Thursday, May 30, 2019

Ventfort Hall, Part Two

Last time we took a look at the first floor of Ventfort Hall. While the rooms may be restored, they didn't really look like they would as if people lived in them. That changed on the second floor.

It begins with a walk up that long staircase, which coves three stories. The woodwork was exquisite.

Our tour took us to the second floor. It's been awhile since I was there so I'm not sure these rooms are in the order I saw them, but you get the idea. Since the hall serves as the Museum of the Gilded Age, this is where my idea of the museum really begins.  Of course, that includes furniture, too, and this chair made courting perhaps a little safer -- and a tad more awkward!

Remember, Ventfort Hall was a summer cottage in the town of Lenox, Massachusetts in the Berkshires and during the Gilded Age, Lenox was the center of the social season. There were seventy five Berkshire Cottages built in the area during the period, of which Ventfort Hall was one. Numerous well-known names including Longfellow, Melville and Hawthorne were area residents, along with many of the wealthy from New York and Boston who built their luxurious summer homes in the mountains. And details were luxurious, right down to the silver. I guess I'm a slacker at my cottage. No silver!

Entertaining, of course, was on tap. While we saw the official dining room downstairs, this room is set up as a dining room on the second floor.
A different view.

Perhaps it always served as a less formal dining area for the family.

The table is beautifully set with china and flatware of the period. The table below is located in a corner, perhaps for breakfast or tea.

Luxurious serving pieces are also on display.

In an adjacent room, a vitrine was filled with numerous glass pieces for the table.

Moving on, this rather enormous room I called the Ladies Chamber, simply because I couldn't decide if it was a bedroom, sitting room, bed-sitting.

But what I really loved about it was that it was so bright. Unlike the dark first floor, light seemed to flood the rooms on the second floor including this one.

There were wonderful details. I adored this desk.

A closer look.

There was this wonderful little room that had cupboards and shelves.

The shelves held the ladies' fans.

I suspect the cupboards had once held hats. The wallpaper was beautiful.

The bed linens were beautifully embroidered.

And the bed was set with a breakfast tray. I can imagine someone bringing me morning tea right here!

Across the bed, in a small alcove, a fireplace for chilly mornings. Some of you mentioned in comments on the earlier post that it must have been incredibly expensive to heat Ventfort Hall. I daresay that it is more expensive to do it now than then, since it is open year round. But in the days of the Morgan's having this as their summer cottage, the lack of heat would be negligible. There might be cool mornings when a fire would be welcome but the Massachusetts summer days are warm and daytime heat unlikely -- unless those stone walls retained a little too much cool!

This old scale sits next to the door to the bathroom. The bathroom was under restoration and apart from the original wallpaper, nothing much to see. Here is a photo of what it looked like, back in the day.

The bathroom wallpaper is below. It is quite well duplicated in the wallpaper shown in the above photo with the scale.


 But the next room was a dressing room and staged with some beautiful period gowns.

I have to admit, this felt like a Lady Mary moment, seeing these lovely gowns.

Most were vintage; there were a few reproductions but so well done, who would care?

And you've gotta love the hats!

Moving down the hall we come to the nursery.  I was surprised this room felt darker than the others.

But the toys were delightful.

I'd love to have this dollhouse to play with!

Elizabeth, this one is for you!

I don't remember what this room was -- it had both a sitting area...

...and a day bed.

But what intrigued me most was the amount of butterfly art around the room.

Apparently this was quite a thing back in the period of Ventfort Hall. As much as I love butterflies and what I saw was lovely, I'm not sure it's my thing!

Our tour was coming to an end. But oh, that walk down the stairs was well worth the walk up!

Thanks for joining me on this walk back in time!

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Friday, May 24, 2019

Ventfort Hall and the Gilded Age, Part One

Last March when we were in Massachusetts and Rick was in a recliner with his leg up, I took off for a bit of an exploring trip and came to Ventfort Hall.

When one visits Ventfort Hall, in the town of Lenox in the Massachusetts Berkshires, you realize they didn't call it "The Gilded Age" for nothing. The house is a 28,000 square foot Jacobean Revival mansion with 54 rooms and was completed in 1893. (If the exterior of the house looks familiar, it was because it served as exterior scenes of the orphanage in "The Cider House Rules.")

Unlike many homes of the period, it had electric lighting, indoor plumbing, central heating, a burglar alarm system and an electric elevator, things considered standard today. (Well, OK, elevators aren't exactly standard and burglar alarms optional, but for the period, pretty avant garde!)

The mansion was built for Sarah Morgan, the sister of financier J.P. Morgan as her summer cottage and now serves as the home of the Museum of the Gilded Age. The first floor and much of the second is open to the public for tours. (I can tell you right now -- my up-north Michigan cottage is nothing like this!)

When you enter, you are first confronted by an enormous staircase on the right...

...and the lovely, somewhat overpriced gift shop, which was in the former salon, to the left. However, the details were lovely. This used to be the Salon and the fireplace is marble.

I was doing the self-guided tour but since I was the only person there, I would later be joined by staffer Alix who accompanied me to the second floor. But first, the main floor, beginning with the Great Hall. Maybe I've watched too many Downton Abbey episodes but even in my jeans and tennies it took about a quarter of a second to imagine I was standing in some elegant gown, listening to the orchestra playing above in the minstrel's gallery. The walls were of American red oak, the fireplace of limestone.

I started on the main floor and headed first to the Library. The light was bad, and so were the photos. Then on to the Dining Room, which was set up with round tables, possibly for an upcoming event. Portraits of Sarah Morgan and her husband hang on the walls.

I loved the beautiful cabinet with its silver service.

Unfortunately they don't open the doors to the veranda in the winter but I suspect the view would be lovely!

As you leave the dining room one walks through a long hallway leading to the Billiard Room. (This view looks FROM the Billiard Room to the Great Hall.)

Alas, no billiard table, but the room had a beautiful fireplace. The antique oak panels on either side of the center are antique with one dated 1630. .

...and an elegant Grand piano.

I loved the detail on the piano shawl.

Beside the beautiful windows was a corner for jigsaw puzzles.

And the stained glass was lovely!

The site purchased by the Morgans already had some history.

The site and the small house that sat upon it was once known as Vent Fort and Robert Gould Shaw, the colonel of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, had spent his honeymoon at a small now located across the street from the property.  The 54th was one of the first military units of the union army in the Civil War to be comprised of all African-American soldiers and was the subject of the film "Glory." Matthew Broderick played Shaw in the film. His story is told on several displays in the long hallway.

 There were also displays of the house as it looked in its glory days.

One can only imagine the beautiful gardens in the spring. The original garden covered 26 acres.

You can get a bit of an idea from the postcard above.

Not so pretty in the winter! But next time we'll venture inside again to see the upstairs floor of Ventfort Hall.

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