Steeped in History
As you stroll about the grounds of Cranwell, you are walking through history. Over the years, Cranwell has served as a home to wealthy industrialists, clergy, writers, students, golfers, and culture. The centerpiece of the property, with its extraordinary views of the Berkshires, is the hilltop Tudor-style Mansion, which has dominated the countryside for more than a century. The history of Cranwell is entwined with many stories of the opulent period between 1880 and 1920, known as the Gilded Age. Cranwell was constructed then, and the era’s vision of rural splendor is the source of the exceptional beauty we still revel in today as Cranwell thrives as a premier four-season resort. The resort offers 114 distinctive rooms, one of the largest spas in the Northeast and an 18-hole historic golf course. In the winter, snow turns the course into a cross-country skier paradise. Exquisite cuisine is served in the award-winning Wyndhurst and Music Room, while casual fare can be found in Sloane’s Tavern year-round. Each year, as companies from around the world gather here to meet, Cranwell plays host to storybook weddings of all proportions and indulges guests in contemporary comfort while offering them the experience of a bygone era.
Historic Hotels of America
Cranwell is a proud member of the prestigious National Trust Historic Hotels of America (HHA), an organization of more than 200 quality hotels that have faithfully maintained their historic architecture and ambience. To be selected for this program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old, listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or recognized locally as having historic significance.
Photo courtesy of The Berkshire Eagle
1803 Ezra Blossom bought the property for $70. 1853 Reverend Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, bought the property for $4,500. 1869 Sold to General John F. Rathbone for $8,000, who razed Beecher’s Cottage & built a Tudor style mansion called Wyndhurst (not today’s building). 1893 John Sloane, a relative of the Vanderbilts (Emily Vanderbilt married his brother William and built Elm Court in 1886) and co-owner of W & J Sloane Furniture, bought the property and built the present mansion, Wyndhurst. 1894 Wyndhurst was completed. Sloane commissioned Frederick Law Olmsted, landscape architect of Central Park, to design the lawn and gardens. 1897 President McKinley visited. 1902 President Roosevelt invited to Wyndhurst for lunch, but he never arrive; his carriage was hit by a street car, a secret serviceman killed and the president thrown out, resulting in minor bruises. 1907 Daughter Evelyn Sloane married William Griswold in one of the largest high society weddings in Lenox. 1920 Property left to Sloane’s daughters who were not interested in retaining the estate. Sold to a group of wealthy developers from New York City and Palm Beach. They purchased it along with Blantyre and Coldbrooke to form the 695 acres and 43 buildings of the Berkshire Hunt and Country Club. 1926 The golf course was built, designed by Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek. 1929 The Club never fully succeeded and finally closed following the “Crash of ‘29.” 1931 Edward Cranwell of New York City bought the property and used it as a summer home for the next 8 years. He then deeded it to the Society of Jesus of New England to be used as a private school. 1939 The Cranwell School for boys operated for 36 years. 1975 During the years leading up to 1993, the property was operated by a variety of owners and management companies that developed the condominiums on the back nine and began hotel renovations. 1993 Purchased by a group of private investors including Burack Investments, the managing partners.
Walk Through History A Self-Guided Tour
Lenox, Massachusetts 800-272-6935 cranwell.com
Early 1900s Lenox became known as the “Inland Newport” and at least 42 millionaires were known to spend their summers here during this time, including John Sloane, a relative of the Vanderbilts and co-owner of the famous furniture firm W & J Sloane. He bought the property for $50,000 and in 1894 built his Peabody and Sterns-designed “cottage” Wyndhurst, referred to today as the Mansion. This was known as the “Cottage Era” where cottages were defined as a secondary residence with a minimum of 30 rooms and 20 acres.
President McKinley visited Wyndhurst with his wife on September 25, 1897. He was a close friend of John Sloane’s until his death in 1901. To impress the Presidential party during dinner, a large centerpiece of an American Eagle surrounded by roses was mechanically lit up and brought to life. Mrs. McKinley was startled and so visibly upset that she had to be escorted from the room by her husband.
“From here I can see the very hills of Heaven,” proclaimed the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, a popular preacher active in the women’s suffrage and abolitionist movements. In 1853 he purchased Blossom Hill, where the Mansion now stands, for $4,500. The views he loved are the same that can be seen today when you sit on the Rose Terrace off of the Lobby and are reminded of the legendary parties that took place on this same hillside over 150 years ago. Ward Beecher’s sister Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and fellow writer Nathaniel Hawthorne were frequent visitors at this time. Civil War General John Rathbone was the next owner of the property and built a mansion on this hill in 1869 named Wyndhurst. The building was razed but the name remains. Rathbone owned a prosperous stove works foundry that eventually became the biggest in the world. He was also a philanthropist who is credited with bringing the first computer to the U.S. in 1855. Views from the hill: October Mountain (East), Laurel Lake (South), Lenox Mountain and the Taconic Range (West), Mt. Greylock (23 miles North).
Follow the signs down the hallway to the Ballroom, which was added in 1949 as a dining hall for the Cranwell School for Boys. In 2013 this 3,025 square-foot ballroom was completely renovated with dramatic columns of drapery framing the 12-foot windows and chandeliers adorned with strings of crystals to complement the 16-foot ceiling.
Lobby & Music Room
As you enter the Mansion Lobby, notice the oak panels and red leather inserts between the ceiling beams. The fireplace to your left is one of only two still-working fireplaces at Cranwell. The white Cortina marble fireplace in the adjoining Music Room is another example of the variety and intricacy of the 15 fireplaces in this “cottage.” Carved into the woodwork of the Music Room Lounge fireplace is the year Wyndhurst was built.
Wyndhurst Dining Room
To the right of the Lobby is the Wyndhurst Dining Room. The White House Blue Room ceiling was modeled after this room’s ceiling pattern when W & J Sloane Co. was commissioned for work at the White House.
A short walk from the Mansion, the 18-room Carriage House was opened in July 2012 to replace the structure that was destroyed by fire in December 2010. The new building design respects the historic nature of the property bringing back much of the glory of the circa 1890s structure, which served as the Carriage House for Wyndhurst. The original architectural drawings by Peabody and Stearns Architects were located in the Boston Public Library and used to help design the guest space, incorporating many concepts from the original building, such as the tower, cantilevered floors at the upper level, as well as roof lines and gables, to create a new design that still respects the original structure.
A walk past the practice putting green brings you to the oldest building on property. In 1882, United States Naval Captain John S. Barnes, Flag Officer of the North Atlantic Fleet during the Civil War, purchased the land next to Wyndhurst for $10,000 and erected Coldbrooke, now known as Beecher’s. This Queen Anne-style shingled house with a central gable was designed by Peabody and Sterns and is located near the 1st tee of the golf course.
This magnificent 18-hole golf course was built by Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek in 1926 on the site of the original Berkshire Hunt Club. They also designed the Taconic Course in Williamstown and the Wahconah Golf Club in Dalton. Magnificent views, tree-lined fairways and naturally-contoured greens have been carefully preserved.
Olmsted Manor & Founders
Take a stroll to Olmsted Manor and then through the enclosed walkway to Founders. Both buildings have been completely renovated (in 2000 and 1997 respectively) but originate from Cranwell’s time as a preparatory school. In 1939, Edward Cranwell deeded the property to the New England Province of the Society of Jesus, which operated a private school for boys here until 1975. Ted Kennedy attended his 8th grade at Cranwell in 1945. Leonard Bernstein roomed with four other student musicians studying under Serge Koussevitzky at the BSO Tanglewood Music School. Olmsted Manor was a student resident hall, originally named Bellarmine Hall, after Cardinal Bellarmine, and built in 1957. Founders Cottage was built in 1963 as an additional resident hall.