Here is a listing of our 2017 Summer Tea & Talk Series

Reservations are suggested as seating is limited. Cost is $26.00 with an advance registration and $32.00 the day of. Member cost is $26.00. Call us at (413) 637-3206 for reservations.

June 6, 4:00 pm.   Retail and restaurant historian Jan Whitaker will showcase “Opulent Emporiums: The Gilded Age of Department Stores,” recreating the ultimate shopping experience that began in Paris in the 1850s and spread world-wide thanks to the Industrial Revolution, a new middle class and the elevator.  With floor upon floor of merchandise, shopping became an entertainment.

June 13, 4:00 pm.  Steven Pullen will return us to the time when “Grandpa was a Groomsman and Grandma was a Housemaid: Two British Servants in America.” From 1913 to 1925 emigres William and Mary Pullen worked for three of America’s wealthiest families. Their story includes a fabulous race horse that defied expectations, winning 23 world records, trained by William.

June 20, 4:00 pm.   An avid fan since childhood and a member of the international society, Baker Street Irregulars, lecturer Jeffry Bradway will portray the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in “Killing Off Sherlock Holmes.” Popularity caused Doyle to avoid other literary work. Experience the story of the creation, death and resurrection of the world’s most famous detective.

June 27, 4:00 pm.   Jim Shulman, who with his wife Jackie initiated, directed and backed the Berkshire Carousel, opening in 2016. He will give us a ride with “The Golden Age of Carousels, 1880-1930,” when over 3,000 wooden carousels were made in the U.S. He will explain how the figures are made and how carousels operate. They reflect the artistic styles of master immigrant craftsmen.

July 11, 4:00 pm. Who was the first to take aerial photographs, shoot the Paris sewer system under electric light and take a celebrity portrait of Sarah Bernhardt?  Scholar Eduardo Cadava will tell us by focusing on “Felix Nadar: 19th Century Parisian Portrait Photographer, Actor, Caricaturist, Inventor, Balloonist,” based on this creative jack-of-all-trades’ memoir When I Was a Photographer.

July 18, 4:00 pm.   Who was the Irish Bridget? Scholar Dr. Margaret Lynch-Brennan will have the answer when she presents a talk based on her book, The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840-1930.  The speaker will show photographs and read personal letters to give insight into the impact these young women had on Irish-American life.

July 25, 4:00 pm.  The Berkshires’ Gilded Age was punctuated with prominent cottagers and visitors with supposed sterling reputations. But were they immune to moral missteps and other indiscretions?  Depending upon your perspective, says historian Robert Asplund, these “Cads, Trollops and Traitors” may be considered heroes, libertines or loyal statesmen.  Come and draw your own conclusion.

August 1, 4:00 pm.   William Henry Vanderbilt died in 1885, leaving to his four sons and four daughters a fortune of $200 million (today $230 billion).  Historian Dr. Gary Helm Darden is “Keeping Up with the Vanderbilts: Architectural Rivalries,” noting that the siblings commenced an unparalleled American building spree – urban palaces, country estates and summer villas.

August 8, 4:00 pm.   Architectural historian Frances Morrone returns to Ventfort Hall to roll out the red carpet on “The Plaza: New York’s Legendary Hotel.” Built during the Gilded Age, an era of extravagant gestures, the hotel, with every architectural detail designed in the grand manner, was the address of diplomats, actors, royalty, the rich, the famous and, of course, Eloise.

August 15, 4:00 pm.   Dr. Margot MacIlwain Nishimura, Deputy Director for Collections at Newport Restoration Foundation, will open the door on storied “Rough Point, Mansion and Museum: Doris Duke’s Newport Legacy” and its extraordinary treasures. Overlooking fabulous gardens and the ocean, the English manorial-style mansion is furnished with first-rate art and antiques.

August 22, 4:00 pm.  Ventfort Hall’s resident historian, Cornelia Brooke Gilder will tell all with “Friends and Fireworks: Edith Wharton Enters Berkshire Society.”  As Nini quotes in her new book Edith Wharton’s Lenox, “As a hostess, designer, gardener and writer, Wharton set  high standards that delighted many…But her perceptive and sometimes indiscreet pen also alienated…” others.

August 29, 4:00 pm.   Master Restorer Frank MacGruer is a principled advocate when it comes to “Antique Furniture. Use, Care & Restoration. Surface, Substance & Science.” He will take on the subject with photographs of repair work in progress, before and after restoration work, examples of finish problems and solutions, maintenance products and tools of the trade.

September 5, 4:00 pm.  Ulysses Grant Dietz, Curator of Decorative Arts, Newark Museum, will put the sparkle on “Elegance and Aspiration: Money, Taste and Jewelry in America’s Gilded Age,” focusing on the meteoric rise of jewelry wearing after the Civil War. He will also explore the aspirational symbolism of jewelry, an aristocratic model for a nation without a social hierarchy.