Whimsy and wit, the Federal-style of one the oldest dwelling in town: the Pease-Lincoln House
Photographs by John Gruen
West on Route 102, visitors cruise by the Berkshire Theatre in Stockbridge, perhaps en route to the Red Lion Inn or the Norman Rockwell Museum. They also breeze by one of the oldest dwellings in town, the Pease-Lincoln House, home of Carole and Gordon Hyatt. The Federal-style house, built in 1826, is set back from the road behind a slate-blue picket fence and a tall stand of yew trees. Inspired by Scottish architect Robert Adams, the plain, two-story, rectangular design with a center doorway and low-pitched roof masks an interior opulence. A conservatory, topped by a styled cupola complete with weather vane, has been added to the original footprint.
Referring to the original residents, Carole Hyatt theorizes, “It is what they would have done had they lived here now. Traditional Federal-house rooms were small in size and didn’t lend themselves to entertaining 40 to 60 people like we do.” Gordon, a documentary filmmaker working formerly with Walter Cronkite and Mike Wallace, and Carole, founder of the Leadership Forum, a career-development initiative for women, and the popular workshop, “Getting to Next,” have developed an extensive social network—and entertaining is something they do well and often. Gracious hosts, they extend hospitality for a wide variety of affairs throughout the year.
During the summer months, the calendar is choc-a-block full. Garden parties, poetry readings, workshops, luncheons, and ladies teas are regular events. The day after Christmas—Boxing Day—the couple host a lavish party that has become a popular tradition among locals.
The Gothic Revival conservatory, inspired by the Strawberry Hill, London, home of Horace Walpole, is a visual feast. Every detail of the octagonal room was planned with care, blending together painting, architecture, and sculpture. The Italian travertine floor, designed by Carl Sprague, and the faux-columned wallpaper inspired by Richard Haas, create an illusion of space. An ornate chandelier rescued from a Connecticut antiques shop highlights the 24-karat, star-studded, trompe l’oeil ceiling painted by a disciple of the Dalai Lama. Mementos like the preserved pheasant shot by Gordon’s father or the bronze bust of Gordon, a birthday gift from Carole, fill the room.
Stepping from the conservatory into the main living room, the eye is drawn to Casey Krawczyk’s wall-size painting of Ophelia, entitled “Surrounded by Forever,” a nod to the couple having served on the board of Shakespeare & Company for 22 years. Gordon recalls details about every piece of furniture in the room, such as the canary-yellow 1830 sofa made by Anthony Quervelle from Philadelphia’s French-inspired Empire Period. Beside the sofa on an 1826 side table is a collection of medals given to Carole by the military personnel she coaches.
Next to the living room is the blue-themed garden room leading to the terrace. The same neo-Gothic details seen in the conservatory are prominent features. Richard Haas, who painted the original maquettes for the New York Public Library, altered the look of the room using his architectural-illusion technique. The Hyatts also enjoy entertaining here and in the wisteria-covered arbor, a former stage set also designed by Sprague. Gordon is the chef and Carole the organizer, both supervised by their feline companion, Eleanor Roosevelt. After the Hyatts bought the house, letters found at Chesterwood indicated that sculptor Daniel Chester French designed the garden, says Gordon. “So, in his honor, we installed the only existing replica of the fountain found outside his studio at Chesterwood. We think he would’ve approved.”
Water plays a big part in this garden. Next to the arbor, a lily pond offers serenity. Just below, a stream gently trickles through the center of the linear garden. Circling around and between the sprawling vinca, ferns, and towering pines are wood-chip paths leading into seven different “rooms.” It all begins at the bright-red gas pump next to the garage, another Gordon Hyatt antique find on a return trip from Canada.
This is the greenhouse room, accessed through a Balinese gateway and serving a utilitarian purpose for potting, replanting, and nurturing seedlings. Passing by the raspberry patch on the left and the vegetable garden on the right, the path continues down to the Housatonic River and to the second outdoor “room”—a children’s wishing garden complete with toadstool benches and campfire site.
A crowded arch of angels beckons visitors toward a screened-in tearoom overlooking the Housatonic, and then the path continues along the river bank, showcasing a series of Carole’s unique birdhouses. Back up toward the fourth room, where Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, awaits on a pedestal. Statuary continues into the next room, and group of nymphs looking to belong in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, mingle between the trees. Passing through two Ionic columns, the path ends at a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired setting of two Japanese and one Native American statues posed in peaceful contemplation.
“Landscaping a woodland is challenging,” says Boston architect Roger Cassin, “but the Hyatts have done a good job of transforming a lawn and a bunch of trees into something fun and magical.” The Hyatts’s garden and home are a reflection of their creative spirit, where children can imagine nymphs and fairies, adults can drink in the tranquility, and Eleanor Roosevelt can revel in her woodland paradise.