One similarity between the island mansions and the Berkshire cottages may be the reason they were built: They were status symbols. No one claims, not even the owners, that 20,000 square feet is necessary.
Thanks to a new book by local historian Bernard Drew, we know that there were automobile storage facilities, road competitions and even innovative car manufacturing operations in the Berkshires. And we know that the cottagers embraced the industry with considerable gusto.
Set in Charleston, South Carolina, and based on the life of her great-grandfather Frank Dawson, Roxana Robinson’s use of published accounts, family journal entries and letters tells a compelling story of one man’s attempts to navigate the country’s new political, social and moral landscape.
It is interesting to contemplate that weather is blamed for the demise of the Vikings, the French Revolution and the bubonic plague. It is also interesting that the founding of this country, the creation of our Constitution, the Civil War, American industrialization and our Gilded Age all happened against a backdrop of extreme cold and global climate change.
It is interesting that what draws many to Berkshire today is no different than what drew people in the 18th century: land. If we value our unique Berkshire communities, how do we protect and maintain them in this modern world?
During the Gilded Age, the equipage, the livery and the horses as well as the skill in driving were sources of great pride. A local newspaper even gave a whole column for the length of the page to recounting the teams and mounts of local cottagers.
The difference between the British and American novels of manners was that the British novelists could rely upon the stability of their society. In America, Wharton’s characters were either on their way up or down the social ladder.
Rev. Henry Ward Beecher wedded the science of social Darwinism to the church, and helped obliterate criticism of the Gilded Age’s excessively disproportionate distribution of wealth. He justified the rich to their riches and blamed the poor for their poverty.
“I was the first woman of any prominence to sue for divorce for adultery … Men, if they were rich enough, felt they could do anything they liked without consequence. The women bore it to maintain their social positions, but that was not enough for me.”
— Alva Smith Vanderbilt
Blantyre is a true restoration in that it can transport the guest back in time. But now this Berkshire Cottage is on the market. Will it — can it — be acquired by someone who respects its original architecture and does not demand density for profitability?
America stands on the precipice about to step into a new age just as America did at the beginning of the Gilded Age. What if anything can we learn from the last seismic change in the primary source of energy?
Five-term Selectman Deborah McMenamy, a determined advocate for new Police Chief Robert Eaton and his style of running the department, was defeated in her quest for a sixth term. Her opponent, Ernest Cardillo, who campaigned as “the voice of the people,” won the 3-year term on the Board of Selectmen by a margin of 52 votes, 334 to 282.
The return of the Gilded Age: Right now the 80-acre Southmayd estate on the river in Stockbridge is for sale for $11.5 million. If a developer purchased the former cottage, and proposed a high density development, after approving Elm Court, on what basis could the Select Board turn down development of the precious Stockbridge Ox Bow?
The United States does rank high in one category. Among 139 countries, according to the United Nations, we rank 12th in inequity. The Inequity Adjusted Human Development Index measures the extent to which human development is thwarted by inequitable distribution of wealth, health services and education. Evidently we do exceptionally well thwarting our citizens.