Photo by Jane Hu Photography
Cranwell is one of the most strikingly situated of the Berkshires Gilded Age mansions, located on a hill on Route 20, emerging like a castle to all those who drive by. The land was purchased in 1853 by Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, brother of famed writer Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Beecher himself was a renown preacher at Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn, known today for its role on the Underground Railroad and for having a piece of Plymouth Rock on display.
The views from the hilltop site, where Beecher built a farmhouse he called Blossom Farm, was precisely what admired, and wrote, “From here I can see the very hills of Heaven.” Henry Ward Beecher had hoped to run for U.S. President but was mired in a very Victorian-era scandal, having been named in a “correspondent” in a divorce case.
In 1869, he sold the property to General John F. Rathbone, who moved the farmhouse to build the Wyndhurst mansion. J.D. Sloane, brother of the owner of Elm Court (another mansion we’ll discuss), purchased the property and built an even more opulent mansion, which is the one that stands today.