Article updated March 17, 2020 by Dave Read
Lenox, MA is the hub of the Berkshires’ cultural industry. Dubbed “the inland Newport” in the 19th century, Lenox was the location of scores of mansions – the famous Berkshire cottages. With the passing of the Gilded Age, many of the estates were converted to other uses. The Highwood Estate now is part of Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Canyon Ranch, perennially rated the #1 spa in the US, is located at the former Bellfontaine, and the nationally prominent Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health occupies the property where Andrew Carnegie’s last residence, Shadowbrook, stood (destroyed by fire in 1956). The popular Shakespeare & Co. is located near the site where Fanny Kemble built her home in the mid-1800s.
how Lenox was settled
The founding of Lenox is described in the following excerpt from Rev. Clayton J. Potter’s “Historical Address” given at the Centennial Anniversary of the Dedication of the Old Church on the Hill, Lenox, Massachusetts, June 12, 1906.
“The Rev. Peter Reynolds of Somers, Conn., was one of seven men who had purchased from an inhabitant of Stockbridge who was an undesirable citizen, certain lands in that town, in order the community might be relieved of his further residence there. To compensate these men, the government gave them 4000 acres of uncleared land lying north of Stockbridge.
This tract covered all of what is now the present town of Lenox, and perhaps the township; and in the records of the time it was called the Ministers’ Grant, in as much as five of these men were ministers. (The implication, made in a history of the town, that this tract of land belonged to any Minister of the town by virtue of his office and that the title to it was commuted later to his obvious loss, is misleading.)”
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Shadowbrook, Stokes, Carnegie, Jesuits, Fire, Kripalu
Shadowbrook was built in 1893 for Anson Phelps Stokes, who hired Frederick Law Olmsted to design the 900 acre grounds. The estate was purchased in 1917 by Andrew Carnegie, who died there in 1919. The 100 room house burned in 1956.
In 1922, the New England Province of the Society of Jesus purchased the Shadowbrook estate, which the Jesuits used as a seminary. The entire structure burned to the ground in a tragic fire in 1956, in which four of the Jesuits died. The Society then built the current brick structure on the site, maintaining their operation of the property until 1970, when they could no longer support it. The building stood empty for many years (13) until the New Age Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health purchased it in 1983.
Lenox, Mass information and links:
- Lenox Town Hall: 6 Walker St.
- Phone: (413) 637-5506
- Town website: http://www.townoflenox.com/
- Population: 5,077
- Settled/Inc’d: 1736/1767
- Named for: Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond
- Elevation: 1,210′
- Latitude: 42º21’23” N
- Longitude: 73º17’07” W
- Area: 21.2 mi²(land), 0.3 mi²(water)