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.

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The hotel in 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.

12 thoughts on “Curtis Hotel, Lenox, Mass”

  1. In the early 1970’s, my wife and I used to take a bus on weekends from New York’ Port Authority Bus Terminal to Lenox where it stopped right in front of the Curtis Hotel. At that time we did not own a car but found we could either walk or hitchhike to Tanglewood and to other entertainment spots. We loved it. We always had a great time for very little money. We would have breakfasts across the street at a small inexpensive restaurant where The American Craftsman now exists. Eventually, we bought a car and still stayed at the Curtis. They had a great swimming pool where a parking lot is now. When we could finally afford it, we bought a house nearby and to this day, continue to enjoy the Berkshires year round. If it were not for the Curtis I doubt whether we would have discovered the Berkshires and had a chance enjoy our lifestyle these many years.

  2. Hello, I have two old small information booklets for the Curtis Hotel. I am wondering if you would like to have them for your archive collection?
    I could e-mail photos of them if you wish.
    Gary Long
    Canning, Nova Scotia.

  3. I am the granddaughter of the last of the Curtis owners, Otis Phelps Curtis. Wish I knew more about the hotel and it’s famous guests. Would love to see the signatures on the register for the hotel. I guess that is lost.

  4. My mother was Vera Curtis Nagle and my uncle is Roswell M. Curtis, Jr. Both moved to Greenwich in 1934, I have material relating to the hotel. My grandfather, Roswell M. Curtis took over managing the hotel from William D. Curtis when he had completed one year of Yale Medical School.

    • I just saw your response for the first time. I would so love to talk to you. I have read about your uncle and his visit to the Curtis Hotel with his friends from Yale.

  5. I have a sterling silver trophy bowl inscribed to William D Curtis dated Oct 1876. My grandmother took care of a member of the Curtis family back in the 60’s. He lived in what is now the Walker house. He gave her many things that she passed on to her grandchildren

    • Candice I would be so interested in seeing what you have. Perhaps I could even purchase some things from you. I’m not sure if it was you who sent me a bible that belonged to Sylvenia Cole. I visited the Walker house as a young child and met the husband of my Aunt Lura.

  6. I lived and worked in the hotel around 1972. I had no idea how old it was or it’s historic past until I came across this on the internet. I would go to the rehearsals at Tanglewood back then ( someone told me they are not free any more) I live in Hawaii now. This was a flash from the past. Mahalo !

  7. We went there in the summer when we were kids . My grandfather, Tom McGinnis ,was a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Co of Massachusetts and they all met there in August .What great memories I have of this beautiful spot.


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