The History of The Ethelwynde Estate
Late Nineteenth Century
In the late 19th century, the nation’s soaring economy created a population of Gilded Age barons in the Northeast. The Berkshires' beautiful open spaces beckoned to these new millionaires and quickly became home to many spectacularly grand estates.
According to Lenox town history, by 1880 there were approximately thirty-five new mansions. Within twenty years, the number had doubled to seventy-five. Lenox was nicknamed “the Inland Newport “and became one of the richest little towns in the country.
Against this backdrop in 1875, Henri Mondad Braem built the original Ethelwynde as a summer retreat for himself and his family. Braem’s step-father, Edward Bech, was a partner in the Cunard Steamship Company and Braem became the U.S. ambassador to Denmark. The Braems appeared often on the society pages for their parties in both New York and Lenox. As a political figure, Mr. Braem’s functions were also sources of entertainment for political figures such as the Grand Duke Alexander of Russia. Mrs. Braem hosted the Grand Duke along with Mrs. Robert Roosevelt, the aunt of the future president, Theodore Roosevelt.
Mr. Braem owned the estate through 1893 when he sold it to Kate Taylor Winthrop, the widow of Robert Winthrop who was a descendent of John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Early Twentieth Century
Mrs. Winthrop was the daughter of Moses Taylor, a founder of City Bank (predecessor of what we now know as Citibank), financier to Cornelius Vanderbilt, and one of the era’s wealthiest New Yorkers. Ethelwynde served as the family’s country retreat for her family. Son Grenville Lindall Winthrop soon followed and built a mansion nearby and named it Groton Place. Until her death in 1925, Mrs. Winthrop was the consummate hostess and was heralded by the New York Times as an award-winning floral and vegetable gardener. It was her enthusiasm for gardening and planting that was a primary contributor to the Ethelwynde estate's arboreal beauty. Among the trees she planted on the property were silver elms, white, copper and silver beeches, spruce, chestnut, Japanese maples, ginkgo, lilacs and silver poplars. Some of these are still thriving on The Ethelwynde Estate today.
In 1928, Ethelwynde was purchased by Mr. Halstead Camp Lindsley.
Born in Yokohama, Japan where his father, a New Englander, was a Canadian Pacific Railways executive. He purchased Ethelwynde as a grand romantic gesture for his second wife Emily Low (Bacon) Lindsley. He tore down the original wood framed house and replaced it with the mansion that stands on the property today. Many of the original wood framed Gilded Age mansions were prone to devastating fires , so Mr. Lindsley’s renovation was as much a safety measure as one of modernization. Mr. Lindsley and his brother had founded hundreds of mines over the years, including the Falconbridge Nickel Mine which is still one of the largest producers of nickel today. Fortunately for us, Halstead had some of that nickel brought to Ethelwynde where one can still find the beautiful nickel bath fixtures throughout the mansion. When Halstead wasn’t searching for vast ores of Canadian nickel ore, he enjoyed the new mansion with his wife and their daughter Virginia, who was eventually married at Ethelwynde in 1943.
In 1948, Ethelwynde was sold to Mrs. Isabella Hunnewell Dexter. Mr. Dexter, her third husband, was a direct descendent of John Singleton Copley, the foremost artist in Colonial America. Several works of art painted by John Singleton Copley were donated by Mrs. Dexter and can still be found in the National Gallery in Washington D.C. The Hunnewell family were well-known horticulturalists who created vast greenways throughout Boston, so it is no surprise that Isabella Hunnewell Dexter ultimately purchased fellow horticulturalist Kate Taylor Winthrop's property.
Late Twentieth Century
In 1950, Mr. Chester Hammond, an industrialist and lieutenant colonel who served as a military aide to President Franklin D. Roosevelt purchased Ethelwynde for his mother and her staff to live.
In 1954, Ethelwynde was sold to the widow of Mr. George Schieffelin, Esq. She enjoyed the property for over 20 years, often times with her Pekinese dogs. Her trust still gives an annual donation to the Lenox Library.
In 1975, Dr. Milos Krofta, founder of the Krofta Engineering Corporation of Lenox purchased Ethelwynde.
In 2003, current owners Ethan and Jamie Berg, fell in love with the property and lovingly restored it to its original grandeur. Click here to read an article from Rural Intelligence about the Bergs’ passion project. Although Ethelwynde has been nicknamed Winthrop Estate in reference to its Winthrop family provenance, it has and continues to be treasured under its Gilded Age proper name, Ethelwynde.