LENOX -- At Ventfort Hall, one leaves the 21st century in the cloakroom with one's coat.
This past weekend, the second floor of the iconic 19th century mansion was re-reopened for tours.
The second floor had been reopened for a summer in 2009 after some restoration work. But it was closed in the fall of that year after it failed to get an occupancy permit.
However, according to spokesman Kameron Spaulding, the nonprofit Ventfort Hall Association has reached an agreement with the town and will install an elevator and sprinkler system to serve the entire 54-room, three-story mansion.
The third floor remains "a work in progress," said Spaulding, and members of the VHA are still raising money to continue renovations.
Built in 1893, the house was designed for Sarah Morgan, sister of financier J.P Morgan, and her husband, George, by Sarah Morgan, by the Boston architectural firm of Rotch & Tilden.
The house is a 28,000-square-foot Jacobean Revival mansion, according to www.gildedage.org, a website that chronicles Gilded Age history. The mansion was equipped with electric and gas heating, indoor plumbing, heated radiators in the basement to heat the entire house, internal fire hoses and an elevator, according to Spaulding.
The house was the center of the Berkshire social circle for decades. After both George and Sarah Morgan died, it had several owners and tenants.
In the mid-1980s, according to Eagle files, the property was run down to the point of ruin: the exterior walls were crumbling, the inside walls stripped of artwork, wood paneling and large chunks of the ceiling lying on the floor.
In the mid-1980s, a developer was seeking to purchase the property -- and raze the building. The Ventfort Hall Association, a consortium of community-minded citizens, raised money to purchase the building in 1997 and begin the long process of renovating it.
That process is ongoing, according to Spaulding. To date, he said, about $4 million has been raised to renovate the structure.
On Sunday, Spaulding gave an Eagle reporter a private tour of the second floor.
The second floor contains the "master bedroom suite," which is comprised of bedrooms for Sarah and George Morgan, as was the custom at the time, said Spaulding.
Sarah's bedroom has the original linens on the beds, but most of the furniture and items in the room were donated.
"We know what was actually here because of Sarah Morgan's will," said Spaulding. But, he said, some of it was auctioned off, while other items were degraded when the building fell into disrepair.
In addition to restoring the rooms of the second floor, the Ventfort Hall Association converted the second bedroom in the suite into a dining room, said Spaulding. The reconstituted room has a table and settings for 10.
The tour continued to a large pantry, filled with Gilded Age glassware and utensils, including Salviati-Venetian glassware from the Bellfontaine estate. Spaulding pointed out the bejeweled champagne glasses as especially fascinating examples of the Gilded Age.
Spaulding said the organization's next major project is to raise $300,000 for the rebuilt elevator. To date, he said, the group has raised $150,000 of that goal.
To learn more about Ventfort Hall, go to www.gildedage.org.
To reach Derek Gentile:
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile