to construct homes in the Berkshires as summer retreats. To welcome many visitors to the quaint town, a more appropriate train station was needed to replace the decrepit wooden station there previously. Architect Frank Waller designed the station, which was owned and used by the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad until the early 1960’s. Soon after the station was occupied by a small bar/club and a kitchen fire almost destroyed the building. Today, the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum has control of the historic structure and hopes to utilize the space for events and detailing the rich history of Stockbridge.
Located on the idyllic Main Street in Stockbridge, MA in the Berkshires, this stone church marks the emergence of the once sleepy town into a summer retreat for wealthy citizens, escaping the cities in the late 19th century. This building is Charles Follen McKim’s first church design, a building reflecting his early training in the office of H. H. Richardson with the use of Romanesque detailing, though with a hint of Norman design. St. Paul’s Church is constructed of gray Berkshire granite with stained glass windows by John La Farge. The church replaced an older wooden church building designed by Richard Upjohn in the Gothic Revival style. The church was almost entirely funded by Charles Butler, a New York lawyer who wanted to honor his late wife Susan Ridley Sedgwick Butler, a descendant of Theodore Sedgwick, whose home I featured not long ago.
The largest building on Main Street in Stockbridge has to be the Red Lion Inn, a regional institution and one of the best places to rest your head in New England. The inn got its start just before the Revolutionary War. According to tradition, Silas Pepoon established a small tavern on the corner of Main Street in 1773, under the sign of a red lion. A year later, angry citizens gathered at the tavern to boycott English goods and to pass resolutions protesting the oppressive Acts of Intolerance levied against the colonies. Since its earliest days, the inn was a vital gathering place for locals and has continued to play an important role in the life of the community ever since. In 1862, the inn was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Plumb, avid collectors of rare and fine items, who became renowned for their impressive compilation of colonial antiques. A fire in 1896 destroyed the building but its remarkable array of collectibles was saved and the inn was rebuilt within a year by designs from Harry E. Weeks, a Pittsfield-based architect.