Monday, March 2, 2009

Ventford Hall

Lenox, MA

In the beginning I planned to write a book called "The Guide Book" about tour guides that I encountered. But as the idea took shape the guides were placed along the sideline. That is until I visited Ventford Hall in Lenox, MA. For now they're delightfully front and center again.

Maybe that's because my guide that day was so much more entertaining than the house itself. Ventford Hall, an Elizabethan Revival house, is dark and brooding. Don't trust me on that? Hollywood talent scouts also found it so. The house served as the orphanage in the 1998 Academy Award winning Cider House Rules with Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, and Michael C
aine. And while the film crews spent substantial time and money on rehabbing the mansion, there's no getting around that dark, brooding feeling both inside and out.

at is unless Lavinia C Meeks is your guide. Lavinia's been a guide at the Hall for 10 years. But if your tour group is as nice as mine she's happy to take the time to answer your persistent questions and pose for a photo by the south porch or piazza, as they like to call it.

It's not that the house or the people who lived in it aren't interesting. Tales related to the house incl
ude cousin marrying cousin, middle son returning home from world travel with his former geisha Japanese wife, ties to the Lusitania sunk by the Germans in 1915, the construction of a bowling alley underneath the fully furnished south piazza, and the thought of big money attached to the historic Morgan financial family.

My group didn't stay for the "picnic on the porch" or Victorian Tea but followed Walker Street a shor
t distance back into town. After scanning the abundant restaurant choices we were rewarded with a window table and a tasty lunch at the Alta Restaurant and Wine Bar. Following lunch, with two house museums under our belts, we were off to the shops.

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