Late 19th Century: Growth in the Gilded Age
The construction of the Housatonic Railroad in 1842, and its extension to Pittsfield in 1850, made it easier for city folk to experience to the Berkshire countryside. No longer isolated from the outside world, Stockbridge was “discovered” by wealthy families in search of an escape from the hustle-bustle and grit of Manhattan. Finding the region to be an appealing alternative to Newport, Rhode Island, they purchased land to build “cottages” (high society’s term for very grand estates) in Stockbridge and neighboring Lenox, and settled in to enjoy a life of leisure in the bucolic Berkshire hills.
Even as the Civil War raged, with the advent of the cottage era 1862 was a propitious time for the Heaton family, headed by Hiram Heaton and Charles Plumb – husband of Hiram’s sister Mert – to take ownership of Stockbridge House, beginning a dynasty that would last for the next nine decades. They undertook an ambitious expansion of the inn, adding the signature veranda overlooking Main Street in 1866, and increasing the number of guest rooms so that, by 1884, Stockbridge House could accommodate more than 100 guests.
As Stockbridge evolved into a destination for a more well-to-do, discerning clientele, the proud proprietors also improved the quality of the inn’s amenities, including its menu, to satisfy the increasingly sophisticated tastes of its patrons. These guests appreciated the early-American décor that graced the inn, including antique furniture, crockery and pewter items. Mert Plumb assiduously added to the collection, issuing a standing offer of “50 cents for a pitcher, $1.00 for an antique mirror.” She began to scour the countryside in search of fine old furniture and decorative items for Stockbridge House – which was then also known as Plumb’s Hotel – unwittingly establishing a tradition of shopping for distinctive antiques to furnish the inn. Indeed, many of the teapots and fine antique furnishings that grace The Red Lion Inn to this day are from Mert Plumb’s original collection.
In 1893 the management of Stockbridge House was assumed by Mr. Plumb’s nephew, Allen T. Treadway, who set about making even more enhancements to the Inn. His right-hand man was James H. Punderson, whose daughter Molly later became the third wife of famed illustrator Norman Rockwell.
After Allen Treadway’s final improvements were completed, on August 31, 1896 a fire, which started in the pastry kitchen, nearly destroyed the hotel. The Berkshire Courier in Great Barrington reported that “Mrs. Plumb’s noted collection of Colonial china, pictures, wearing apparel and furniture, the largest of its kind in the country, and the delight of everyone who went to Stockbridge, was saved. A few pieces were broken but in the main the collection was intact.”
Allen Treadway undertook a prompt restoration of the storied hostelry, which he renamed The Red Lion Inn. In early May 1897, less than a year after the fire, The Valley Gleaner in the nearby town of Lee announced “Red Lion Inn was opened to the public last Friday evening [April 30, 1897], when several out of town guests took tea and spent the night there. Red Lion Inn never looked so handsome as it did after the entire building had been lighted up and many people were out in the streets to see the pretty sight. Just eight months from the time the old inn went up in smoke and ashes the new one was opened.”
At The Red Lion Inn’s reopening, Mr. Treadway unveiled a new crest in the form of a shield. At the top were a lion and the two dates, 1773 and 1897, indicating the birth and rebirth of The Red lion Inn. Within the shield were a teapot, plate, Franklin stove, highboy, clock, and two large keys, representing the Inn’s fine collection of antiques, which had miraculously survived the inferno.
- Revolutionary Era Beginnings
- Early 19th Century: A Transitional Period
- Late 19th Century: Growth in the Gilded Age
- The Turn of the 20th Century: One Family’s Legacy
- Mid-20th Century: A Transitional Period
- Late 20th Century: Rescued by the Fitzpatricks
- The 21st Century: History and Modernity in Harmony