Lenox Massachusetts, 1890

Lenox, noted as a select fashionable resort, is situated among the hills of Berkshire County, directly west of Boston, and separated only from the State of New York by the town of Richmond, which forms its western boundary. The Richmond Station on the Boston and Albany Railroad is the nearest to the chief village on the western side. Through the eastern part north and south, along the Housatonic River, runs the Housatonic Rail-road, connecting with the Boston and Albany at Pittsfield (adjoining on the north) and with the Fitchburg at North Adams, with the Harlem Railroad from New York city on the west, and the Connecticut lines on the south. The valleys of the Housatonic, of the Yokun Brook and other affluents, form the eastern and most of the northern parts of the town. Roaring Brook comes down from the Hoosac range, which occupies the town of Washington on the east. At the middle of the western line rises Lenox Mountain, a peak of the Taconic range, which borders the town on the west, and covers the southwest with its broad hills. At the eastern base of Lenox Mountain is a wild and deep gorge called "The Gulf." The principal rock is Levis limestone, Lauzon schist and the Potsdam group. Iron ore, brown hematite, and gibbsite frequently occur. Limestone is here quarried for building purposes, and also reduced in kilns to quicklime. The soil, especially in the valleys of the larger streams, is very fertile; and the hills themselves are beautiful with shrubbery and magnificent forests. The extent of the latter in the town is stated at 3,029 acres, the assessed area being 11,882. The aggregate product of the 114 farms in the last census year was $172,433. At Lenox Furnace, a village on the river and on the railroad, in the southeast part of the town, are a furnace for making pig-iron, and the glass works, celebrated for their fine plate-glass. Other manufactures of Lenox are lumber, flour and meal, paper, leather, and the others common to towns. The aggregate value of the goods made in the last census year was $235,371. The number of assessed dwelling-houses is 444. The valuation in 1888 was $2,389,780. The population in 1875 was 1,845; and in 1885, 2,154 with 443 legal voters. All the villages have post-offices. There are nine public school-houses, valued at nearly $18,000 and a public library of some 7,000 volumes. The Lenox Academy, in this place, was founded in 1803. The Congregationalists, Methodists, American Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholics have church edifices in one or another of the villages.

New Lenox is a growing village on the river and railroad in the northeast part of the town. The principal village is Lenox-on-the Heights, a little south of the centre of the town, and two miles from the railroad station at Lenox Furnace This town was formerly the county seat, and in consequence became the residence of many persons of superior family. Here dwelt Miss Elizabeth Sedgewick and here Fanny Kemble took up her abode, living for twenty years (from 1850 to 1870) in the house she built and named "The Porch." The place soon became a literary centre. William Cullen Bryant had his home at Great Barrington; Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes was a dweller in Pittsfield; our poet Longfellow and G. P. R. James, the novelist, were spending their summers in Stockbridge, just below the heights on the south; Henry Ward Beecher was writing his "Star Papers" at the Rathbone Place; Herman Melville was at Pittsfield, where he wrote his "Typee; " at the same place often sojourned James Russell Lowell; Charlotte Cushman gave her presence to both Lenox and Stockbridge; Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote his "Scarlet Letter" at the little red house in Lenox; and here in his last days came Dr. Channing. Thus haunted by people of culture, and made familiar to people of eminence and wealth through them, with lofty altitude, smooth and verdurous hills, and delicious air, it is no wonder that fashion followed in the wake until it is the last to be missed in the round of élite resorts. One of the most conspicuous objects in the village is the fine old Congregational church which overlooks it. Here, too, is the old court-house, transformed into the "Charles Sedgewick Memorial Hall" and in its decrepitude sheltering the public library, the ladies' club and an audience hall An elegant new theatre was opened in September, 1889. Just southward from the heights is a charming lake of some 250 acres, familiarly known as "Stockbridge Basin," the scene of many a quiet sail or merry regatta. Away to the southeast, in the border of Lee, is the race-ground of the Lenox Club. More constant than any other entertainments are the balls and other social parties in the roomy cottages of the summer sojourners.

This town was formerly a part of Richmond, and was established as the district of Lenox on February 26, 1767, and incorporated as the town of Lenox by the general act of August 23, 1775; It is supposed to have been named in honor of the Duke of Lenox, who also bore the title of the Duke of Richmond. The ancient local name for the place was Yokun, from a sachem who dwelt there; the name being perpetuated by one of the principal streams. Jonathan Hinsdale was the first white settler, and built a house here about 1750. Others soon followed, but owing to fear of the Indians, all soon removed to Stockbridge. Subsequently some families of better pluck formed a permanent settlement in the place. The first church was organized in 1769, and the Rev. Samuel Munsen was ordained pastor November 8, 1770.


Nason and Varney's Massachusetts Gazetteer, 1890, pp. 410-412