Saturday, October 24, 2009

Flashback



We are parked at the Cranwell Resort and Spa in Lenox, Massachusetts (map). We arrived here yesterday afternoon after a lovely drive through lots of fall color. We parked just to walk around, but when we explained to the front desk the reason for our visit, they invited us to park in this lower lot overnight.

That reason would be to visit a cherished part of my past. While this property, with its Tudor mansion, myriad outbuildings, and nearly 400 acres of woods, trails, and 18-hole golf course has a long and storied history dating back over a century and a half, it was a preparatory school for boys operated by the Jesuits from 1939 to 1975, the Cranwell School. While I did not attend this school as a student, I did spend six summers here at a summer camp that the Jesuits operated on the property, Camp Cranwell. My last summer here was the year it closed, 34 years ago -- it has now been a resort for nearly as long as it was a school.

It's amazing to me how much of the campus is just the same as the day I left. I lived in three different buildings over the years that I was here, and all three are still here, now converted to luxury hotel rooms. The building that housed the camp administration, used for classrooms during the school year, is also still here, also converted to luxury hotel rooms, along with one of the original houses on the site that, in my day, contained the infirmary among other things, and I spent more than a night there myself.

As long as we were here and well parked for the night, we signed up for a pair of spa day packages yesterday, including a 50-minute massage and a pass for the indoor pool and other facilities. We also had a very nice dinner at the restaurant in the mansion, together making this one of the most expensive "free" parking spaces we've ever had. We were the only guests in the restaurant --most of the guests in the resort last night are attending a conference and so dined in the ballroom, which was the dining hall in my camp days.

It has been a real trip down memory lane, and I am glad we had the chance to stop. We need to be rolling again shortly -- our parking invitation was for one night only -- and we are waiting for a break in the rain. Our goal is the Wal-Mart or Elks lodge in Pittsfield, just a few miles from here, as any break in this rain is likely to be short-lived.

And now for a brief diversion from our regular content here -- most of our readers can skip the rest of this post.

As I have written here before, for reasons known only to the search-algorithm gurus at Google, this blog gets indexed fairly highly in search results. And so I can expect that some number of people will land on this post while searching for memories of Cranwell Preparatory School or Camp Cranwell, and for them I offer the following photos. (If you've arrived here looking for information about the resort, I can't comment on the guest rooms -- although I expect them to be commensurate with the four-diamond rating -- but the restaurant was excellent, the spa is first-rate, and my memories of the golf course, which is much the same today, is that it was a challenging and beautiful course. And it's hard to beat the raw beauty of the campus with its immense grounds.) Click on any photo for a full-size version.

Here is what the mansion looks like today (sorry, this is the most that would fit on my mediocre cell-phone camera, and today is not the best lighting). This is the view from the campus side, and the image at the top of this post is the "front" or street side. When I was here it was known as "Cranwell Hall," the resort calls it simply "the mansion" and it contains guest rooms on the upper floors, and restaurants, meeting facilities, and public rooms on the first floor:



Most Cranwell alums will recognize the well, still here:



My first year, I lived in one of these two buildings, now containing guest rooms. This is a view from the rear, I believe the one on the right was "Loyola" back then. I lived in one of the upstairs rooms with the dorm windows in the building on the left, whose name I have forgotten but I believe it began with a "B":



My second year and one other year I lived in this building, whose name I have also forgotten (but "Helliwel" sticks in my mind). It is now called the Olmsted "cottage" after Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed the grounds (along with the nation's capital as well as my other alma mater, Stanford). The addition of the port-cochere in the front makes it a bit difficult to recognize. This building also now houses the main registration desk:



Here is the building that was the carriage house for the mansion, and was classrooms in my day, also housing the camp administration. Today it houses guest rooms and is known as the Carriage House:



I lived in this building two years, know then as "Founders Hall." Today it retains some of that name, being known as "Founders Cottage" and houses guest rooms and a small lounge. The cornerstone engraved "1963" is still in place:



This building, now known as the Beecher Cottage and housing guest rooms, was faculty residences and other facilities, and I remember spending a couple of nights there in the infirmary, which was on the top floor and was the only thing the camp used in the building:



We seldom used most of the academic buildings at the camp, but I remember one which had, among other things, the science labs, where we had a couple of workshops. I thought the building had been razed, until I realized it was still there, but with a berm of earth piled against it on three sides. This was the only identifiable part of the building, now used as a maintenance shop, that I could capture -- the berm is visible to the left:



I don't remember what this building was, but it was here 35 years ago. Today it is the resort administration:



Lastly, this concrete pedestal is still here in the center of campus. Today there is a gazebo next to it. I remember it as having a bird bath or some such on top:



Fans of the post-modern Pierce Chapel will be sorry to learn that it was razed many years ago, after an unsuccessful attempt to use it as an opera house.

21 comments:

  1. OK, so now you're going to get a bunch of hits about Stanford. What year? Go Cardinal! --Jon

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  2. MS '83. My BS is from Stevens Tech, '82.

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  3. The building with a B could have been Bobola or Bellarmine

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  4. Great post. I've linked to this post from the Cranwell Prep page at ClassicSchools.com.
    http://classicschools.com/Massachusetts/Lenox/Cranwell_Preparatory_School/

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  5. Thought you may be interested in these posts on the Cranwell Prep Facebook page.
    http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/group.php?gid=46588869835&v=wall
    One is a photo of a graduation on the porch of Cranwell Hall, the other a news story about the fire that gutted the Carriage House this week.

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  6. camper from 1960 - 1964 - best summers of my life - the photo you list as Founders -looks like Berkman Hall to me - have dropped by several times over the years - last time Sept 2010 - visited Mt Greylock as well - also stopped off at Bash Bish falls - they dont let people in the watter anymore
    Tom Dunn - NYC - crimlaw80@yahoo.com

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  7. @Tom: Welcome to the blog. Founders was built in '63 so would have been under construction when you were there. It is the building with the brick facade. I think you are looking at the photo above it, which was the Carriage House and one of the earliest buildings on the property.

    Unfortunately, as Dave posted right above you, this building was completely destroyed by a fire in December, 2010.

    I had not remembered it was named Berkman.

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    1. I attended summer camp at Cranwell 1X in about 61-62? My name is Jim Thomson and housed in Bellamie 119 with a guy named Robert Pisani. Also remember a guy named Joe Matucchi (sp?) who was the swimming buddy who could not swim? I remember "inspection" vividly. Canoeing on the lake, running down some mountain, and tin plates for meals. Just a general hello to anybody on this thread who might remember. Our crew/team was called the "Blackfeet" if I am not mistaken...

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  8. WHAT A SHAME. I LIVED IN BERKMAN HALL FROM 1968-1969 AS A FRESHMAN. ALSO WORKED AT THE CAMP FROM 1972-1975. I WIIL MISS THAT BUILDING.
    DANIEL deMANBEY
    CLASS OF 72

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    1. Dan. I remember you too, Sean, I probably knew you, I was there (as a Mohican in '72 & '73).

      I almost got kicked out of camp when I hit Dan with a golf ball. I was having a terrible day, couldn't hit the ball 50 yards. I took a shot when we were about 200 yard from a green while Dan's party was on the green. (I knew I shouldn't, but the way I was playing). The problem, I made an adjustment to my swing and nailed the ball (best shot I hot all year). It hit Dan, on a fly, right in the backside. Dan, you were none too fond of me.. it seems I had told you a few time too often that you reminded me of my brother (who, I'm sure I mentioned, I didn't get along with). You were certain I did it on purpose (though not even Tiger could have reliably made that shot from where I was) and escorted me to see Father Condran (Was that his name?) My parents were called and expulsion was seriously considered. Had it not been for the person that I was playing with telling Father Condran that he told me to go ahead and hot the ball because I was so bad and couldn't possibly reach the green -- I think I would have been thrown out.

      Mike Leach

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  9. @Dan: I'd expect you would not remember me, but you were actually one of my counselors. IIRC, you were at the end of the hall when I lived on the second floor of Founders, maybe 1974?

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  10. Sean,
    I did know you.. When I saw your first name, your last name came to mind (but I wasn't sure and thought I was thinking of someone else). When I saw it on your e-mail address, I knew that I knew you.

    Did you go on the hike up Mt. Washington with Bill (The camping counsalor) and Jay Keven O'something -- Am ecology teacher from the school?

    Mike Leach

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  11. @Mike: Thanks for both your comments. I'm pretty sure I remember you, too. Were we in Founder's together? I did not go to Mt. Washington, as far as I recall. Did Greylock more times than I can remember, along with Bald Head where the Jesuits had property. Camping counselor I remember was named Jack, not bill -- can't recall the last name, but he drove a pickup with a cap on it and could write in mirror-writing, and did so on many occasions on the chalkboard in the camp office. I also remember Kevin, I think the last name was O'Shaunessey (sp?). The big hike/campout that I remember them doing my last couple of years was to Katahdin in Maine.

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    1. If it's the guy I remember, J Kevin O'Shaughnessy was a youngish Cranwell biology teacher. He was one of the more popular instructors during my time. I think he may have arrived during my sophomore year, 68-69.

      Steve Cuzzone
      Cranwell '71

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  12. I am older and attended and worked at the camp from 1953 to 1966. It was a transorming experience with the Jesuits, Harry Rissetto

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  13. It was Berchman's Hall after the Jesuit St. St Joseph's was near the golf course and tennis courts. Harry

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  14. Thanks for the pics they bring back some good times!.I worked at Camp Cranwell the last year it was open but my brothers and I all attended camp for years, want to say we started in 65 or 66 .
    My brother Walter worked with Jack Leonard in the overnight camping Jack also came back the last year of camp and we took several campers to Mt. Katadin in Maine.I try to get back up there from time to time ,last time was this past fall ,stayed at the Red Lion Inn ,must admit those were wonderful summers, Thanks again for the pictures.
    Dennis Kimm

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  15. Hi,

    I was a member of the infamous class of '71... infamous for the entire class being expelled 3 weeks before graduation. (we were allowed back on campus for 4 hours to graduate after, I'm sure, much debate). As a dayhop, I missed the event, a Saturday beer ball game that culminated with the traditional beer dousing of the dean of men.

    I have stayed away from the school grounds since the closure, with the exception of being married in Pierce chapel on January 3, 1976. I would hate to spoil the fine memories I have of the time spent there. To this day, I brag that I received 8 years of education in 4 years of high school, allowing me to skip almost all my college classes and still graduate with a >3.0 GPA.

    Thanks for the sidetrip down memory lane.

    Steve Cuzzone
    Panama City, FL
    Cranwell '71

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  16. I was a member of that "infamous" class of '71. What a fine collection of spirited (in more ways than one) young Americans.
    We introduced rock & roll to the Jesuits, with all the trimmings.
    I think the priests were unprepared for us. Some of the things they saw us do left them bewildered. If they knew the things we did that they did not see, they would have been shocked!
    It was a wonderful experience on a beautiful campus with some great people.
    btw The small dorm across the field from the Gym was renamed "Moriarity Hall" in '69(?) in honor of Mike Moriarity, a great guy, who had been killed in a car accident on graduation night the year before.
    Berco
    Richard Berberat

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  17. Many fond memories of Cranwell- was a camper from 1966 to 1971. Trekked up Greylock many times, and loved Bish Bash falls. As I recall, father Pepe was quite the story teller, who used to scare the daylights out of us! Couldn't wait for the Friday night movie in that old building too.
    I remember a counselor named Charlie Blum who was a great guy, but you never messed with him during "Inspection"!
    I really liked that Pierce Chapel, was a really cool structure. Too bad it was torn down years later...
    Ran the gamut, from Chickamo to Mohawk!
    I always swing by for a bit of nostalgia when staying at the Canyon Ranch a few miles away!

    Louis DeFrancesco
    Westport, CT



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  18. Wondering if any of you knew my father, john moynagh, or uncles Tony and Pete Moynagh. Cranwell early 70's.

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