A piece of historic Berkshires grandeur hit the market this week: “Pine Needles,” a 1903 cottage on 218 acres in Lenox, is listed for sale at $13,500,000.
Of course, at more than 13,000 square feet, it is as much a “cottage” as the extravagant Gilded Age summer mansions of Newport, R.I. The home and its two guest apartments feature seven bedrooms, eight full bathrooms, two half baths, and an astounding 18 fireplaces.
But with heart-shaped cutouts in the shutters, multiple indoor-outdoor rooms, and pine cone imagery popping up throughout the home — as in the ornately carved newel posts on the main stairway, illuminated by a magnificent arched window — “Pine Needles” embraces a more whimsical, woodsy sense of luxury.
Designed by Boston architect Henry Forbes Bigelow of Winslow & Bigelow (who had just completed Needham Town Hall the year before), “Pine Needles” was built for George Baty Blake and Margaret Hunnewell Blake, a wealthy Boston couple, according to “Houses of the Berkshires: 1870–1930,” by Cornelia Brooke Gilder and Richard S. Jackson Jr.
A long driveway meanders through grounds dotted with hemlock and pine trees, culminating in a circular turnaround and courtyard — where a pair of two-story wings flank a central three-story structure, awaiting as if with open arms. An entry vestibule opens into the first floor’s spacious, luxuriously paneled “public rooms,” where 12-foot ceilings and sweeping southern views must impress and comfort at the same time.
At the home, which is enveloped by woodlands, nature is an important part of the aesthetic. There are even a pair of sleeping porches — one off the second-floor primary bedroom and the second off the third floor — both added in 1908, with George Blake suffering from tuberculosis. Doctors at the time believed fresh mountain air could help with TB (and they weren’t entirely wrong).
Today, the current owners relish sleeping outside on summer nights, said Martha Piper, the listing agent with William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty. “Because of the southern exposure, on clear nights the sky puts on a spectacular show.”
The first-floor wings also embrace the outdoors, with a pair of tranquil, columned loggias elegantly spilling out into the terraced yard. One is along the east wing, which also holds the kitchen, a butler’s pantry, and both a formal and summer dining room.
The west wing holds “the ‘Teak Room,” a Persian paneled library in the style of [American artist] Lockwood de Forest,” according to “Houses of the Berkshires.” The library’s fireplace features an intricately carved wood mantel and custom tiles depicting pine cones.
The west wing also holds an office, a second loggia, and a former squash court. (Margaret Hunnewell Blake was quite an athlete, according to the book’s authors.) In addition to miles of forest trails, the grounds also host remnants of an ice skating rink, a tennis court, and separate curling rink — plus a stone swimming pool that’s still in use.
“I think the most unusual feature is the pool, which was created by blasting a marble deposit to the west of the house,” Piper said. “It’s just magical.”
A separate carriage house and a detached garage, both some distance from the main house, feature upstairs apartments for guests. The cozy carriage house apartment has knotty-pine walls, built-in bookcases, and exposed beams, plus a sweet window bench reading nook and semicircular window.
There are other eight-figure residential listings in the Berkshires right now, according to Berkshire Realtors and MLS Inc., including a stunning modern home on nearly 300 acres ($15.5 million) and a 321-acre waterfront estate with its own lake ($18 million). That said, if the “Pine Needles” estate were to fetch its full asking price, it would mark the most expensive sale in Berkshire County history.