My husband & I celebrated our 10 year anniversary this year, and instead of our planned trip to Tulum, Mexico we thought heading out to Western Massachusetts for two nights seemed like a more sensible and safe way to celebrate. The leaf peepers were already packed up and home, but the weather forecast showed almost 70 degrees (in November!!) both Saturday & Sunday, so off we went! The Seven Hills Inn was right up my alley, an old home turned Inn, so here is it’s story!
- Located in Lenox, Ma the Seven Hills Inn has seen quite a change in Western Massachusetts over the years. Originally built in the mid-1700’s as a farmhouse, it was transformed into one of the famous “Berkshire Cottages” in 1885 by Robert Chapin, naming it Nowood. The term “cottage” is quite tongue- in-cheek, as Naumkeag is also a “Berkshire Cottage” and all the historic Newport Mansions (such as The Elms ) were also called “cottages”.
- The Western Massachusetts cottage boom was a result of the railroad from NYC which allowed the rich & famous a quick and easy way to escape the claustrophobic city life for the wide open, beautiful expanse of the Berkshires. And who could blame them? It is truly a gorgeous place. I’ve lived in Massachusetts my entire life, and each time I find myself in this area it’s hard to believe I haven’t yet left my home state.
- In 1904, an up and coming novelist built a grand cottage next door to Nowood, Edith Wharton. There will be lots more to come on Edith, as my husband & I spent the majority of our time that weekend touring her mansion, The Mount, and wandering the gorgeous property. A post on her property is up next, friends!
- In 1911 Emily Meredith Read Spencer came onto the Nowood scene, a bit disgruntled about having been dragged out to Western Massachusetts from Boston. Her husband was from a prominent family that helped establish the town of Stockbridge, and moving to Lenox allowed him to be closer to his family, which was important to him. Emily, who was 40 at the time, originally wanted to build her own mansion and have full control of the design, but with construction times being so lengthy she was afraid she would not see the building to completion (because 40 is so old!) and so they bought Nowood, doubled it’s size and renamed it Shipton Court.
- Emily was a collector and seemingly loved to gather different architectural styles from all over the world and mix them together. She reminds me a bit of Isabella Stewart Gardner and Henry Davis Sleeper, who both have insanely gorgeous homes with salvaged pieces from buildings and cultures near and far. You can still see the imported English staircase (it’s amazing), columns that frame a gorgeous bay window from France and many other design elements from Italy.
- Emily & her husband became an integral part of the Berkshire high society, entertaining grandly and often, including the world renowned dancer and “Mother of Dance” Isadora Duncan. (I had no idea who Duncan was before this trip, and am still in shock after reading about her horrendously tragic life. Good grief.)
- In 1951, Larry & Sophie Howitt of New York bought Shipton Court , renamed it Seven Hills and converted the mansion into an inn as a place for musicians and music lovers to stay while enjoying the performances at nearby Tanglewood, which is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and also stage to too many incredible musicians to list. Sophie was a major supporter of Tanglewood, and the guest list and photos throughout the Inn today are amazing to look at.
- Today, Seven Hills Inn still has the intricate and richly decorated interiors one would expect from a Berkshire Cottage. The Main House has been updated but does a great job of maintaining the “mansion feel”. There are three different types of accommodations here, but I wanted to stay in the main house, and I have to say I’m so glad we did! I was able to live out my #MansionLife dreams for two nights (y’know, with a mask on, not touching anything, or eating anything, or enjoying a glass of wine on the veranda, or even interacting with any other guests for the most part). C’est la vie!
Between the leaded windows, the intricate moldings and the bench this staircase had me at hello. There were two staircases that lead up to the second floor where the guest rooms were, and you bet I chose this staircase every single time. Scroll below or visit my Instagram page for more photos of this beauty!
When we first arrived, I didn’t know much about the Inn. But, once we realized that Emily Meredith Read Spencer liked to import all different types of architectural elements, it all made sense. The two spiral columns immediately grab your eye, then the ceilings, the double sided fireplace, the windows….it’s a spectacular room. I would have loved to see the room full of life with a fire and cocktails and music!
The fireplace and furniture honor the roots of this home, and the chandeliers update it a bit – a nice mix if you ask me. Our dinner reservations were cancelled on Saturday night, and though we were able to find another place to eat, I had a few fleeting thoughts of getting takeout and my husband & I sitting at either end of this long table pretending we owned the place. Wouldn’t have been a bad alternative!
Seven Hills Inn sits on top of a lovely hill on 27 acres, but I must say that I was a bit disappointed that no part of those 27 acres had any trails or walking paths, minus this one just steps from the home. I think that could certainly be improved upon and a big selling point for visitors. But, it was still a pretty place to sit outside and enjoy a morning coffee. And, The Mount next door offered more than enough to keep us busy & enjoying the outdoors for a weekend!
- The framed blueprint of the renovations that Emily Meredith Read Spencer made to the house hanging in the hallway was my favoooorite. It was awesome to be able to take the time to really study it, determine what was still in tact, what had been moved, and even what our room originally was! The ability to wander around and put the pieces together at my leisure (unlike being on a guided tour) was my favorite part of staying here.
- The photos of musicians throughout the downstairs performing at Tanglewood is pretty awesome. It really is quite a variety of artists, and there’s a photo that will surprise every music lover!
- The cruiser bikes available for use were fun……while going down hill. I’ll stick to my Peloton, thanks.
- Don’t miss the “ES” initials still honoring Emily above the main door on the exterior of the Inn.
- Check out the hidden safe in the dining room -it was neat how they left the door so you could how it was concealed.
- I *need* the mirror from the Drawing Room in my life. I don’t think I have any ceilings high enough for it though.
- We were here in the time of COVID, so there really wasn’t much that we could do here during our stay. The restaurant was closed, the fireplaces only operable from 8 am – 5 pm (it was 70 degrees and sunny out, so no way was I staying inside for that!), etc. But, the staff did their best and it was a lovely, comfortable stay!
- Go to The Mount. It’s right next door (you cut through the parking lot and you are there!) and it was an amazing resource, and we were so glad to be so close! Stay tuned for more on The Mount soon!
- There are so many things to do in the Berkshires, plus it’s an easy breezy drive from Boston!