Bellefontaine Mansion

165 Kemble Street, Lenox, Massachusetts

Completed in 1897 as a summer home in The Berkshires for financier Giraud Foster (1850-1945) and his wife Jane Van Nest (1860-1932). The white marble and pale brick mansion was said to be the most elegant of the summer homes at Lenox. Having been immaculately restored to its former glory by Max Zuckerman, it operates today as the Canyon Ranch Health & Wellness Resort & Spa at Lenox.
Belle Fontaine (or Bellefontaine as it is known today) was approached by a long carriage drive lined with elms and interspersed with statues, that took the visitor through the woods and up to the inner court. The house itself was built around the inner court with a waterway and surrounded by further examples of Foster’s magnificent collection of statues - either imported or copied from France and Italy.

Foster was the longest living and last of the Gilded Age social elite who summered at Lenox. His death in 1945 signified the end of Lenox’s Gilded Age. In 1947, his only son, Giraud Van Nest Foster (1904-1980), sold the house and it’s 1,800 statues to the Fathers of Mercy for $123,000 according to The New York Times of that day.

In 1949, except for the outside walls and the library, the interior of the house was destroyed by fire. The new owners rebuilt the house that from then became known as the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, but Belle Fontaine was a shadow of it’s former self. The house stood vacant for a number of years until 1987, when purchased by Mel Zuckerman. 

Zuckerman spent $40 million restoring the mansion to its original splendour, transforming it into the second of his Canyon Ranch health spa resorts. What happened to the 1,800 statues collected by Foster still remains somewhat of a mystery. In the 1980s, builders found many fractured parts buried in the grounds, while several can still be found in tact scattered through the Berkshire Hills at similar properties.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 26/11/2018 and last updated on 12/07/2019.
http://www.berkshireweb.com/plexus/cottages/bellefontaine/
The Berkshire Cottages; A Vanishing Era. By Carole Owen

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