Birchwood inn has been welcoming friends, new and old, for 240 years.
The property which is now Birchwood Inn was the first residential property in Lenox deeded by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1765.
The core of this house was built by Israel Dewey before the Revolutionary War started. In those early years the house served as an inn. The year that the town of Lenox was incorporated, March 11, 1767, Israel Dewey was elected to the first Board of Selectmen.
Dewey was a man of substance, and his home was most likely wood-framed, glazed and later plastered and shingled.
Dewey was on the town’s Continental Congress committee and was one of the first men in Lenox to volunteer in the Revolutionary War. In addition to being a farmer and involved in town affairs, Dewey was also a schoolmaster. Talk about multi-tasking!
The home has changed hands many times over the years, and all of the inn’s guest rooms are named in honor of some of the former residents.
18th century owners included Edward Gray, Simon and Rachel Smith, Edward Hay, David and Daniel Fellows, Samuel Wright (the first town clerk), Joseph Goodwin, and Luke Gates, a blacksmith. Colonel Laddock Hubbard purchased the property in 1798, and the home became a tavern.
In 1806, one of the town’s most illustrious figures, Azariah Egleston, to whom the monument at the foot of Main Street is dedicated, bought the property. The price by this time had risen to $2,000.00. Not a bad investment!
In April 1775, in anticipation of the Revolutionary War, Egleston had enlisted in the regiment of Colonel John Paterson. Egleston marched with the regiment immediately after the Battle of Lexington, crossed the Delaware with Washington, and fought in the battles of Princeton and Trenton. He served against Burgoyne and was at Saratoga when Burgoyne surrendered. John Hancock promoted Egleston to the rank of ensign, and before the end of the war, he had reached the rank of major and later served in Shay’s Rebellion. Egleston was a friend of Washington, Kosciusko, and Lafayette. He was married to Hannah Paterson, the daughter of Major General Patterson, whom he so loyally served during the war.
After the war, Egleston helped make Lenox a prominent center of education. He deeded land, as well as a building to the Lenox Academy which figured so significantly in Lenox during the 19th century.
Not only was Egleston a patriot, he was also noted for his hospitality, welcoming both army officers and men of literature and learning to his home. Who knows what famous people were guests here?
Elected State Senator, he later served as a justice of the Court of Sessions. A patriot and public servant, Egleston and his wife Hannah are buried in the churchyard across the street from the inn.
Subsequent owners included Eldad and Nancy Post, Marina and Granville Wilson, Robert Banks, and Mary Loring. The home has been altered and enlarged several times over the past two centuries and reflects several different styles. The original structure, which forms the core of the present inn, was a simple vernacular farmhouse. An etching of Lenox dating from circa 1840 shows the home as already a substantial property at the top of the hill. The mansard roof, popular as part of the Second Empire style in the 1860s and 70s, was frequently used to remodel older homes because a full third story could be added beneath the roof. Of great significance in the history of Birchwood Inn was its purchase in 1885 by Florine and Richard Dana, a prominent New England family. Florine did considerable renovating, and the house we see today is a result of her efforts. These renovations include the third floor as well as the Colonial Revival elements, such as the columned veranda, dentillated cornice, and peak-gabled dormers. It was also Florine who named the property “Birchwood”.
Birchwood remained in the Dana family for 68 years, until 1953 when it was purchased by Charlotte Wagner, who converted the mansion to an inn. In the 1960s and 70s, the Schallers made the house a home for World War II veterans.
When Gail and Paul Macdonald bought the home in 1981, they had to do extensive renovations as the building had fallen into disrepair. In 1982, they opened Birchwood Inn as a bed and breakfast. The inn was later purchased by the Hittlemans, and General Dick and Joan Toner owned and operated the inn for most of the 1990s. Ellen Gutman Chenaux is the most recent owner and inheritor of this lengthy legacy, having purchased this historic Lenox MA Inn in February 1999.
The inn has been host to a ghost or two. Many guests have heard what sounds like a cat crying in The Loring Room, and the Wagner Room’s poltergeist likes to move things around. Village legend, moreover, claims that the ghost of Col. Hubbard and his horse can sometimes be seen galloping along Hubbard Street!
Since 1999, Birchwood has welcomed guests from 47 states, seven Canadian provinces plus the Northwest Territories, six of the seven continents, and 28 countries, including Turkey, Dubai, and Iceland. A repeat guest who comes the farthest travels to Lenox from Siberia!