The Cottager | Blantyre: A fantasy world from another time
On Dec. 9, 1893, Marie Louise Fahys was quietly married to Robert W. Paterson, a wealthy widower and family friend 20 years her senior. The wedding, it was reported, was accomplished without the aid of bridesmaids or ushers, and took place in her parents' home.
The announcement of such a wedding shook the New York social circles. Fahys had recently returned home from abroad and had just announced her engagement. A high society wedding had been expected, as opposed to the "quiet wedding" followed by a honeymoon trip to Russia and Egypt.
Marie Louise Fahys was the daughter of Joseph Fahys, a French immigrant who owned the largest watchcase and silverware companies in the country at the time. The family owned a house on Park Avenue, as well as homes in Brooklyn and Clinton Hill, as well as a country house in Sag Harbor, Long Island. Paterson, like her father, was also an immigrant who had earned his own fortune as a Naval stores merchant, specializing in the sale of wood rosin and turpentine, as well as soaps, detergents, varnishes, paint and linoleum. The quickness of their nuptials would be the most remarkable thing the couple did, had they not built the castle-like Blantyre, which remains one of the last vestiges of their legacy. Perhaps it is because they did not bequest their fortune to numerous charities, nor did they donate buildings or help build important hospitals. Unlike other members of the Summer Colony, the Patersons were nouveau riche. The money they had was not inherited, nor were their pockets as deep as their compatriots.
But that didn't stop them from spending their money on homes, automobiles and extensive trips abroad. They spent the spring in Europe collecting art, summered in colonies of Newport, Sag Harbor and the Berkshires, returned to New York City in the fall and wintered at the exclusive Jekyl Island Club in Georgia.
After visiting the Sloanes at Wyndhurst, now Cranwell Resort, the couple purchased an abutting 130 acres from the Dorr family and immediately summoned architect Robert H. Robertson to Lenox.
Berkshire Resort Topics, a periodical of the time, reported that Robertson arrived in the Berkshires from New York, and promptly sketched a rough design for the house on the back of an envelope for the man who made a fortune selling turpentine and soaps.
When work commenced on the house in 1901, the New York Tribune would report that Paterson's new house, modeled after a "Scotch feudal castle" was a "pile of brick and stone, which will cost its owner $300,000." The New York Times would later estimate the cost at completion would be more to the tune of $500,000.
Both writers were badly informed. At the end of two years of construction, Blantyre had cost Paterson $135,000. And the house Robertson had designed was not modeled after a Scottish castle. It was very much constructed in the style of an Elizabethan Tudor Manor House, complete with towers, turrets and gargoyles.
In fact, the only thing remarkably Scottish about the house, other than its owner, was its name.
Paterson, who was born in Scotland, emigrated to Canada in 1842 at the age of 4 with his family. There his family would prosper as pioneer farmers. His father would eventually become the local postmaster and name his farm and the surrounding township after his wife's ancestral home of Blantyre.
When opened in 1904, the Patersons had filled their Berkshire home with furniture copied from pieces at the Hatfield House in England, a huge center table from the Marquand collection and trophy animal heads lined the walls.
The couple would add another 100 acres to the property in 1904 and by 1906 would add an additional wing to the building to house their art collection. She collected paintings. He collected sculptures and porcelain.
Paterson died in 1917 leaving a fortune of $1 million. His wife inherited $490,000. She owned the home in New York and Blantyre outright. The rest was divided between his sons and siblings. Marie Paterson sold the house in 1925 for $25,000.
Since its sale in 1925, Blantyre has lived many lives. A Florida promoter named Howard Cole tried to combine it with Wyndhurst, Coldbrooke, Pinecroft and Belvoir Terrace to form the Berkshire Hunt and Country Club. After the Depression, Blantyre was separated from the other properties and sold to a congressman. It later became the private residence of D.W. Griffith. In 1944, it became an inn and stayed that way for 22 years. Subsequent owners ran it as an inn and one planned to turn it into a college. The house fell into disrepair until it was purchased by the Fitzpatricks in 1980 for their daughter Ann Fitzpatrick Brown, who restored it to its former glory and operated it until the time of her death in 2016. The hotel was recently sold to a California-based hotel group, Blantyre Hotel Ventures LLC, for $4.6 million.
The approach to Blantyre has not changed much since the Patersons conceived the Manor house — a long crushed gravel driveway still winds its way to the top of a hill where the grand dame overlooks Laurel Lake. The Relais et Chateaux and Forbes 5 Star hotel has eight rooms, 13 suites and four cottages and a full service spa known as The Potting Shed. Its dining room offers a variety of options, which are open to the public by reservation, including afternoon tea, lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch, wine tastings and fantasy picnics.
Entering through the porte cochere, we met our host, General Manager Annabel Sattler, in the great hall, where a giant fireplace surrounded by antique couches await arriving guests. A large wooden table contains the guest book and several publications featuring the mansion.
"This is where we greet everyone and serve cocktails and canap s. You can place your order from here and it will be served in the main dining room," she said.
Off of the hall, to the right, a decadent music room filled with Rocco Revival chairs, a piano, chandelier and cabinets lined with porcelain is filled with light from long windows. At night it hosts musical entertainers and dinner parties and serves as a public space during the day.
To move through the corridor on the left of the great hall is to enter the dining room with dark wood paneled walls and a built in buffet.
"We keep it set with one table during the day and then change it for dinner. We set it each night, with seating for 45 to 60 diners," Sattler said. "We serve breakfast in the breakfast room or in the conservatory, where we also serve lunch."
Here the long tunnel-like room with glass walls and ceilings is filled with intimate tables for two lit by gold chandeliers.
Upstairs we travel through guest rooms with four poster beds piled high with pillows and comforters that match the theme of the each room — soft blues in the Blue Room and swirls of reds and gold in the Crimson Room.
"Each of our rooms are layered with items, hidden cabinets and puzzles," she said. "You feel like you're at home, not checking in at 3 p.m. and checking out at 11 a.m."
The Paterson Suite, which was occupied at the time, is a favorite of brides, I'm told. It's large enough to accommodate the bridal party and looks out over the lawn. The upper lawn is used mainly for receptions and private parties, while the lower terrace, which was once a croquet court, is a favorite for wedding ceremonies.
In the basement, a wine cellar with seemingly endless rows sprawls out before you as you make your way to the tasting area — a long oak table surrounded with heavy wood chairs with red leather cushions. It's a fantasy world from another time, perfectly preserved and packaged for the person seeking an experience as opposed to a place to spend a night.