Ashintully — Serenity on the Brow of the Hill

Four standing Doric columns are holding up the sky. They mark the site of Ashintully, the last remains of a Georgian-style mansion lost to fire in 1952.

The columns guarded the entrance to a 35-room turn-of-the-20th-century “Berkshire Cottage.”

Now the serenity of the view of brilliant white columns along the shore of a flower dotted meadow inspires feelings both haunting and serene.The gardens today are peaceable, providing a tranquil stroll along pleasant pathways highlighting a lovely fountain, calming views from carefully placed benches, a quiet brook meandering through the landscaped gardens with statuary, urns, gorgeous mature trees and well attended shrubbery.

The view from the porch of the remains is spectacular; stand among the columns and get the sense of the view its classical architecture once commanded. What remains today is more than of a peaceful remembrance of what the Berkshires, thought of as The American Lake District, was like during the Gilded Age.

Ashintully (Gaelic meaning “on the brow of the hill”) was the name of the original 1,000-acre estate. Egyptologist and two-time state representative Robb de Peyster Tytus assembled it in the early 20th century from three farms in Tyringham and additional land in Otis.

On a hill overlooking the southern end of Tyringham Valley, between 1910 and 1912 Tytus built a white, Georgian-style mansion that local residents called the Marble Palace because of the pure white sand used for the stucco, and the way it reflected the sunlight. The Doric columns stood among thirteen window bays, and inside, along with the 35 rooms, there were 10 baths and 15 fireplaces.

In 1913, Tytus died at Saranac Lake, N.Y., leaving his wife, Grace, and two daughters, Mildred and Victoria. A year later, Mrs. Tytus married John S. McLennan, a Canadian senator, newspaper owner and historian. They had one child together in 1915, John Jr., and then divorced.

In 1937, John McLennan (Jr.) acquired the estate, where he had spent all his childhood summers. He later moved into the farmhouse at the bottom of the hill, where he lived the rest of his life, renovating the nearby barn into a music studio.

John McLennan became an accomplished composer of contemporary music, including chamber and orchestral music and pieces for piano and organ, and, in 1985, won an American Academy of Arts and Letters music award. And he created, over the course of thirty years, Ashintully Gardens.

Now Ashintolly is one of many dramatic and glorious sites that the Trustees of Reservations maintain in Massachusetts, and well worth a visit and a drive through one of the Berkshires’ most glorious valleys.

 

Close Look: Ashintully is open through the second Saturday in October, on Wednesdays and Saturdays only from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free to individual visitors. Group garden tours of 15 or more are offered by appointment, with a fee. Call 413-298-3239 to arrange a tour. There are no restrooms at this reservation. Also while in the neighborhood you might visit nearby Tyringham Cobble. For more information, visit the Trustees of Reservations, www.thetrustees.org

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