America’s “Gilded Age,” occurred between the end of the Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century. It was period of upheaval and rapid economic growth that benefited wealthy tycoons and corrupt industrialists over the working class.
The wealthier class were drawn to the Berkshires by both the beautiful countryside and the famous artists and writers who preceded them. Literary and art world luminaries like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Lenox, MA was the center of this scene. Ventfort Hall is just one of seventy-five such Gilded Age “country cottages” that were built here during the period.
History of the Hall
Sarah Morgan, sister of J. P. Morgan, had Ventfort Hall built in 1893. The Jacobean Revival-style mansion was designed by prominent Boston architects, Rotch & Tilden. The house has over 28,000 square feet of living space, including 9 main bedrooms, 10 servant’s bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, and 17 fireplaces! Quite the “cottage,” and surrounded by 26 landscaped acres.
The Morgans retained the mansion until 1925. Thereafter, the estate saw a number of different owners and purposes. Things like a dormitory for Tanglewood students and a summer hotel.
The property was in rough shape by the mid-1980’s and was almost demolished. Luckily, a group of concerned citizens stepped in to save the historic property.
Visiting Ventfort Hall
The Ventfort Hall Association (VHA), with the help of donations, extensively restored the façade, first, and second floors of the historic cottage.
The partially restored mansion, with its wood panel detailing, soaring great hall, and lavishly decorated rooms provides a tantalizing glimpse of the Gilded Age. Learn about life in the mansion, for both the wealthy owners and their servants, with a self-guided tour or guided tour. handicapped accessible.
Ventfort Hall played part of the role of “St. Cloud’s Orphanage” in the Academy Award-winning movie. Both the exterior and the staircase in the Great Hall feature in the film. Most interior scenes, however, were filmed in Northampton.
The mansion, located at 104 Walker Street, Lenox, MA, is less than ten minutes drive from our Berkshires bed and breakfast, Applegate Inn. Our historic inn, built at the end of Gilded Age, shares much of that period’s feel. Enjoy touring the opulence of the past before returning to your own, private version of it in the form of your guest room at Applegate Inn.
Ventfort Hall is also the site of concerts, lectures, Victorian teas, and other special events throughout the year. The historic house museum is currently open Thursday through Tuesday, 11am to 4pm. Closed Wednesdays.