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View "The Very Hills of Heaven" While Staying in Historically Elegant Comfort and Style at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club in the Western Berkshires of Massachusetts

Wishing Well and Golf Course at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

Long before Lenox, Massachusetts became the resort town and destination of tourists from all over the world that it is today, Catharine Sedgwick, one of America’s first important women writers, put pen to paper and declared it to be "a bare and ugly little village, dismally bleak and uncouth, reached only after six miles of steep and rough driving." Over time, though, her sentiments changed quite drastically and on November 1st, 1824 she wrote: "As I stand at the window and gaze on the hills that stretch before me in every variety of height and position, the sun sends his gleamy smiles along their summits pleasantly and the little lake that sparkles in the valley, now that its leafy veil has fallen, is plainly seen. I perceive many beauties that I have been before quite blind to."

Visitors to the rural town of Lenox in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts may very well find themselves echoing those latter sentiments - especially if they've decided to spend some of their time at the historically beautiful Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club which has been offering incredible vistas to visitors of the property in all seasons for as many years as people have been drawn to the beauty of Western Massachusetts. As a new visitor to the Berkshires myself, the Cranwell Resort presented itself as the perfect place to stay while exploring an area that is steeped in history (and we all know how much I love history!) so it was to Beecher Hill that myself and my distracted sidekick Paula made our way for a two-night stay at a location whose own history began some 160 years ago.
Reverend Henry Ward Beecher

Originally known as Blossom Hill, the property in the eastern part of town where the Crandall Resort is located was bought in 1853 by 40-year old Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, a Congregationalist clergyman originally from Litchfield, Connecticut who was best known as a social reformer and speaker who supported the abolition of slavery as well as being the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Following his $4,500 purchase, Beecher built a simple farmhouse on the land with views that could only be described as magnificent. "By a mere roll of the eyeball I can look from Greylock on the north to the dome of the Taghconic Mountains on the south, a range of sixty miles from peak to peak," stated Beecher. In Star Papers; or, Experiences of Art and Nature, the Reverend Beecher extolled the virtues of life in the Berkshires writing, "I wander forth wondering how there should be sorrow in the world. Each hour is a perfect hour, clear, full and unstated. One would hardly seek another home in summer, if he should spend July or October in Lenox. It is the joy of being alive ... Such days are let down from heaven."
Beecher's Cottage, circa 1853 - Image Credit
General J.F. Rathbone
Some 16 years after he built his farmhouse upon the hill, in 1869 Reverend Beecher wrote to General John F. Rathbone, a Civil War veteran who served as Bridgadier-General of the Ninth Brigade, New York State Militia and who was later appointed to the position of Adjutant-General of the State of New York, and offered to sell him the Lenox property with its views of "the very hills of heaven."  An ardent philanthropist and active civil leader, Rathbone founded and served as president of the Albany Orphan Asylum as well as serving as the president of Albany Academy's Board of Trustees, president of Albany Mutual Insurance Company, and president of Dudley Observatory. Additionally he was superintendent of the Emmanuel Baptist Church Sunday School for 30 years and, as a major financial supporter of the University of Rochester, he and his brother Lewis donated enough money to found the university's Rathbone Library.

Definitely interested in buying the property, the general told the reverend that upon completion of the purchase, he intended to change the name of "Blossom Hill" to "Beecher Hill" in honor of its former owner.*  Using part of the fortune that he had amassed through the stove foundry which he and partner Charles Baker had grown into Albany's largest, and eventually the biggest in the world, General Rathbone purchased the property, renamed it as promised, and began ownership by promptly relocating the modest Beecher farmhouse to the side of the hill so that his newly constructed "cottage" would have the commanding views of October Mountain and the Houstanic Valley from the top of the hill that were the highlight of the property. Wasting no expense, Rathbone's new home, which he christened Wyndhurst, was enormous even by the standards of the day but was there were extensive acres of property to build on, it could be as large and elaborate as the general wanted.

While General Rathbone's "cottage" crowned the top of the hill, on the back side of the hill another Civil War veteran erected his own summer cottage.  Captain John S. Barnes, Flag Officer of the North Atlantic Fleet of the United States Navy, purchased property on the hill for $10,000 in 1882 and hired the Boston-based premier architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns to design Coldbrooke. Barnes' son James described the house as "large, rambling and of no fixed style" though it boasted a Queen Ann facade, mansard roof, large veranda, eleven fireplaces, and a three-story spiral staircase

"Coldbrooke" -  Image Credit: Google Books
In 1894 the property on top of the hill with the best views in Lenox changed hands again, this time being purchased by John W. Sloane, a native of Kilmarnock, Scotland who came to the United States in 1832 and eventually joined his older brother William in the company that he had founded as a rug importer and seller on March 2, 1843. When younger brother John joined the firm in 1852, it was renamed W. & J. Sloane as it continued to successfully grow. By the late 19th century, the company had begun producing original furniture and gained a reputation as producing some of the finest examples of Colonial Revival furniture in the country. The first company to import oriental carpets into the United States and which catered to the very wealthy of the country, the company began to bill itself as W. & J. Sloane Interior Decorators and Home Furnishers when they launched the first home furnishings store in the country opening their flagship store in New York City at Broadway and 19th on the historic "Ladies Mile" in Manhattan .

William, founder of the company that made both he and his younger brother John quite wealthy in their own rights, married Emily Thorn Vanderbilt - granddaughter of Cornelius "The Commodore" Vanderbilt - in December of 1872 thereby forever linking his family to that of one of the wealthiest in the country whose fortunes had been built in the shipping and railroad industries.

In keeping with the Vanderbilt family's passion for building what would end up being an unequaled string of New York townhouses and East Coast palaces in the United States, William and Emily built their own "Berkshire Cottage" in 1886 - a modest 106-room, 55,000-square foot home which is still the largest American Shingle Style home in the United States. Designed by the same firm that Captain John S. Barnes used to design Coldbrooke, architects Peabody and Stearns designed Elm Court while Frederick Law Olmsted - the "Father of Landscape Architecture" - designed the grounds of the property which straddle the town line between Lenox and the neighboring town of Stockbridge.

Elm Court - Image Credit
Listed as a National Historic Landmark since 1985, Elm Court served as a private residence until Emily's death in 1946 and was the last "Berkshire Cottage" to remain in the hands of its founding family (for 126 years) until July 2012 when it was sold to a Colorado-based group for $9.8 million which is believed to be the highest price ever paid for a residential property in Berkshires County. Now open and operating as Elm Court Estate, the property offers year-round hotel accommodations in the mansion as well as availability as an exclusive wedding destination.

John Sloan, Original Owner of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Portrait of John Sloane that
hangs in the Mansion at Cranwell
Meanwhile back over on the top of Beecher Hill, no doubt having enjoyed time at Elm Court and finding the Berkshires quite to their liking, John Sloane and his wife Adela were about to build their own "Berkshire Cottage" on what was said to be "one of the finest sites in all of America with its magnificent views" by Charles M. Lincoln in his article The Summer Colony at Lenox which appeared in Munsey's Magazine, Volume 17 on January 1, 1897.  The process began with the tearing down of General Rathbone's Wyndhurst  as well as Beecher's 1853 farmhouse so that John Sloane could construct his own version of Wyndhurst  on a much grander and more elegantly elaborate scale than its predecessor.

Just as his brother William had done before him, the younger Sloane commissioned Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who created New York’s Central Park and Boston’s Emerald Necklace, to lay out the 300 acres of grounds around his Peabody and Stearns' designed Tudor-style mansion constructed of Perth Amboy brick in the style of the late middle ages. The mansion had no piazza or veranda but was built with a terrace that served the same function and provided guests with a beautiful view from the top of the hill across the front lawn and down towards the road.  For an even better view of the surrounding countryside, guests could climb to the top of the tower that led onto the roof where, on a clear day, they could see Mount Greylock - the highest peak in Massachusetts twenty-two miles away - as well as glimpses of Connecticut, Vermont, and New York.

Wyndhurst - Image Credit
Built during the Gilded Age when 'grandeur' was the watch-word, Wyndhurst  boasted stained-glass windows, hand-painted leather ceilings, and rich wood-paneled walls along with ornate stone and plaster work combined with finely-skilled wood carvings on several of the mansion's fifteen fireplaces - all created by the Italian craftsmen that Sloane brought into the country to work on his home. The Sloanes filled their cottage with costly hangings, imported tapestries, fine furniture, and electric lights (though it was also equipped with gas lighting fixtures as a back-up as electricity was relatively new to the area) then repeatedly opened their doors to invited family and friends.  One of those invited guests was President William McKinley who - the story has it - was so impressed with the hand-carved wood ceiling in the oval-shaped dining room during his visit to the Sloanes in 1897, that he went back to Washington DC and had it replicated in the Blue Room during renovations to the White House undertaken by Edgar S. Yergason of Hartford, Connecticut in 1899.

Wyndhurst circa 1900 - Image Credit
In addition to the mansion, the property was the site of one of the finest farms in Lenox with an extensive number of silos and outbuildings built to shelter a herd of blooded cattle as well as a large number of horses for riding and utilitarian purposes.

The Sloanes loved to entertain and in the later years of his life, Mr. Sloane, the 34th President of the St. Andrew's Society of the State of New York, spent much of his time at his beautiful country residence located atop the best hill in Lenox welcoming many of his old friends and associates with a "whole-souled kindly hospitality so characteristic of the sons of Scotland."*

The idyllic days of entertaining and leisure at Wyndhurst  ended for John Sloane on December 9th, 1905 when he died at his home in New York City at the age of 72. For the next two decades Wyndhurst  remained in the Sloane family until 1925 when Evelyn, the only daughter of the Sloanes, sold the estate to a group of Florida developers who ran it for a short time as the Berkshire Hunt and Country Club. It was at that time Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek were commissioned to design an 18-hole golf course.

Image Credit
Boston-based Wayne Stiles, who began his career as a landscape architect and went on to design more than 140 courses from Maine to New Mexico, built several of the holes for the golf course around Wyndhurst  knowing that the view would add to the game. Kevin Mendik, who co-wrote The Life and Work of Wayne Stiles with Bob Labbance, stated that, "Stiles always found his green sites first, then worked backward from there. As a landscape architect, he knew what the trees on a hole would look like in 60 or 80 years. He saw the picture from the tee." That was certainly what he saw when he created the design for the Berkshire Hunt and Country Club.

Postcard of the Former Cranwell School - Image Credit
In 1930 the property changed owners again when Edward Cranwell purchased it then donated it in 1939 to the Society of Jesus of New England with the stipulation that it be used as a private school for boys. Named after its generous benefactor, the Cranwell Preparatory School was attended by a young Teddy Kennedy during his 8th-grade year - one of the ten schools that he attended prior to turning 11.  As for the golf course, by the time the school opened its doors, most of Wayne Stiles' original holes had become overgrown. After several students and teachers uncovered them and restored the course, the school operated a nine-hole golf course for many years. Cranwell Preparatory School prospered for about 35 years before the school eventually slipped into decline and closed its doors in 1975.

You can't keep great architecture combined with a magnificent view down so it wasn't too horribly long before the former property of Reverend Henry Ward Beecher was purchased by New York real estate developer Dan Burack who bought the property from the bank with the idea of creating a world-class luxury resort in the Berkshire Hills. Soon the property regenerated (to use a little Doctor Who  vernacular) and came back to life as the Cranwell Resort, a luxury resort and country club with the mansion of Wyndhurst serving as the showpiece of the 380-acre property. With the addition of a world class spa in 2002, one of the largest in New England, the former home of a reverend, an Army general, a Navy captain, and a self-made millionaire from Scotland became officially known as the Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club. It was there that my friend Paula and I would spend two nights when we wandered over to the Berkshires on a bright and beautiful July day.

Sign for the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club with Wyndhurst in the distance.

Approaching the Cranwell Resort on Route 20 (Lee Road) from the east, the first glimpse we had of the property was to our right as we saw a gorgeous golf course stretching out in front of a beautiful brick mansion.  "Wow" just didn't seem to do our reactions justice but as I try to keep this blog clean, it just wouldn't be right to type our other reactions to the sight of our accommodations for the next two nights. Suffice it to say, both Paula and I were verbally impressed!

Making our way up the very long drive, we followed the signs to Guest Registration which is located in Olmsted Manor, named for John Sloane's landscape architect - Frederick Law Olmsted.  In addition to housing the Front Desk and the Concierge Desk where guests can receive information on the many fantastic places to visit in the Berkshires (and trust me, there are LOTS!) the building also has 12 guestrooms and suites, a computer room, the Tanglewood Meeting Room, and a beautiful lobby with comfy leather couches, a grand brick fireplace, gleaming woodwork, and windows that let in lots of light as well as provide terrific views of the resort.

Photo Collage of the Lobby of the Olmsted House at the Crandall Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

David, the gentleman who checked us in at the Front Desk, was both warm and welcoming as well as very helpful explaining the layout of the large resort to us.  To help guests out with that, they provide you with one of the neatest things I've ever seen ...

Key Card Holder for the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

When you're given the keycard to your room, it comes in a nice little holder with a place on the front for your room number to be written (which is great to have when you're first checking in and need to remember what room you've been assigned) but what makes this holder über cool is that it folds open to reveal a handy-dandy map of the resort! How awesomely convenient is that??

Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club Keycard Holder with Fold-Out Map

David circled the important places on the map that he thought we'd most likely need to find (our building, the outdoor pool, the Mansion where we'd be eating, Sloane's Tavern, etc) and after imparting some additional helpful information, he said to not hesitate to call if we had any questions or needed any assistance before he wished us a fantastic stay.  I had a feeling that was going to be an easy thing to do if the rest of the Cranwell Resort was anything like Olmsted Manor!

Heading back out to the car to go in search of our building, I looked across the practice putting green and saw a major piece of history that the Cranwell Resort has retained and made brilliant use of - the former home of Captain John S. Barnes.  Now known as Beecher's Cottage in honor of Reverend Henry Ward Beecher's home on the hill, Coldbrooke offers spacious guest accommodations in the 1882 structure that overlooks the first tee of the resort's championship 18-hole golf course.

Beecher's Cottage - Image Credit
On the northern side of the cottage there is a beautiful veranda with wooden rocking chairs for guests' use which I've got to think is simply a terrific place to just sit and relax for a bit while enjoying the views, you can see a photo of it by visiting the Accommodations section of the Cranwell Resort's website. The 25 guest rooms located on three floors are some of the largest rooms at the resort with several featuring decorative fireplaces and/or large bay windows.  As the rooms in Beecher's Cottage are accessed via stairs including the original 3-story spiral staircase that Captain Barnes had installed when the cottage was built, the cottage is not handicap accessible but it is the only building on the resort that isn't.

Image Credit
Our room for the next two nights was to be found in the Carriage House which was located just a short distance from Olmsted Manor but due to tragic events, it wasn't the original Carriage House that had been built on the property at the same time that John Sloane had his Wyndhurst  built. Pictured to the right, the original Carriage House was destroyed on December 22, 2010 when a fire broke out in a void between the first and second floors.

Fortunately there were no guests or employees in the building when the fire started at 2:00 in the afternoon but within 45 minutes of the initial reports of smoke, the entire building was engulfed in flames.  Despite the best efforts of the Lenox Fire Department along with mutual aid from nineteen other departments including one from Connecticut, it didn't take long before fire consumed the structure as the dry wood went up like a tinderbox and the 100+ year old building was lost forever.

Photos courtesy of Ed Harvey, Fire Service Photography
Following the blaze, it wasn't long before the Cranwell Resort brought in the East Coast design-build construction firm of Cutler Associates to rebuild the Carriage House to as close to authentic as possible. The original architectural drawings by Peabody and Stearns were located in the Boston Public Library and Cutler Associates followed them to help bring back as much as possible of the original 1890s design. Kevin Kozak, the current Vice President of Design at Cutler Associates, Inc., stated that, "Many concepts from the original Carriage House were incorporated, including the tower, cantilevered floors at the upper level, as well as roof lines and gables, to create a new design that still respects the original structure."  They did a beautiful job creating a structure that fits seamlessly into the historic landscape of the Cranwell Resort while providing guests with an impressive array of  very modern amenities.

The Carriage House of the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

The new building, which opened in July of 2012, houses a fully ADA-compliant room that features a roll-in shower, along with 17 other guest rooms that are accessible either via stairs or elevator.  The premier interior design firm Hughes Design Associates was retained by the Cranwell Resort to create the interior portion of the newly-constructed Carriage House which they did using both the history of the resort as well as the surrounding area as their inspiration.  The furniture with its finials and turned legs reflect pieces that would have been found in Wyndhurst  during the time of the Sloanes' residencywhile the patterns and materials were inspired by nature and the Berkshires. The artwork that decorates both the main foyer and the guest rooms gives guests a glimpse into the lives of  those who lived and played on the property as well as in other areas of the Berkshires. As a history lover myself, I quite enjoyed looking at the framed photos of days gone by and found myself comparing them to what things look like today.

The Carriage House of the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Flower Cart Next to the Carriage House of the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Flowers in the Front of the Carriage House of the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Main Foyer of The Carriage House of the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Wall Decorations in the Main Foyer of The Carriage House of the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Decorations in the Main Foyer of The Carriage House of the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Main Foyer of The Carriage House of the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

Complimentary Bottled Water in Rooms at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf ClubFor our stay at the Cranwell Resort, we were given Room #311 which is listed as a Classic Resort Double on the resort's website.  To say that the room was large would have been a bit of an understatement as it was huge with vaulted ceilings that made it seem even bigger. Our triple-sheeted queen-size beds were very, very comfortable (or at least I sure thought so!) while the color palette in the room was very soothing.  Amenities in the room included a single-serve Keurig coffeemaker along with an ample supply of coffees, teas, and condiments; a decent-sized refrigerator that even had a small freezer; complimentary bottled water rather than that $6 a bottle stuff you find in a lot of hotels these days; a hair dryer; ironing board; in-room safe that was big enough to put my laptop in; comfy robes that actually fit; a flat-screen TV with plenty of channels to choose from; CD player; and complimentary WiFi which is always a definite plus in my book.

On a personal note, I find it rather appalling that a lot of hotels - especially some of the bigger names - still charge an additional fee for WiFi in guest rooms so it's always nice to stay someplace where you not only have free access to the Internet without having to be in a public place but the signal is good, too.  I had no problem accessing WiFi anywhere on the Cranwell property and that's saying something in an area of Massachusetts where you can't even get a signal on your cell phone in a lot of places! (Yes, Stockbridge, I'm talking about you!)

Collage of Room #311 in the Carriage House at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

The bathroom was equally roomy with a double marble vanity and over-sized tub and shower that was easy to get into but hard to get out off as I found that I simply didn't want to!  One of the things that I always take note of when staying someplace new is the water pressure as there's really not much worse than a dribbly sort of shower that makes you feel like you might not even be able to get all of the shampoo rinsed out of your hair. That was most definitely not the case in our Carriage House room as I found the shower to be fantastic - especially so the evening Paula and I had hiked up Monument Mountain and my muscles were practically screaming at me for the over-use! Oh, and extra points for the mirrors not fogging up at all even after a very long, very hot shower and the big fluffy white towels that made me feel like I actually had  gone to the spa during our stay.

Photo Collage of the Bathroom in Room #311 at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

As it was rather warm the afternoon we checked in and we'd spent the earlier part of the day exploring the Norman Rockwell Museum and other parts of Stockbridge, after ooh'ing and aah'ing over our room, taking a few photos to share on Facebook, and putting a few things away (I'm one of those people who actually unpack my suitcase when I stay someplace!) Paula and I decided an afternoon swim would probably be quite relaxing before our scheduled ghost tour at Edith Wharton's home later that evening. Following the directions that David had given us, we made our way through the enclosed "Spa Link" that led from the Carriage House over to the spa area so that we could get to the other side where the outdoor pool was located.

Collage of the Spa Links at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

Along the way I looked at some of the artwork for sale that decorated the walls but the artwork that Paula liked best was found on the walls of the "tunnel" that leads from the Founder's Cottage to the spa.  The mural is hand-painted and depicts a lovely natural forest scene.  As an art teacher, Paula gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up; as someone who can't draw a straight line and make it look good, I appreciated the time and talent that went into the work of art that perfectly complimented and completed the ambiance in the long "darker" hallway!

Collage of the Spa Area at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

On our way to the outdoor pool, we walked past the 'Spa' part of the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club with its 35,000-square feet of  modern amenities that features steam rooms, saunas, whirlpools, and relaxation lounges complete with fireplaces.  The Spa at Cranwell boasts a 60-foot long indoor pool surrounded by a 20-foot high glass wall; a state-of-the-art Fitness Center featuring an adjacent Exercise Room; the Spa Shop where one can buy skin care products, jewelry, exercise wear, or other gifts; The Spa Café which serves healthy, delicious luncheons to spa guests; the Image Center where one can treat themselves to a manicure, pedicure, or other pampering; and 16 treatment rooms where perfectly pampered guests can enjoy over 50 different spa services ranging from soothing massages and detoxifying wraps to rejuvenating skin and body treatments.

One of these days I'm going to go to a spa and splurge on a massage and some other pampering but unfortunately it wasn't going to be on this trip. Paula did, however, get up early the next morning to attend a Water Fitness class that she said was fantastic and which she thoroughly enjoyed.  Lazy sod that I am, while she exercised, I stayed in bed a little later and then sipped Keurig coffee in front of the flat screen TV until she got back and we could go to breakfast!

As we exited the spa building en route to the outdoor pool, we walked past the Cranwell Resort's Cottage Suites which are ideal for guests who require additional space or want a wet bar or kitchenette in their accommodations. There are ten suites total with six located on the ground level making them handicap accessible for those guests with mobility concerns.  The Cottage Suites are often used by guests who are planning an extended stay at the resort or traveling with families; upon check-in David had told us that one guest had been there for most of the summer while work was being finished on her new house.  Nice!

Cottages at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Family Cottage at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

Just past the Cottage Suites we arrived at the outdoor pool which is located just to the east of the Pro Shop and Sloane's Tavern.  We practically had the pool to ourselves as we enjoyed a nice relaxing swim surrounded by blue skies, puffy white clouds, and pretty much any deckchair that we wanted to choose to relax on! There were plenty of towels on hand for our use as well as a few kick-boards and such in case we actually wanted to exert some energy in between relaxing while simply enjoying the water and the views.

Collage of the Outdoor Pool at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

Speaking of relaxing, one of the places that we didn't have a chance to get to at the resort was Sloane's Tavern which has a very nice deck that overlooks the third hole of the golf course.  We honestly meant to get there and have a drink or two but time seemed to get away from us; I'm rather sorry that I missed it as I'm sure it would have been quite nice.  Oh well, next time, huh?

As it always does when visiting someplace nice, the time flew by much too quickly and before we knew it, we had to reluctantly leave the pool area where some of the other guests with children had joined us and were having a grand time in the water. With places to go and things to do, it wasn't until later that night when we returned from The Mount (which is located a very short drive away from Cranwell) that we took our first walk over to the Mansion as we decided the best way to end the day would be with an adult beverage and a little something to eat in the Music Room Lounge. I apologize for the not-so-great quality of the cell phone photo below but I was in too big of a hurry to get inside and have that drink to take the time to dig out my Nikon for a better night photo!

The Mansion at Night at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Night Photo of the Porte-Cochère of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
The Music Room Bar at Night in the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Cub

Decadent Dessert from the Music Room Lounge at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf ClubA Pineapple-Upside Down Cake Martini served in the Music Room Bar at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf ClubThe Music Room Lounge was devoid of any other guests when Paula and I arrived close to 10:30 pm (their hours are from 4 to 11 pm during July & August, 5 to 10 pm the rest of the year) but our bartender - whose name I unfortunately don't remember but who was as friendly as you can get - greeted us enthusiastically and suggested a Pineapple-Upside-Down Cake martini to quench our thirsts after Paula asked her what was good.

I have to say it was a great choice and went quite well with the chicken fingers with honey mustard sauce and fries that we ordered for a late meal and then followed up with a decadently delicious Gold Dusted Chocolate Truffle Bar that we split. This fabulous dessert - which the photo simply does not do justice - tasted a bit like a Drake's Funny Bone but SO much better.  The fresh blueberries and raspberries that accompanied it along with the real whipped cream garnished with mint leaves made it one of the best desserts I've sunk my teeth into - and trust me, I've sunk my teeth into plenty of desserts over the years!  That said, I refused to think about the calorie count which should be non-existent anyway when you're staying someplace like the Cranwell!

Following a great night's sleep and Paula's water class at the indoor pool the next morning, we at last made our way over to the Mansion in the light of a beautiful day when we could see all of the detail work that had gone into the construction of John Sloane's Wyndhurst.  It was quite easy to see why Peabody and Stearns was the architectural firm of choice for those wishing to build a beautiful home and why the Tudor-style Mansion is the centerpiece of the resort as it's simply stunning.

Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

A long-time member of Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation that identifies quality hotels that have "faithfully maintained their historic integrity, architecture and ambiance," the Cranwell Resort has carefully and lovingly restored and maintained Wyndhurst  in its original style of rural elegance that the Gilded Age embraced when the mansion was first constructed.  It was John Sloane's former grand summer home that earned Cranwell its membership into the esteemed ranks of the Historic Hotels of America and with very good reason as the building exudes both 19th-century style and elegance.

Porte-cochère of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Image Credit
Porte-cochère of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf ClubPorte-cochère of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

The porte-cochère where invited guests of the Sloane family would arrive in their coach and four still serves as the main entrance of the Mansion where, stepping through those double doors, guests enter the Great Hall with its gleaming dark wood paneling, luxurious Oriental carpets, overstuffed comfy sofas from England, and beautiful French tapestries adorning the walls. It is, in a word, simply stunning and yet at the same time not at all pretentious.  There is no feeling of not being able to sit down to relax and enjoy the ambiance and beauty of the room and its furnishings; you don't feel as if you've entered a historic house museum where it's hands off of everything but perhaps more like what John and Adela Sloane's invited guests must have felt like when they would come to visit Wyndhurst - though in my case I was wearing casual summer attire and sneakers rather than a proper Victorian dress complete with a corset, petticoat, gloves, stockings, hat, parasol, etc!

Main Entryway to the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Collage of the Lobby Area of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

Just off of the Great Room on the western side of the Mansion is the Wyndhurst restaurant which occupies the former formal dining room of the Sloanes.  It was the hand-carved ceiling in this room that it is believed to have so impressed then-President McKinley that he went back and recreated it in the Blue Room of the White House. Both Wyndhurst and the Music Room restaurants offer elegant fine dinner dining from 4:30 to 9:30 pm - a sample menu can be seen here along with the dessert and liqueur menu which can be found here.

Collage of the Wyndhurst Dining Room in the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

I have no idea what the Men's Room in the Mansion looks like as I didn't stick my head in there but the Ladies' Room is whimsically painted by the same artist that painted the mural in the tunnel leading from the Founder's Cottage to the spa. If I remember correctly, we were told that the artist was a former General Manager's daughter and she really did a fantastic job making the room bright and cheery!

Painted Stall Doors in the Ladies Room of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club Vanity of the Ladies Room in the Mansion of the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

Also located in the Mansion is the 3,000-square foot Sloane's Ballroom with its gorgeous period chandeliers, marble dance floor, and 12-foot high windows that offer gorgeous views that extend to sixty miles on a clear day.  It's quite easy to see why it's a very popular venue for unforgettable weddings and other social events.

Ballroom in the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Chandelier in the Ballroom of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf ClubBallroom of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
View of the Golf Course from the Ballroom of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

The historic ballroom recently underwent renovations that were completed in May of 2013 giving the largest banquet facility in Berkshire County new carpeting and drapes as well as the addition of a cove-lit dimmer controlled 16-foot high ceiling which is perfectly complemented by the chandeliers that are adorned with strings of crystal.  The ballroom can accommodate up to 225 guests for dining and dancing and is available during all seasons.

Back through the Great Room on the eastern side of the Mansion is the Music Room Lounge where Paula and I had enjoyed a drink the night before as well as the Music Room restaurant where we would have breakfast the two mornings of our stay.

Collage of the Music Room in the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Music Room Dining Room of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

Like the Wyndhurst restaurant, the Music Room also has beautiful hand-carved wooden ceilings with simply amazing detail work and two of the Mansion's elaborate 15 fireplaces are found in the lounge and the dining room; the fireplace in the Music Room is constructed of white Cortina marble - a feature that was insisted upon by Adela Sloane when Wyndhurst  was being built. The wood carvings on the fireplace in the Music Room Lounge, which was the Mansion's former library, are especially impressive and if you look closely you'll find "1894" - the year the mansion was built - carved into the mantle; obviously there were very skilled master craftsmen that did the work on both that fireplace and the Music Room ceiling, I can fully understand why John Sloane brought them over from Italy!

Close-Up View of the Mantle in the Music Room Lounge at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Ceiling in the Music Room Dining Room of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Detail Work of the Ceiling in the Music Room Dining Room of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

Even though a full a la carte breakfast menu is offered from 7:00 to 10:30 am (noon on Sundays) on both days of our stay Paula and I opted to have the breakfast buffet that had more offerings than on most other buffets I've seen.  The selections included fresh fruits, all sorts of pastries, breads, muffins and even scones!, breakfast meats and potatoes, real - not powdered - scrambled eggs, and probably the best pancakes I have ever eaten - though I practiced great restraint and limited myself to one!

Breakfast in the Music Room of the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

Yes I know, I know - I just said above that I had one of the best desserts I've ever eaten and now I'm praising the pancakes just as highly but there was a hint of vanilla or something different in these pancakes that I've never had in any others and it gave them a taste I've never experienced in a plain pancake before.  A little butter, a little syrup, and I was in pancake heaven!  I have no idea how the chef at the Cranwell Resort makes them but he is to be complimented!  I should also add that the juice was fresh-squeezed and the coffee was very tasty in my bottomless cup that never seemed to run out as the staff was very attentive to our every need.

On our second morning at breakfast we were seated in the main dining room while on our first morning we sat in the former Loggia that connects the Music Room with the Board Room (former Billiard Room) located in the tower. The room was very bright and airy with large windows on both sides that provided terrific views to both the front lawn of the Mansion and back towards the Founder's Cottage.

Image Credit
Former Loggia of Wyndhurst, Now the Sun Room Dining Area at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Collage of Conference Room and Sun Room Dining Room at the Mansion of the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

The photo below shows the inglenook at the back of the Board Room (former Billiard Room) of the Mansion with its fireplace that has an elaborate firebox that unfortunately isn't quite visible in this photo I'm afraid. I'm not certain if they are still there but when the Sloanes had the house built, narrow staircases to the tower were cleverly concealed on either side of the hearth.

Inglenook in the Board Room at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

In addition to the public rooms which are located on the first floor and handicap accessible, the Mansion has 13 guest rooms and suites which can only be accessed via stairs but they offer some of the best views of the surrounding countryside that one can get at Cranwell which makes them well worth the effort of carrying your luggage up and down the grand staircase!  All of the guest rooms in the Mansion are decorated in Victorian style - some with fireplaces. Though they are of the non-working variety - the only ones that are still in use are the two that are located in the Great Room and the Music Room Lounge - the fireplaces themselves are works of art created by Italian craftsmen who seem to have been given carte blanche when creating their designs.

Terrace of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf ClubTerrace of the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

If you go outside via the southern side of the Mansion on the other side of the Great Room, you'll find yourself on the Rose Terrace which overlooks the golf course and provides panoramic views of the Berkshire mountains in the distance. A set of stairs that appears to have been custom-made for group photo-taking (no doubt many a wedding party has posed there over the years) leads down to the historic 18-hole golf course that was built by Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek in 1926 on the site of the original Berkshire Hunt Club. "Surprisingly challenging" is the way David Strawn, Cranwell's Director of Golf and Head PGA Professional since 1994, describes the course.

Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Flag on the Golf Course at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

The par 69 course which combines spectacular views with challenging golf is open to the public (current rates can be found here) as well as to members who receive perks of advance tee times, complimentary driving range use and access to the Cranwell's spa, fitness center and pool. Overnight guests are offered 10% off the public rates which include the use of a golf cart.  If you've never golfed but always wanted to learn or if your game is a little rusty, golf instruction is available at the course in the form of full and half day group classes or individual classes with a PGA professional. For more information, click on this link (no pun intended!)

Golf Course and View from the Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Collage of the 8th Hole of the Championship Golf Course at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

After walking around a bit of the course near the Mansion and chatting with a few golfers who were quite enjoying their morning golf outing, I was really wishing I had broken my own clubs out of mothballs to bring along and given the course a try but not having played in way too many years, I doubt a course that fine would have been the place to "come out of retirement" ... Still, I think I'd love to give it a try one of these days though it might definitely prove to be amusing!  Unless perhaps I spent some time in the indoor hitting barn with its video analysis system first and got a tip or two from one of the Pros!

Wyndhurst Mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Rope Swings at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
Adirondack Chairs Beneath a Tree at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

Still walking off breakfast, Paula and I continued to explore the grounds of the Cranwell Resort as we strolled past a very large and impressive tree with branches big enough to hold a couple of rope swings as well as shade a pair of Adirondack chairs beneath its leafy canopy.  It was really an impressive tree and I rather wondered if it was the one that President McKinley had planted during one of his visits to Wyndhurst  but I figured that if it was, there might be some sort of signage stating that and there was none.  Either way, it was a terrific tree.  Oh and yes, Paula and I both tried out the swings even though I hadn't been on a swing like that since my grandfather used to push me high enough to touch my toes on one of the branches of the big oak in his yard back in the early 1970s.  Those few moments swinging certainly evoked some great memories for me as I'm sure they do for others who take the time to try out the swings. If there had been a tire swing too, I really would have been in nostalgic bliss!

Signs at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf ClubSigns at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club
The Founders Cottage at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

Further north along the property down one of the paved paths is the Founder's Cottage which is located near the tennis courts and linked to the spa by the tunnel painted with the forest mural that I wrote about earlier. The cottage has a lobby where guests can relax in front of the fireplace and 27 guest rooms and suites with whirlpools - some with connecting rooms, a wet bar, balcony, and terrace that provide views of the Berkshire Hills that surround the resort. While the guest rooms on the third floor of the Founders Cottage are accessible only by stairs, the garden level and first floor rooms are wheelchair accessible.

With 380-acres surrounding the resort, it's not just a great place to visit for golf and tennis but there are also nearby hiking and mountain bike trails. In the winter months, guests can enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on 10 kilometers of scenic, groomed trails and not to worry if you don't have your own equipment as located next to Sloane Tavern, you'll find the Cranwell Ski Center which offers a complete line of modern Rossignol Ski Touring rental equipment and Tubbs Snowshoes along with skier accessories and healthy trail snacks for all levels of skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts.

After having had the opportunity to stay at and enjoy the property for two nights (really though, I think a longer stay is definitely needed to be able to enjoy everything it has to offer) I get the distinct feeling that no matter what time of the year you might choose to visit the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club you'll always find something to do even if all you want to do is relax with a good book in front of a fireplace or underneath the shade of a tree. I also get the feeling that you could go back to Cranwell time after time and have a different experience each trip as there are 114 distinctive guest rooms, suites, cottages, and townhouses located in seven different guest houses on the property.  Hmm, I wonder if anyone has ever stayed in every single type of accommodation that's available?

If I have hopefully inspired you to make your own trip to the Berkshire Hills for a stay at the historically beautiful Cranwell Resort and you'd like additional information about accommodations, dining & entertainment, spa treatments, booking a wedding or event, or more, you can visit their easy to navigate website at www.cranwell.com, give them a call toll-free at 1-800-272-6935, or send an email to info@cranwell.com and I'm sure you'll find the answers to any questions that you may have.

I should also mention that Cranwell has partnered with Stash Hotel Rewards which is an innovative hotel rewards program that enables travelers to quickly earn free nights at more than 110 distinctive, independent hotels in over 80 U.S. cities so that you can stay at some very unique places rather than at the same cookie-cutter hotel chains over and over again. It's free to join and points can be redeemed in lots of places across the United States. For a list of current participating hotels, click here.

I would like to take a moment to thank everyone at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club for making our stay at your facility a very memorable and marvelous one.  From the moment we arrived on the property to the time that we reluctantly checked out, every single staff member that we encountered was courteous, professional, and helpful making us feel like valued guests who mattered to employees who weren't just there to collect a paycheck.The true measure of a place is not how many fluffy pillows you have on your bed, how delicious the food is, or how clean your accommodations are but the attitude and demeanor of the staff you encounter as a guest as it's very easy to tell when employees are happy to be working somewhere and that makes all the difference in the world.

From the gal who was cleaning all of the windows in the Spa Links who greeted us with a cheery 'hello!', our room attendant who was more than happy to bring us a few extra bottles of water and coffee creamers when we asked, our servers at breakfast who were there with more coffee before we even realized we were just about out, to the staff behind the counter at the Front Desk as well as all of those in between, there was not a single person who acted like they didn't want to be there and simply wanted to get through the day.  Those are the folks that make you want to go back to a place again and again and make me happy that I got the chance to stay there in the first place. Thank you all for being truly hospitable!

In conclusion, I'm going to wrap this post up a bit differently than I usually do because I know that some of you may never get the chance to stay at the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club even though they offer some really terrific deals making a stay there a lot more affordable than you might think.  Just because you might not ever get to sleep in the Mansion or relax at the spa or see the phenomenal views across the Berkshire Hills that Reverend Henry Ward Beecher loved so much though, that doesn't mean that you can't savor a little bit of Cranwell yourself if you follow the recipe below for their Apple Tart with Caramel Sauce that is one of the signature desserts of the resort.  Paula and I meant to try one while we were there but alas, time got away from us and we missed out but fortunately I received a recipe card and it seems like it would be pretty easy to whip up a batch of my own so even if I never get back up to Cranwell - though I certainly hope that someday I will as I'd love to see that view when the foliage has changed - I can try making my own and maybe - if she's lucky - I might even invite Paula over for a taste!

If it's a little hard to read the recipe here, you can also find this recipe and others at the Cranwell Resort Favorite Recipes in the Berkshires webpage compliments of the Cranwell Resort's Executive Chef Carl DeLuce, a Chaine des Rotisseurs Inductee. Thank you Chef and now if you'd just post the recipe for the Gold Dusted Chocolate Truffle Bars and reveal your secret for those fabulous pancakes I'd be all set!

Cranwell Apple Tart with Caramel Sauce Recipe Card from the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf ClubCranwell Apple Tart with Caramel Sauce Recipe Card from the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club

If you've not seen enough in this post, for additional photos of the Cranwell Resort, Spa, and Golf Club that do not appear here as well as the larger versions of those that appear in the photo collages (which will appear bigger if you click on them), please visit my SmugMug Gallery which features 221 photos of the property.

Comments

  1. Trust me, The Cranwell is really as great as this blog and photos make it out to be. And I highly recommend taking a water aerobics class while you are there! Oh my Distracted Wanderer Friend, when are we going back???!?!!?!

    ReplyDelete

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