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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