The Cottager | Highwood Manor: Where Hawthorne dreamed up Tanglewood tales

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Editor's note: This is the second of three columns about the Gilded Age Cottages that make up the present day campus of Tanglewood.

The history of Lenox and of Tanglewood might be slightly different today had a young Samuel Gray Ward never met Margaret Fuller while staying with his Harvard Professor John Farrar in the late 1830s.

Fuller, a well-known intellectual of her own right and colleague of Ralph Waldo Emerson, would be responsible for introducing Ward not only to Emerson and the Transcendental movement, but also to his wife, Anna Hazard Barker. Those introductions would both be instrumental in shaping the future of Lenox as a society resort sought out by the "Berkshire Cottagers."

When Ward met Fuller, he was a poet who wanted nothing to do with his father's line of work. Fuller, then editor of Emerson's "The Dial," would publish his poetry, while he taught her about the world of art. Following in the footsteps of his father, Thomas Wren Ward, the esteemed American representative of London's Baring Brothers bank, was the furthest thing from his mind. He planned to remain a member of Emerson's Transcendentalist Circle, writing poetry and analyses for "The Dial" until he met Anna during the summer of 1836. In 1837, just home from his European trek, Ward put aside his poetry and went to work as a banker. He also courted Miss Barker for the next three years, traveling often to her family home in New Orleans, before marrying her in 1840.

"By 1843, he made up his mind that trade was not compatible with his disposition, that country life would be more suitable to him, a scholarly and intellectual man," May Callas writes in "Profiles of Tanglewood Families" of Ward's decision to move his young family to the Berkshires. If there was a place to become a gentleman farmer at the time, it was in the Berkshires, where a 'hive' of intellectuals was buzzing about the Sedgewick clan.

In "Hawthorne's Lenox: The Tanglewood Circle," author Cornelia Brooke Gilder writes of the young family's Berkshire beginnings: "It all began in 1844 on a dreary day in the third week of March, when a handsome, well-heeled 27-year-old Samuel Gray Ward (1817-1907) strode across Daniel Barnes' brown, tufted meadow with a glorious view of Lake Mahkeenac and pronounced it 'very good.' "

Wards's guide at the time was the esteemed Berkshire Clerk of Courts Charles Sedgewick, who arranged for the family's lodging while their three-story home was built. That October, the couple's third child, Thomas, was born in Lenox.

The home, Highwood Manor, completed in 1845, is credited to architect Richard Upjohn, known best for New York City's Trinity Church, who was building a church for the Episcopal congregation in Stockbridge at the time. Upjohn would later design the Tappen house, which still sits within walking distance of Highwood.

Whether or not Upjohn, whose signature was Gothic Revival manses and churches, designed the house is somewhat controversial, as the house's original design is more of an Italianate country house. Of this Callas wrote, "... but there is correspondence between Ward and his father, which mentions construction of Highwood done by the firm of Upjohn. Since Richard Michael Upjohn joined his father's firm the same year that Highwood was completed, it may be the younger Upjohn, assisting his father, added his own design incentives. There are design details in the Tappan house that are similar to those at Highwood, i.e., window soffits and apron benches."

What is for certain about Highwood Manor are two things: It is considered to be the first of the Gilded Age cottages and it, not the Tappan house, was the inspiration for the porch in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Tanglewood Tales." We also know that despite Ward's affection for his adoptive "Lenox valley," the house and its 220 acres sat on the Stockbridge side of the town line.

The Wards lived at Highwood year round and became part of their adopted society, while keeping close ties with those in Boston. Guests would stay at a little red house (later inhabited by Nathaniel Hawthorne's family) at a nearby farm. Many of those guests, including the Tappans and Higginsons, would become inspired to build their own country cottages.

But the snow-filled winters and long spring thaws at Highwood would not last long for the family, as Ward was soon recalled to Boston to aid his father. Of Ward's recall to Boston, Edward Waldo Emerson wrote in "The Early Years of the Saturday Club: 1855 to 1870": "As Samuel Ward was working in his Lenox garden, he saw, like an apparition approaching, his father's factotum, and on the moment foresaw his own doom."

Ward was to become a banker like his father after all. The Wards didn't give up on returning to Lenox. They rented out Highwood to their friends, William and Caroline Tappen, who were living in the Red House at the time, and boarded their three oldest children with a clergyman and his wife. It was during the Tappens occupation of Highwood that their friends, Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne, took up residence in the Red House. The Tappans now owned the house and the farm adjacent to Highwood. It was on the long-gone porches of Highwood that Hawthorne would be surrounded by children, a setting he reproduced in his children's books, "A Wonder-Book," and "Tanglewood Tales."

"The house and situation are described with particulars that identify it closely with the Tappans' Highwood ... In the summer of 1851, Mrs. Hawthorne wrote to her mother: 'On Sunday, Mr. Samuel G. Ward came to us. He gave me an excellent drawing of Highwood Porch, for 'A Wonder-Book,' which he said he asked Burrill Curtis to draw. We have sent it to Mr. Fields," author M. A. DeWolfe Howe wrote in "The Tale of Tanglewood: Scene of the Berkshire Music Festivals."

It is Hawthorne who is given credit for coming up with the names Tanglewood and Shadow Brook, which would become the name of another nearby grand estate overlooking the Stockbridge Bowl.

In 1857, the Wards realized their time at Highwood had come to an end and sold the beloved Highwood. A year later, following the death of his father, Ward would be the sole agent for Barings. Nine years later he would orchestrate the financing of the United State's $7.2 million purchase of Alaska from Russia. (The Wards would later build a cottage in Newport, R.I., which they sold to Edith Wharton, before building another cottage in Lenox. Ward's second cottage would be the grand Oakwood, which he later sold to Anson Phelps Stokes. Stokes turned the home into a stable for his grand, 100-room estate, Shadow Brook.)

The Wards sold Highwood to another Boston couple, William Story Bullard and his wife, Louisa Norton Bullard, who had rented the house for two years. Bullard, a merchant who made his fortune in the East India trade, sold his company when new protective tariffs were introduced. A rich man, the couple who had four sons and a daughter, settled into their new home, which they were not afraid to alter.

"The Bullards appreciated and enjoyed the magnificent property and they continued to develop and maintain it for more than 100 years it remained in the family. Inevitably changes were made to the house, including, and most obviously, the removal of the porches on the first and second floors and the removal of the chimney pots. A more formal, smaller single-story porch was added to the garden entrance," Callas wrote of the Bullards. A driveway, which passed through a porte cochère on the house's south side, was installed along the lake side of the house sometime after 1900 by Dr. Norton Bullard, a neurologist, who inherited the property from his parents.

Upon his death in 1931, Dr. Bullard left part of his estate to establish the salary for the Bullard Professor of Neuropathology at Harvard.

An amateur botanist, he wanted to leave Highwood to Harvard as a wildflower sanctuary. His wife, Mary Reynolds Bullard, continued to live at the manor house, and in 1954 bequeathed the estate's 70 acres along Lake Mahkeenac to the Stockbridge Bowl Association. Upon her death in 1960, she honored her husband's wishes and left Highwood to Harvard, which it in turn put the property that it could not afford to maintain on the market.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra, which now owned the Tanglewood estate, turned down the chance to acquire Highwood and it was instead purchased in 1961 by a Harvard alumnus, New York lawyer Mason Harding and his wife, Mary Riker Harding. Harding, whose father maintained a second home in Lenox, was deeply involved in the Berkshires and was trustee of both the Lenox Library and the Hancock Shaker Village.

The couple and their five children spent the summers and holidays at the house in Lenox, while maintaining their permanent residence in New York City.

"Idyllic summers did not last long. In the late 1970s, Tanglewood and the BSO sponsored rock concerts at various times throughout the season ... Mr. Harding complained that he didn't expect to have Woodstock in his backyard and brought suit against the BSO to limit the length and noise level of the concerts. Adjustments were made and eventually the suit was withdrawn," Callas states of the Hardings.

The Hardings made the last alterations to Highwood in 1982, when the kitchen was renovated among major interior renovations. The back of the house was also extended at this point.

In 1986, after requiring open heart surgery, the Hardings ended their tenure at Highwood Manor, selling the estate to the Boston Symphony Orchestra for $1.7 million.

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Nestled behind a grove of trees, on a hill between the Koussevitzky Music Shed and Seiji Ozawa Hall, Highwood Manor House still presides over a breathtaking view of the Stockbridge Bowl. It's green lawn, now devoid of wildflowers stretches down to the road, where another grouping of trees, with twisted boughs, stand sentinel as patrons dine or read at tables up above.

I meet my guide, Mary Lincoln, one of Tanglewood's many volunteers, at the back of the house, where an extension, known as the "press porch" during the summer months, juts out from the main building. She describes how the house was scrubbed of its more typical Italianate markings over its many renovations and additions, as we move inside the house, which now hosts the organization's administrative offices and practice rooms on its second and third floors. The house is also used for private functions and hosts fixed price buffet-style dinners of Friday and Saturdays, and Sunday brunch, during the BSO's summer season.

While neither my guide or I are sure what interior renovations were made by the Hardings in 1982, it is quite obvious that only a few original design elements still exist on the first floor. The remnants of a wide front entry hall can be seen near a stairwell leading to the upper floors, while rooms that were obviously a parlor and dining room still exist near the lake side entrance. I'm reminded of Linwood, now part of the Norman Rockwell Museum campus, an early cottage built around the same time period. Only here, the walls have been stripped of all paper and color and painted a crisp white or subtle gray. The history and architecture peek out infrequently, when a shuttered fireplace or set of French doors are seen.

"The Bullard family was here from 1855 to 1961," Lincoln says as we make our way up to the second and third floors. "In 1920, Katherine Bullard [sister to Dr. Norton Bullard] built her own Italianate villa on the property at a cost of $300,000. She died in Boston shortly after it was built. She left it to her siblings, but no one wanted to live in it. It was torn down [all except for a small ell (wing) that was moved off the property] without being occupied."

The second floor is similar to the first, only more of the rooms have been painted in slightly brighter colors. It is here, on the second floor that a ghost, that reportedly spooked BSO conductor Leonard Bernstein, is supposed to roam. While not mentioned by my guide, tales of cold spots, and the feeling of being shoved or having hot breath on the back of one's neck, have made their way into ghost guide books about the Berkshires. If there is a ghost, it does not make its presence known to us.

On the third floor, we peek in the five or six rooms that once made for stuffy summer servants quarters, where interns and staff are busy tapping on keyboards or answering phones.

On our way out, we stop on the lawn to take in the views and take a moment to figure out just where, in days long ago, on a long-forgotten porch, before the concerts and cars, Nathaniel Hawthorne spent hours dreaming up tales of Tanglewood.


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