Hagyard Store, Lenox, Mass

The Hagyard Store at the corner of Main and Housatonic Streets in Lenox, around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1122_1910-1920 loc

The building in 2016:

1122_2016
Built in 1910, this building at the center of Lenox was the home of Frank C. Hagyard’s drugstore. When the first photo was taken, Lenox was a popular resort destination for the wealthy, and the drugstore would have catered to many of these summer visitors. Like some of Lenox’s other prominent buildings of the era, it was designed by Pittsfield architect George C. Harding, and it reflects the Renaissance Revival style that was popular at the time.

More than a century later, the former drugstore building is still standing. With modern air conditioning, large awnings are no longer needed over the windows to keep the upper floors cool, but otherwise the exterior does not look much different from its appearance in the 1910s. There is no longer a drugstore on the first floor, but the building now houses, among other things, the Lenox Chamber of Commerce.

Town Hall, Lenox, Mass

The Lenox Town Hall on Walker Street in Lenox, around 1905-1915 and 2016. Historic image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1121_1905-1915 loc

The scene in 2016:

1121_2016

The corner of Walker Street and Old Stockbridge Road has long been the site of Lenox’s town government. When Lenox was designated as the seat of Berkshire County, the first county courthouse was built here in 1791. A new courthouse opened a short distance away in 1816, and the old one became the Lenox town hall, serving in that role until the current one was completed in 1903. The old building was preserved, though. It was moved off the site, to a new location at the corner of Housatonic and Church Streets, where it still stands today.

The new town hall was designed by George C. Harding, a Pittsfield-based architect who also designed some of the additions to the Curtis Hotel across the street. Because of this, the two buildings match each other with their similar Colonial Revival architecture. Aside from its role as the town hall, the building also housed the post office, a bank, the police department, and the fire department. Most of these secondary functions, except the police station, would later be moved to separate buildings, but it remains in use as the town hall, with few exterior changes over the years.

Curtis Hotel, Lenox, Mass

The Curtis Hotel at the corner of Main and Walker Streets in Lenox, around 1905-1915 and 2016. Historic image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1120_1905-1915 loc

The hotel in 2016:

1120_2016
This hotel in the center of Lenox was built in 1829, and prospered in part because of its location next to the Berkshire County Courthouse, which is visible just to the left in both photos. In 1853, the building was purchased by William O. Curtis and became known as the Curtis Hotel, with the business staying in his family for nearly a century. During this time, the county seat was moved to Pittsfield, but Lenox was in the midst of changing roles and becoming a popular tourist destination.

The Curtis Hotel prospered during this time, with visits some of the most prominent Americans from the 19th and early 20th centuries, including presidents Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and both Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt. Other notable guests included writers Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Civil War Generals William T. Sherman and George B. McClellan, and businessmen Jim Fiske and John Jacob Astor.

Because of this prosperity, the hotel underwent several major expansions, to the point where it was unrecognizable from its original appearance by the start of the 20th century. The last major addition came in 1898, and by the time the first photo was taken it had largely assumed its present-day exterior. At this point, the hotel faced competition from other nearby hotels, including the Hotel Aspinwall, which opened on a hilltop just to the north of the town center in 1902.

However, like so many other grand hotels of the Gilded Age, the Curtis Hotel was hit hard by the Great Depression. Lenox would no longer be the playground of the rich and famous as it had once been, and many of the hotels began to struggle . The Curtis family sold the hotel by the 1940s, and by the 1970s the deteriorating hotel had closed for good. In 1979, though, the town purchased the historic building and converted it into subsidized housing for elderly residents. The renovations were completed in 1982, and the building has continued to be used in that role ever since.

Hotel Aspinwall, Lenox, Mass (3)

The west side of the Hotel Aspinwall, around 1902-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

798_1900-1920 loc

The scene in 2015:

798_2015
This view shows the opposite side of the hotel from the photos in the previous posts, and this post gives more details on the history of this hotel, which stood here from 1902 to 1931, when it was destroyed in a fire. The fire was believed to have started on the veranda on this side of the building, and although the exact cause was never determined, contemporary newspaper reports indicate that it was probably from a carelessly discarded cigarette.

The site of the hotel is now Kennedy Park, which has hiking and cross country skiing trails and several scenic overlooks, including this one. In the foreground is the Kennedy Park Belvedere, which was built in 2011 in memory of Dr. Jordan Fieldman, a physician at Berkshire Medical Center who died of cancer in 2006. It became the subject of controversy, though, when a group of local citizens objected to it and filed lawsuit against the town. The suit was ultimately dismissed, and the memorial is still here, in approximately the same location where guests such as Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and John D. Rockefeller, Sr. once enjoyed the view from the hotel’s veranda.

Hotel Aspinwall, Lenox, Mass (2)

Another view of the east side of the Hotel Aspinwall, around 1905-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

797_1905-1915 loc

The scene in 2015:

797_2015
This scene shows the main entrance to the Hotel Aspinwall, where its many distinguished guests would have arrived. The previous post, which provides more details about the hotel’s history and destruction, shows the building from the same side, just facing the opposite direction. The site of the hotel has been undeveloped since it burned down in 1931, and today the property is Kennedy Park, a public park owned by the town of Lenox.

Hotel Aspinwall, Lenox, Mass (1)

The east side of the Hotel Aspinwall, as seen around 1905-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

796_1905-1915 loc

The scene in 2015:

796_2015
As mentioned in the post featuring the hotel’s entrance, the Hotel Aspinwall was built in 1902 by lawyer, businessman, and Civil War officer Thomas H. Hubbard. It was located on over 400 acres of land atop a hill just north of the center of Lenox, and with 225 guest rooms accommodating up to 425 people, it was among the largest hotels in the Berkshires.

The hotel attracted a number of notable guests over the years. As the Berkshire Eagle described it in a 1956 feature article, “If the millionaires who used to summer in Lenox during the early 20th century were not among those owning estates here, they probably stayed at the old Aspinwall Hotel.” The article identified guests such as Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, actress Lillian Russell, Senator and railroad magnate Chauncey Depew, Massachusetts governor James Michael Curley, New York mayor Seth Low, and Austro-Hungarian ambassador Konstantin Dumba. Another news article, published in the North Adams Transcript, indicated that John D. Rockefeller, Sr. was also a frequent guest at the hotel.

By the early 1930s, America was in the midst of the Great Depression, and many historic grand hotels were struggling. However, here in Lenox, the Hotel Aspinwall was expanding. They had recently added a baseball field and a 9-hole golf course, and they were working on adding more trails and bridle paths on the property when a fire started early in the morning on April 25, 1931. The hotel had not yet opened for the season, but the secluded location was reportedly popular for “petting parties,” as contemporary newspapers described it. The exact source of the fire was never identified, but most likely theory seems to be that it was started with a carelessly disposed cigarette from one of these parties.

The fire was already well underway by the time the fire department learned of it, and at that point there was no way to save it. The hotel’s own firefighting systems had been shut down for the winter, and the closest fire hydrant was nearly a mile away. There was not enough water pressure in the 4,000-foot hose from the hydrant to effectively fight the fire, so most of the firefighting efforts were on preventing the fire from spreading to the other buildings or to the forest.

The rest of the property was saved from the fire, but the hotel was never rebuilt, and the forest soon began to reclaim the property. In 1956, the land was sold to the town for just $12,000 and converted into a public park. Now known as Kennedy Park, the hotel’s former driveway and trails are now used by hikers and cross country skiers, and there is little sign of the hotel that once stood here. Based on maps that showed the hotel, this clearing appears to be approximately the center of the building, although without any identifiable landmarks left from the first photo, it is impossible to recreate the exact spot.