Monday, May 6, 2013

Lenox and the Gilded Boomers

Someone told someone that friends of Ralph Waldo Emerson liked Lenox and the Berkshires In the 1860's. Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edith Wharton and Norman Rockwell heard and they liked the area as well. One thing led to another and Wharton of the famed New York City Jones Family who seemed to be everywhere at the start of the Gilded Age and for whom "keeping up with the Joneses" was coined set down roots in Lenox. The rush was on and an inland Newport mocking English Manor life, (a la Downton Abbey) became the thing here between 1870 and 1930. Today, the mansions are schools, Classy Inns, cultural centers and a smattering of private homes. Modern-day pilgrims to this culture and clean air spot include James Taylor and lots of world class musicians and artists.

My journey to Lenox was a similarly circuitous tale but for the riches or fame.

Our base camp is a 48 room gilded age cottage called Windyside. Its entrance doesn't disappoint. To know this place is to know Lenox and the incredible players of the Gilded Age. Eleanor Roosevelt entertained here, the Vanderbilt's, Morgan's, Wharton's, were members. Serious croquet and tennis are the sports of this otherwise small, old, quirky club of old shoe, artists, and history-loving outsiders.

Fourteen Boomer friends from West Virginia, New England and New York are joining us for our celebration of Life.. The weather, the setting, the food, the walks, the conversations, the Kentucky Derby party with Club members are all stuff of Cheever or Wharton. Tanglewood the summer home to the Boston Symphony, The Shakespeare Festival, Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival are yet to open so tourists are nearly non–existent. Just great weather, friends and plenty of elbow room are in town. The rest is the stuff of great memories.

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