Thistlewood mansion sells for $3.57 million

Highest priced property sale in the Berkshires since 2014


Two Florida residents have purchased a 26-room, 19th century Gilded Age cottage on Walker Street for $3.57 million, the largest residential property transaction in the Berkshires since 2014, and one of the 10 largest in county history.

Jeffrey W. Davis and Michael T. Miller, of Miami, purchased the 13-acre estate known as "Thistlewood" from Lee and Laura Munder of West Palm Beach, Fla., according to documents filed at the Middle Berkshire Registry of Deeds in Pittsfield.

The Munders, originally from the Boston area, had owned the Walker Street mansion since 2003. They also sold a Palm Beach lakefront penthouse apartment for $17.45 million in 2013 — a record for a condo unit in that area.

The Thistlewood sale is among the 10 highest residential real estate transactions in Berkshire County history, according to Eagle files —the highest is the $6.9 million purchase of Southmayd Farm in Stockbridge in January 2007. It is also by far the highest residential sale in the Berkshires so far in 2017.

Of the 13 residences that have sold for more than $1 million in the Berkshires since January, only three have gone for more than $2 million, according to the Berkshire County Board of Realtors. The previous high sale this year was a $2.2 million home that sold on Yokun Avenue in Lenox in May.

All but one of those 13 transactions have been in South County towns. Of the 119 homes priced over $1 million that have been sold in the Berkshires since 2008, all but 20 have been located in South Berkshire.

Sales of luxury homes in the Berkshires, which tend to fluctuate with the economy — they declined drastically during the Great Recession — are slightly less than they were at this time last year, but are on the same pace as 2015, according to the Board of Realtors. In 2016, 17 homes over $1 million were sold in the Berkshires between January and July; two years ago 12 homes in that price range were sold, the same amount as this year. In 2014, 18 homes priced over the $1 million threshold were purchased between January and July, the highest total in the Berkshires since 2008.

Thistlewood, which has 10 bedrooms and eight and a half bathrooms, had been on the market since 2010, according to Realtor Dan Alden of William Pitt Sotheby's International Realty in Great Barrington, who was the listing agent. Sotheby's obtained the listing in 2016. The original asking price was $4.75 million, which was later reduced to $4.25 million. The property was marketed internationally, and even featured as a House of the Week last year in the Wall Street Journal.

"There were a lot of people sniffing around over the years," Alden said. Being priced under the $5 million mark "seemed to open up the market quite a bit. We definitely had a lot of destination buyers continuing to look at it. It's a world class property.

"It just needed to find the right price for the market," Alden said. "It's really the classic Berkshire cottage. It's the perfect size. The prior owners meticulously restored it and modernized it to the highest quality finish."

The property includes a Colonial Revival style main house with six bedrooms that has been fully restored, and a four bedroom carriage house. An English solarium connects the main house with an outside patio, formal gardens and a pool area.

Thistlewood was built in 1888 by David and Hannah Lydig, who came to the Berkshires after their family estate was condemned by the city of New York so the property could be part of a new park in the Bronx. The Lydigs built Thistlewood on pasture land given to them by Frederick Augustus Schermerhorn, a member of the Astor family.

After David Lydig died in 1917, his wife became engaged to Schermerhorn, described as a "millionaire bachelor capitalist" in an article published in the Springfield Republican in 1945. But Schermerhorn died in 1919, and the couple never married.

Hannah Lydig, who died in 1930, was the largest benefactor of the Lenox Library at the time of her death. Frederick Augustus Schermerhorn's mother, Adeline Coster Schermerhorn, purchased the former Berkshire County Courthouse in Lenox in 1873 and gave it to the Lenox Library for use as its permanent home.

The house has had several other owners since the Lydigs, including William Earle Dodge Stokes Jr., who bought Thistlewood in 1958.

Known as "Weddie" to his friends, Stokes was the son of the notorious William Earle Dodge Sr., a New York City developer who built the Ansonia Hotel. The elder Stokes was the brother of Anson Phelps Stokes, who built Shadow Brook in Stockbridge.

The younger Stokes, who died in 1992, sold Thistlewood in 1990 to Steven Rufo and his partner, Dan Dempsey, who put in the estate's pool and pool house, before selling the mansion in 2002.

Reach Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.


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