Vol. IV No. 12 6/15/2023
Editor's note: In the nineteenth century every Berkshire newspaper was anchored locally — the Pittsfield Sun, The Stockbridge Evening Star, the Great Barrington Currier, the Valley Gleaner (Lee) and more — but in their pages, each had columns for other towns. If your town has a story to tell, a problem or a solution to share, let us know. So feel free to send SU your news periodically, and we will run a Dateline: Sheffield, Dateline Monterey, Dateline: Lee etc.
Olga Weiss is a long-time resident of Lenox and a major contributor to its beauty and culture. Olga is possibly the proud possessor of the oldest, extant, house in town.
It was built in the eighteenth century on what was probably a land grant to a member of the Beldham family. By 1806, it was occupied by the multi-generational family — members from 73 to 3 years — of Henry A. Beldham.
Olga has a passion for her community and its history. How lucky for Lenox! In the 1970s she owned Blantyre, Wheatleigh farm (not the house), and approximately sixty-four additional acres in Lenox.
The first, Blantyre, she ran as an inn and luxury destination. She renovated the carriage house, added fine dining and "Below Stairs", a popular night spot.
The second, Wheatleigh farm, she transformed — with cousin, David Rothstein — into the famous Music Inn.
The last, the land, she donated to Lenox.
Her current passion is the barns of Lenox. Buildings are the repositories of our memories. Through them we tell the story of our people and places. We stand in front of a building, point, say "that is where I grew up", and so our story begins.
The structure of the old barns of Lenox — English and Dutch style — tell of the people who came here. They also tell us of the agriculturally based economy they created. Though the barns are worth saving as historical artifacts and beautiful structures, it is hard to do.
It is expensive to restore and stabilize, and difficult to think of alternative uses. So, over avocado toast and cowgirl cookies, Olga and I brainstormed.
Money for restoration? There is money from the Community Preservation Committee of Lenox. There are tax credits from state and federal programs. There are private contributions from the likeminded.
Uses? There are many. Accessory Dwelling units to expand the ever-dwindling availability of reasonably priced, long-term housing. Or perhaps for short-term rentals or commercial space? In Egremont an old barn is now a swinging restaurant and dance hall cleverly called The Egremont Barn.
If you restore it, they will come. Let's save the history of Lenox one building and one barn at a time. I promise this: restore it and the tourist economy will flourish and real estate values will soar.
The famous bridge at Giverny in France as forever memorialized by Claude Monet. Photo: Lionel Delevingne