How did ill-fated Shadowbrook mirror the Cottage era?
No place typified the Berkshire Cottage Era, now being celebrated during Lenox’s 250th anniversary, quite like Shadowbrook, the largest home in America when completed in 1893. With three acres of floor space, 410 feet in length, on more than 700 acres of scenic real estate, it was a symbol of an opulent age. But the mansion appeared to have been star-crossed; bad things happened to people who lived there.
Original owner Anson Phelps Stokes lost his love for the home after a riding accident resulted in the amputation of his leg. He tried turning Shadowbrook into an inn, but failed.
America’s second richest man, Andrew Carnegie, bought the place in 1917. It is often said that he thought it to be much like Scotland, his native land. He was Lenox’s “man in black,” always formally attired in public, but he had little time to enjoy the area, dying in his home two years later in August 1919.
Shadowbrook’s story reflects the rise and fall of the Cottage Era. Money didn’t necessarily buy happiness. Subsequent residents suffered financial losses and accidental deaths. When the Jesuits established their novitiate there, a catastrophic 1956 fire destroyed Stokes’s creation and killed four.
A reminder of that bygone era is a structure you see at the intersection of Route 183 and Richmond Mountain Road, once Shadowbrook’s gatehouse. Kripalu Yoga now brings serenity to the property.