The house is built of brick and brownstone. It sits in the center of Lenox, just past the Town Hall, and looks out over a wide lawn. Sarah Morgan, the sister of J. P. Morgan, and her husband had it built in 1893 as a summer house, and they named it for strong winds.
And it was vast — 28 rooms, 15 bedrooms 17 fireplaces … It had a three-story great hall and a library, and when it was new it laid claim to a bowling alley and a landscaped garden of 26 acres.
Venfort Hall was built as one of the Berkshire ‘Cottages,’ 75 mansions in Lenox and Stockbridge where the scions of new York and Boston would come in summer and fall to escape the city. Edith Wharton built hers (the Mount) just up the road and wrote many of her best-known novels there.
These wealthy summer people came into what was then a working community of glass factories, paper mills and marble quarries. Locals also often worked seasonally in the big houses as gardeners and cooks, maids and grooms.
Today, Ventfort Hall has been restored in detail and holds the Museum of the Gilded Age — America in the 1870s to 1900. Mark Twain and his neighbor, Charles Dudley Warner, invented that name for the years after the Civil War. It was an era of millionaires and railroads, industrialization and immigration.
The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in the mid-1990s, a local preservation group formed to save and restore it. Today they hold tours and events year-round.