American Scenes

This weekend Sally and I (with the good help of our son Drew) performed one of our Fall rituals – dismantling and saying goodbye to our screened porch until next spring.

screened porch; photographer John Kelsey

screened porch; photographer John Kelsey

If I’d had my druthers, I’d have spent the weekend at the Kemble Inn in Lenox.

Kemble Inn in the Fall

Leisurely exploring the grounds.

Kemble Inn, Lenox, Ma

Appreciating the fall flowers.

Kemble Inn, looking back toward the terrace

And savoring the fall foliage from the terrace.

view from the terrace

Or from my bedroom window.

view from the terrace

Even though the fall leaves in the Berkshires are past their peak colors, there are many attractions to make the trip worthwhile. This summer, Sally and I stayed at the Inn while we spent a wonderful weekend visiting her brother, who was hiking the Appalachian Trail. We took in two concerts at Tanglewood and visited two lovely Trustees of Reservations properties, Ashintully Gardens and Naumkeag. My blog post about our visit can be seen here.

Another nearby Trustees of Reservations property of interest is The Mission House in downtown Stockbridge. Finished in 1642 for missionary John Sargent, it remained in the Sargent family unit it was purchased by Mabel Choate who relocated the property to it’s present location. She then worked with landscape architect Fletcher Steele to design the Colonial Revival garden you see today.

Mission House, Stockbridge, MA

The Norman Rockwell Museum located on the Linwood House estate is must. Linwood was designed in 1885 by Stanford White for the Butler family.

Linwood House; photographer John Kelsey

Linwood House; photographer John Kelsey

Peering thru the glass at the front door…

Linwood House; photographer John Kelsey

The Norman Rockwell Museum, designed by Robert Stern in 1993. (Classic design ages so well, doesn’t it?) has all of Rockwell’s iconic paintings including many I had never seen before. I was amazed to learn how carefully he constructed his paintings.

norman rockwell museum

His studio.

Norman Rockwell Studio.

So carefully preserved.

Norman Rockwell Studio.

Equally fascinating is Spring Lawn, immediately adjacent to the Inn. Designed by John Alexander in the classical Beaux Art style. It appears to be slated for future development as an inn and spa.

Spring Lawn mansion; photographer John Kelsey

Spring Lawn’s interior stair.

Spring Lawn, Lenox, MA

On the other hand, should you just want to lounge around the Inn, the accommodations will not disappoint. From the moment you step thru the front door you sense the Inn’s graciousness and history. This is the main lounge, which over looks the Inn’s terrace and grounds.

Kemble Inn, Main Lounge

Grand Foyer

Kemble Inn, Grand Foyer

The Piano Bar is the perfect place for coffee and dessert after dinner.

Kemble Inn, Lounge/Piano Bar

I returned home with several ideas for cabinet door glass.

Kemble Inn, Window detail; photographer John Kelsey

Kemble Inn, Window detail; photographer John Kelsey

We both loved the details in the dining room. Actually quite restrained for a Victorian Era home.

Kemble Inn, dining room; photographer John Kelsey

Couldn’t get enough of the ceiling light fixtures…

Kemble Inn dining room light fixture; photographer Sally Wilson

Or the bar cart… A little Art Deco perhaps?

Kemble Inn  bar cart; photographer John Kelsey

Which of course leads to my favorite part – the food and wine… The Inn is blessed with a wonderful menu (beautifully prepared) and wine list. I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

Table Six at the Kemble Inn; photographer John Kelsey

Table Six at the Kemble Inn; photographer John Kelsey

OH yeah! Breakfast!!!

Table Six at the Kemble Inn; photographer John Kelsey

Very cool wine chiller idea!

Table Six at the Kemble Inn; photographer John Kelsey

We could linger on the front stoop and continue chatting…

Kemble Inn front door; Photographer  John  Kelsey

You get the idea. Sally and I would go back in a heart beat.

Cheers,

John

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This past weekend, four generations of the Wilson/Kelsey clan gathered at the Inn at Castle Hill in Ipswich for a weekend of fun and relaxation.

inn at castle hill, source unknown

 The weather was so delightful, much of it was spent on the Inn’s large wrap around porch that overlooks the backside of Crane Beach and island.

four generations; photographer, John Kelsey

While many of you may have visited Castle Hill to see the beautiful summer home and grand allée designed by David Adler for the Crane family, on this visit my objectives were different – jettison the car and walk.

But before we walk together, let’s spend a few moments at the Inn. The Crane family purchased the property in 1910, ultimately accumulating 2,100 acres of land including Choate Island, located in the salt marshes behind Castle Island. The family lived in the inn (known as the Brown House) while the estate was being built on the top of the hill. Two structures were actually built, the first being done in the Italianate style. David Adler was retained to design both the exterior and interior of the second English style structure we see today. The family continued to occupy the inn thru the 1950’s. Ultimately, much of the property was deeded to the Trustees of Reservations. In 1998, the Ipswich based architectural firm, Carpenter MacNeill, was retained to help guide the renovation and conversion of the Brown House into a small luxury inn. It’s accommodations are wonderfully warm and elegant. Listen carefully, you can hear echoes of the house’s rich history.

The cozy lounge. We would all linger here in front of the warm fire after returning from dinner.

Inn at Castle Hill Lounge; photographer, John Kelsey

It’s welcoming foyer.

Inn at Castle Hill Foyer; photographer, John Kelsey

The view toward the sunny breakfast room.

Inn at Castle Hill view to breakfast room; photographer, John Kelsey

The breakfast room.

Inn at Castle Hill breakfast room; photographer, John Kelsey

But as I said, my objective was to walk slowly to see what the grounds revealed. Honestly, I only scratched it’s surface…

I began by following the resident flock of turkeys as they crossed the yard in front of the Inn.

Turkeys at Castle Hill; photographer, John Kelsey

When you follow a flock of turkeys, you definitely slow down…

I found myself admiring the root structure of  several old, old beech trees, thinking, “There’s a custom rug here.”

beech tree roots; photographer John Kelsey

The tree’s folds of bark reminded me of the skin of a wise old elephant and I thought,”If this tree could talk, the stories it could tell.”

beech tree bark; photographer John Kelsey

I found myself on my hands and knees, admiring tiny fall asters in all their glory.

fall aster: photographer John Kelsey

The counterpoints to the detail and intimacy were the vistas that would slowly unfold before my eyes, the change in scale making them all the more beautiful and breath-taking.

Inn at Castle Hill vista: photographer, John Kelsey

Fox Creek behind the Hill. (I’ve had some amazing striped bass fishing in this little creek in the spring.)

Fox Creek behind Castle Hill; photographer John Kelsey

Overlooking the old garden plot and farm buildings.

Castle Hill Garden plot and farm buildings; photographer, John Kelsey

The garden called to me and I heeded it’s call. Aspects of the garden reminded me of Ashintully Gardens and Naumkeag, other Trustees of Reservations properties Sally and I had visited earlier in the summer. Note the trellis on the right and small tower structure in the far right corner of the garden.

castle hill garden plot; photographer John Kelsey

Loved the rustic stone cobble columns!

castle hill garden trellis, photographer John Kelsey

The trellis was made of cedar trees, carefully trimmed to fit. Note the copper cap on the column. Such attention to detail!!!

trellis detail; photographer John Kelsey

The small niche in the top of the back wall receive/hold the cedar logs in their proper place.

trellis detail; photographer John Kelsey

Of course, there is a fountain!!!

Castle Hill fountain under trellis; photographer John Kelsey

The old Lion’s head… Such wonderful patina!!!

Lion's head at Castle Hill; photographer John Kelsey

At each end of the Garden were towers built into the garden’s retaining wall. I’m sure back in the day, they afforded spectacular views of the surrounding country side.

Castle Hill Garden Tower; photographer John Kelsey

Tower stair… Elegant in it’s functionality and simplicity.

Garden Tower Stair; photographer John Kelsey

Mmmm, rustic gate and hinges…

Rustic gate and strap hinges; photographer John Kelsey

The trail continued to beckon and tease…

Peak of Castle Hill; photographer John Kelsey

The Italian Gardens are currently under restoration.

Castle Hill Italian Gardens: Photographer John Kelsey

Castle Hill Italian Gardens: Photographer John Kelsey

I was drawn to the play of light and shadow on the trellis.

Castle Hill Italian Gardens: Photographer John Kelsey

Across the road, the Rose Garden awaits it’s return to former glory.

Castle Hill  Rose Garden: Photographer John Kelsey

Take the time to look closely. Close your eyes… Smell the roses…

Castle Hill  Rose Garden: Photographer John Kelsey

Just around the corner, you cross the property’s Grand Allée that leads to the ocean. Look to the right, tucked into the hillside is the restored Casino. Earlier in the summer Sally and I attended the kick off concert for Castle Hill’s resurrected Summer Concert Series in the Casino. Wonderful, intimate, romantic. We will do more next year. Originally, where you see grass in the middle, there was a swimming pool and grass was where the stone walk way is today. The cost of that portion of the restoration was prohibitive… It must have been magnificent!

Castle Hill restored Casino; photographer John Kelsey

I leave you with the beautiful picture Sally took, looking back over her shoulder after walking the same circuit I had done. The sun shining gloriously, fall foliage coming into it’s prime. Food for the Soul…

Castle Hill restored Casino; photographer Sally Wilson

Cheers,

John

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Sally and I have been so busy this summer that we really haven’t taken/had time to appreciate the pleasures and opportunities that only summer can offer. Several weeks ago, we agreed we needed to make time to smell the roses. So… last Sunday we  went on a garden tour, visited the Sergeant House Museum in Gloucester and concluded the evening at the Rudder in Rocky Neck.

The tour offered access the several private homes’s gardens that one would normally never see. We chose the tour in Beverly because it was on the way to Gloucester and it touted 7 acres, much of which was restored to New England meadow. You arrived and parked in front of the main house, recently renovated/restored by the North Shore architectural firm, Carpenter & MacNeille, whose work we hold in high regard. Somewhat formal, but casual enough to not be intimidating. We immediately spotted several species plants we would love to have in our yard. (Uh-Oh…)

garden tour, Wilson Kelsey Design

The tall columnar Arborvitae in particular caught our eye.

Garden Landscape, Wilson Kelsey Design

Idealic walkway…

Garden Landscape, Wilson Kelsey Design

As you turned the corner of the house you came upon a lovely informal patio overlooking a casual rambling shade garden.

Garden Landscape, Wilson Kelsey Design

LOVED the boat shape picnic table!!!

Garden Landscape, Wilson Kelsey Design

Found several partial sun/shade loving plants to dream about.

Garden Landscape, Wilson Kelsey Design

Garden Landscape, Wilson Kelsey Design

I think this is a variety of Milkweed.

Garden Landscape, Wilson Kelsey Design

Garden Landscape, Wilson Kelsey Design

As you walked past the informal flower garden they landscape transitioned to a classic New England meadow. Tucked in it’s midst was a vegetable garden.

Garden Landscape, Wilson Kelsey Design

Garden Landscape, Wilson Kelsey Design

And as we completed the tour we came across this tub. We both found ourselves thinking, Montana ski lodge…

Garden Landscape, Wilson Kelsey Design

By then it was 3 PM and we hurried to Gloucester to pay a visit to the Sargent House/Museum, “built in 1782 for Judith Sargent Stevens Murray (1751-1820), a philosopher, writer and an early advocate of women’s equality”.

the home’s exterior is classic Georgian/Federal Period Architecture.

Sargent House, Wilson Kelsey Design

Sargent House, Wilson Kelsey Design

For such a diminutive structure, it is a powerhouse of classical details. The foyer stair, with its complicated turnings reminds me of the stair found in the now restored Shirley Eustis House in Roxbury, MA.

Sargent House, Wilson Kelsey Design

Sargent House, Wilson Kelsey Design

tour 17Sargent House, Wilson Kelsey Design

Fabulous how the window lite brings daylight into the interior.

Sargent House, Wilson Kelsey Design

High Federal Style was carried through the front bedrooms.

Sargent house, Gloucester, Ma; Wilson Kelsey Design

Sargent house, Gloucester, Ma; Wilson Kelsey Design

Then it was on to dinner on Rocky Neck, home of one of America’s oldest art colonies.

Rocky Neck, Gloucester, MA; Wilson Kelsey Design

You can not go to Rocky Neck without stopping at The Rudder for dinner…

The Rudder, Gloucester, MA; Wilson Kelsey Design

And finally, sunset on Niles Beach overlooking Gloucester Harbor.

Niles Beach, Gloucester, MA; Wilson Kelsey Design

I wonder where we will go next Sunday?

Cheers,

John

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