Blantyre, Lennox, MA – connections?

Robert Paterson 1838 - 1917

Robert Paterson 1838 – 1917

I’ve been asked by several readers to clarify something found on the website www.blantyre.com Thats the website of an American 5 star luxury resort called Blantyre. The query I have received multiple times contests that Blantyre was modelled on a house in Blantyre, Scotland. To explore this, I needed to investigate the history of the family.

Robert Paterson was born in Kirriemuir, Angus on 13th November 1838. He emigrated to Canada with his family when he was just four years old and his family with other immigrants established a village in Ontario where father Paterson ran the post office. His first wealth came from an oil discovery in Canada then he became involved in supplying goods to the American navy. In New York he moved in ultra-wealthy circles, rubbing shoulders with Carnegie, originally from Dunfermline, who had also bought a property at Lenox. The Patersons visited Lenox for the first time in the summer of 1900, fell in love with the area and bought property to build his castle. Lenox already had many great estates, prompting the area to be known as “the queen of inland resorts” or, as Cleveland Amory wrote, “the Switzerland of America.”

Paterson acquired the Lenox estate of 220 acres called “Highlawn” from the Dorr family. He tore down the modest house, keeping the outbuildings. Hence, the Carriage House Stables and Potting Shed date from the late 19th century. Construction went ahead and at one point over 1000 people were employed, including over 300 masons who worked on the building and grounds. He set about building a property on a grand scale, although the initial plans were purported to be drawn on the back of an envelope by the architect, Robert Henderson Robertson. In August, 1902, Blantyre was completed. Construction costs were $135,000 and an $165,000 was spent on furnishings including an extensive art collection with paintings by Carot, Turner, Millet, and Constable. Paterson’s concept was for no less than a castle of “feudal architectural features replete with towers, turrets and gargoyles.” The house is said to be modelled after his mother’s ancestral home in Blantyre, Scotland.

Lets stop and pause here, for this is the interesting bit. “The house is said to be modelled after his mother’s ancestral home in Blantyre, Scotland?” Any reader from Blantyre, Scotland will know no such house exists at present, and it didn’t either. There are no records of any such building of that appearance existing in Blantyre’s history. However, I want to put forward the suggestion that the the turrets are modelled on the fashion of the time of the 1890s and 1900s, which are copies of the turrets on the modest tenement homes in Glasgow Road, being constructed at the time. I suspect, that Paterson liked the look of them, or had business acquaintances in Blantyre. Its certainly a romantic notion that he modelled the American grand house on his ancestral home, but I don’t believe that to be true. You need only look at the corners of tenements in Blantyre’s Glasgow Road being constructed at the same time, to see the similarities in the tower design, but thats where the design ends, with the Blantyre resort very much having American Architectural influences.

Not particularly wanting to dwell on disproving such statements, I have to say Patersons mother, and even his grandmother didn’t even live in Blantyre at any time. Paterson was the son of James Paterson and Anne Warden. Anne was born in 1816, lived in Dundee, married in Angus and moved to Canada in 1841 taking their young baby Robert. Her mother had Edinburgh connections, and as such, no connection to Blantyre, Scotland can be found. So, Robert never lived in Blantyre, neither did his parents or grandparents!

Wanting to end this story on a highpoint, I managed to uncover some beautiful photos that don’t appear on the hotels website.

The main house was furnished in the English style with all the furniture being brought in from England. The family used the house for the summer and fall and entertained frequently, as was the fashion in those days. There were garden parties with musicians imported from New York and grand dinner-dances with each party becoming more and more lavish, befitting the “Gilded Age.”

When the end of the era came some 15 to 20 years later, hastened by the introduction of the income tax, so, too, ended a lifestyle that was never to be repeated. Over the next 60 years Blantyre went through several transitions, including a particularly destructive period in the 1970’s.

Blantyre Hotel as it is now

Blantyre Hotel as it is now

In 1980, Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick fell in love with the abandoned Blantyre and organized to purchase it for their daughter, Ann Fitzpatrick Brown, who became the eighth owner. Determined to restore it to its former elegance, Ann reopened Blantyre in 1981, after extensive renovation. Blantyre achieved the vision of the Fitzpatricks – a beautiful country house, recognized as one of the finest hotels in the world, where guests can come and stay and experience the life and service of a bygone era.

Beginning in 2000, Ann and the staff of Blantyre planned and worked toward fully winterizing Blantyre. In May, 2005 Blantyre opened its doors for the first time in 25 years as a year round operation, with as well “the potting shed”, Blantyre’s cozy and intimate spa. Today, it is a 5 star resort, and I have to say looks very beautiful and somewhere i’d love to visit one day.

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  • Diane Kendig Thanks so much for this research. My grandfather’s family were from Blantyre, and my husband is from a town about 2 hours from the luxury resort. When I came across the resort, I was excited, but it seemed historically dubious and the prices gave me quite a start, but I think now, we may go there for tea for our anniversary. We paid that much for tea at the Gresham in Dublin 15 years ago. If you ever go, there is a lot of activity in the area in summers: a wonderful Shakespeare theater, the NY Symphony’s summer home, the home of Herman Melville. Let me know, and I will drive from the Midwest to show you around, or have one of my local friends do so!

    • The Blantyre Project lucky you being so near this beautiful hotel! I’d love to see it, regardless of the Blantyre alleged connection or not. They have the most amazing Christmas tree too, so I’d like to go in Winter. My post above is not meaning to do this wonderful place any injustice about its heritage, but you’re right that the Blantyre connections appear to be seriously misguided and romantic at best.

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