News item: Elm Court, the Sloane-Vanderbilt estate, built in 1886 on Old Stockbridge Rd. in Lenox, 55,000 sq. ft. on 44 acres, the largest shingle style residence in the country, was sold by its 4th generation owners to developers in Colorado for a little less than ten million dollars. (See Bob Villa video about fixing-up Elm Court.) With that transaction, the Berkshire Cottage era has come to an end. Speaking of rapacious developers, the best of the lot today would be hard-pressed to match the me-my-mine meme that was the defining characteristic of the bluestockings who inspired Mark Twain to coin the “Gilded Age,” whence the Berkshire cottage had its day in the sun.
Lenox and Stockbridge Gilded Age mansions
Some of America’s wealthiest families built mansions in and around Lenox and Stockbridge during the Gilded Age, which came to be known as Berkshire cottages. One hundred fifty years later, some of them remain standing, if re-purposed, such as Bellefontaine, current site of Canyon Ranch, and Belvoir Terrace, now a summer camp for girls. Only one remains in the hands of its original family, Elm Court, recently reclaimed by the Vanderbilt family and now available for private functions and overnight accommodations.
Shadowbrook – Kripalu Yoga Center
Shadowbrook was built in 1893 for Anson Phelps Stokes, with Frederick Law Olmsted designing the 900 acre estate. It was purchased in 1917 by Andrew Carnegie, who died there in 1919; in 1922 Carnegie’s widow sold the estate to the Society of Jesus who operated a Jesuit seminary there until it was destroyed by fire in 1956, killing four Jesuit priests. They built a new structure, which closed due to declining enrollments in 1970 and stood vacant until it was purchased in 1983 for the establishment of Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health.
Belvoir Terrace, currently a summer camp for girls, was built in 1888-1890 for Morris K. Jesup, the banker and philanthropist wh was a founder of the Y.M.C.A. Bellefontaine, current site of Canyon Ranch was built in 1897 for Giraud Foster. Hotel Aspinwall, built in 1902 by General Thomas H. Hubbard, burned to the ground in 1931. The site is now Kennedy Park. Ventfort Hall was built in 1893 for George and Sarah Morgan, sister of J. P. Morgan, to designs by architects Rotch & Tilden. The Mount, designed by and residence of Edith Wharton from 1902-11, is open today under the operation of the Edith Wharton Restoration.