Long out of memory, the Houston family had one of Lee’s popular summer boarding houses on the east shore of Greenwater Pond. Hugh Houston (1833-1907) mostly tended his several farm properties while his wife, Mary Louise Soule Houston (1834-1924), saw to their guests.
According to The Berkshire Evening Eagle in 1907, Houston, who died that year, “was a character known to most people of Central Berkshire. He owned three farms on the shore of Greenwater pond, aggregating 1200 acres and embracing more than half of the shore of that body of water. In early life he was a molder and worked in East Lee, but had lived near the pond within the memory of the present generations. He was for years engaged in the lumber business and his home farm still has a big tract of heavy timber.”
Mary Houston carried on the lodge and after her death in 1924, son Samuel (1873-1948) and his wife, Alvina P. Bellrose (?-1948) Houston, moved from Greenfield to carry on the summer resort. “The place is admirably adaptable as an outing place,” an Eagle writer commented.
“Vina” Houston was a talented musical performer. Typically she rendered a violin solo with Ora J. Harding accompanying when the Berkshire County Women’s Relief Corps met with its Lee affiliates in April 1927.
Houston and Harding provided musical entertainment following a presentation of Kate Douglas Wiggin’s two-act drama “The Old Peabody Pew” at the Congregational Church parlors as part of the town’s celebration of Massachusetts’ tercentenary in 1930.
Stage and screen star power
Greenwater Lodge had interesting connections with two entertainers.
Fred Stone (1873-1959), a star of New York musicals such as “The Wizard of Oz” (1903) and “Three Cheers” (1928) before appearing in motion pictures including “Broadway After Dark” (1924), “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” (1936) and “The Westerner” (1940), came to the Berkshires for a quiet weekend in 1934. While staying at Greenwater Pond, father and daughter attended Friday afternoon tea at Ted Shawn’s Jacob’s Pillow and in the evening attended the Berkshire Playhouse as Shawn’s guests.
“At the summer theatre, word went around that Fred Stone was in the house, and all eyes were centered at various times, on the famous actor. Stone was the victim of an airplane accident, when he was seriously injured a few years ago while flying his own plane. It crashed in Connecticut. Will Rogers took Stone’s place in a musical show at the time, and substituted until the end of the run. There always had been a close friendship between Will Rogers and Stone and Stone and Ted Shawn.”
Ted Shawn (1891-1972) and his wife, Ruth St. Denis (1879-1968), and their esteemed Denishawn Company (active from 1915-1931) of modern dancers found a summer home in Becket in 1931, hosting their own and other companies of performers at the former Jacob Carter farm.
A place for the performers
Performers and dance school attendees needed a place to stay. Many gravitated to Greenwater Lodge.
In 1931, four female dancers joined the men at the Pillow. Boarding at Greenwater Lodge with the pianist Mary Campbell, they were Martha Hinman, Ann Austin, Marion Chase, Regina and Phoebe Banchan.
In 1933, Shawn and troupe briefly visited the Pillow before making a tour of the South. “Miss Mary Campbell who was his piano accompanist for several years and who recently returned from a European trip with Miss Miriam Winslow, a former pupil and member of the Shawn Company, visited at the studio recently and was a guest at Houston’s Greenwater Lodge,” The Berkshire Evening Eagle reported.
From the same newspaper three years later: “When Miss Fern Helsher business manager and publicity agent for Ted Shawn and his men dancers, decided to transfer her living quarters from the garage to Greenwater Lodge a few days ago, she showed good judgment. Lightning struck the garage as well as the lodge during the [thunder]storm last night, ripping out the electric light in the center of the ceiling and tossing debris all over the room A few weeks ago, Miss Helsher, for whom the garage had been made over into living quarters moved the cot from beneath the light, thinking that sometime a storm might come and lightning follow the wire.”
And three years beyond that, in 1939, “Ted Shawn’s School of Dance for Women opened this afternoon at the studio, Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, with 20 girls from all parts of the country enrolled … The students are registered at Greenwater Lodge, at Mary Howry’s home in Becket and at Mrs. Maude Meeker’s home in Lee. Mr. Shawn is also conducting this summer a school for men with about 30 students who will take the courses until fall.”
The Houstons sold the property to Barton and E. Georgetta Bovee of New Britain, Conn., in 1945 and moved to Lee. Bovee (1900-1982) was a Methodist minister and lecturer at Yale Divinity School, not an innkeeper.