Blantyre resort in Lenox has changed hands: A newly formed limited liability company has acquired the property for $15 million. The transaction includes zoning board permits for a major expansion of the hotel, including development of townhouse condo buildings.
LENOX — Blantyre, the 120-year-old Gilded Age cottage that became one of the county’s most luxurious, celebrity-haunted resorts, has changed hands for the second time in four years.
The purchase price for multiple parcels on Blantyre and Patterson roads was $15 million, according to documents filed last week at the Berkshire Middle Registry of Deeds in Pittsfield.
The transaction includes transfer of a special permit for a dramatic $90 million expansion of the 110-acre resort as approved at a Lenox zoning board meeting in July 2020, followed by a written decision filed with the Registry in October.
Blantyre will be closed until September 2022, said general manager Stephen Benson. Guests seeking bookings for next summer were told that multimillion-dollar renovations planned under the new ownership were the reason for the prolonged shutdown.
The new corporation is registered with the state as Blantyre LLC, whose owners are Clark Lyda, an investor and real estate developer specializing in historical preservation of Gilded Age estates who is based in Georgetown, Texas, near Austin, and Ken Fulk, an interior designer in San Francisco whose company is listed in New York City.
The conservatory dining venue at Blantyre, which has hosted such celebrity visitors and guests as Martha Graham, Yo-Yo Ma, Bobby McFerrin, Leonard Bernstein, John Williams, Daniel Craig, Josh Groban, Paul Newman and Joan Collins.
Lyda and Fulk could not be reached for comment.
The price tag for the property sale and buildout is among the highest for a resort in the county.
In first place, by far, is Hyatt Hotels Corp.’s $132 million investment to transform the former Cranwell hotel and golf course into the Miraval Berkshires Resort and Spa and its sibling, the Wyndhurst Manor & Club. Hyatt spent $22 million to acquire the property in January 2017 and completed the project in June 2020.
Over the years, David Pupo has become the informal historian of Blantyre, which has a story that spans the entire 20th century.
During a zoning board hearing last year, Lenox native David Pupo, director of operations and a longtime Blantyre employee, listed celebrity visitors and guests at Blantyre such as Martha Graham, Yo-Yo Ma, Bobby McFerrin, Leonard Bernstein, John Williams, Daniel Craig, Josh Groban, Paul Newman and Joan Collins.
Williams composed his “Schindler’s List” score, as well as music for the “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” films during nearly annual summer residencies scheduled around his Tanglewood appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops.
“They have each appreciated the unique history and warmth of this very special home away from home,” Pupo said of the famous guests. “Houses of this nature and properties of this size require a Gilded Age fortune to maintain, a staff of over 100 dedicated, trained, talented employees, constant upkeep and extraordinary efforts for year-round occupancy.”
‘A hotel junkie’
In a Preservation Magazine profile, Lyda described himself as a lifelong history buff. He has emphasized finding new uses for old buildings, creating economic momentum for their preservation.
“When I started investing in real estate, I gravitated toward odd properties people didn’t know what to do with, rather than conventional properties,” he told the magazine published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “You’ve got to preserve the essence of them but give them an economic purpose — a sustainable reason for being — so they can continue forward. Older buildings tell us a story about the people who built them and the time they were built.”
According to Lyda, “most tend to have a higher level of craft than ours do now. And better materials, and more respect for resources. I’ve had varying degrees of success with them, but I find them to be more compelling.”
He expressed particular pride in the renovation of the 1860s Stagecoach Inn in Salado, Texas, and another hotel, the Commodore Perry Estate in Austin.
He told the magazine that he has been “a big fan of houses from the Gilded Age era, so I am drawn to places like Newport, Rhode Island, or Long Island, New York.” He did not mention the Berkshires in that fall 2020 interview.
Fulk, the interior designer, told the Financial Times in a profile last month that “an indulgence I’d never forgo is extravagant hotels. I’m a hotel junkie and subscribe to the theory that the best room really does matter.”
He recently redesigned Boston’s historic ’Quin House, now a members-only social club in the city’s famous Back Bay neighborhood. The 1886 building was the longtime home of the Algonquin Club, “where generations of Boston Brahmins have networked, cocktailed, and compared investment portfolios,” according to Boston Magazine.
Linda Law, the real estate investor who acquired the Blantyre property from Fitzpatrick Family Holdings in June 2017 for $4.6 million, is reported to still be involved as a stakeholder. She could not be reached for comment.
The value of the business, furnishings and equipment brought the total cost of her 2017 acquisition to nearly $7 million.
Blantyre through the years
1897: Estate owner Robert Paterson begins a five-year project to build the Blantyre Manor House, named after his mother’s ancestral home of Blantyre in Scotland. It required 300 construction workers on-site.
1946: After passing through six ownerships, including Hollywood film mogul D.W. Griffiths in the 1930s, the property is restructured and opens as an inn.
1980: Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick, of Red Lion Inn and Country Curtains fame, purchase the property after a decade of dilapidation and bankruptcy. It resumes operation as an inn under the management of their daughter, JoAnn Fitzpatrick Brown. Its list of celebrity guests includes film composer and Boston Pops conductor John Williams.
2016: After Fitzpatrick Brown’s death in January, the resort is placed on the market.
2017: In June, Blantyre is sold to Linda Law, a California-based real estate investor, and her partners, for nearly $7 million, including $4.6 million for the real estate, plus an additional $2 million for the value of the business, furnishings and equipment.
2020: In February, Law’s Blantyre Hotel Ventures LLC applies to the Lenox Zoning Board for a special permit allowing a $90 million expansion of the resort, nearly tripling the number of suites while adding townhouses and creating lots for private estates. The ZBA voted 5-0 to approve the project in July, after extensive public hearings.
Nov. 8, 2021: The property, including the special permit for the expansion, is acquired by Blantyre LLC for $15 million. The new corporation is owned by Austin, Texas, real estate investor and developer Clark Lyda, who specializes in historic preservation projects, and interior designer Ken Fulk, based in San Francisco, who also focuses on historic buildings.
The late Berkshire benefactors Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick had purchased Blantyre in 1980, after it had been abandoned and fallen into disrepair. The Fitzpatricks gave the property to their daughter, JoAnn Fitzpatrick Brown, to run.
The mansion, completed in 1902, and surrounding acreage was sold to Law’s company, Blantyre Hotel Ventures LLC, after the death of Fitzpatrick Brown in January 2016.
After a multimillion-dollar “cosmetic renovation,” Law unveiled an ambitious $90 million expansion of the resort in February 2020. The plan included a new hotel building with 45 additional rooms added to the 24 existing suites, as well as construction of 20 residential townhouses to be known as The Mews at Blantyre, and creation of 14 estate building lots.
During extensive, well-attended public hearings before the Lenox Zoning Board of Appeals, Law contended that the survival of the historic resort depended on the proposed expansion that would require at least 18 months to complete.
On July 22, 2020, the ZBA unanimously approved the project, with conditions that included limiting the number of guests at outdoor events to 175, keeping the restaurant open to the general public, and cutting off outdoor amplified music and fireworks by 11 p.m., the same conditions in force through the property’s previous special permit. Any outdoor event designed for more than 175 guests would require specific approval from Town Hall.
But, with the COVID-19 pandemic intensifying, no building permits ever were taken out for the expansion, according to records at Town Hall’s Land Use Department.
This year, well-known New York chef Daniel Boulud has operated a high-end restaurant, Cafe Boulud, at the hotel. The restaurant closed recently, ahead of the property transaction.
“Now Hear This,” an independently produced public television series shown as part of PBS’ “Great Performances,” bought out the property for several weeks in January, to film an episode, “Beethoven’s Ghost.” The show aired nationally Nov. 12.