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The History of Cottage Farm

Once known as Blythewood Farms, this notable summer "cottage" set on the shores of Onota Lake in Pittsfield, Massachusetts was once a grand estate that included outbuildings, laundry facilities, servants quarters, a superintendent's residence, two barns, two farmhouses, a dairy house and coach house, wood house, gate house, greenhouse, and even a gardener's residence. The original estate had 12 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, electric lights and boasted a unique contemporary style.

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Cottage Farm's rich history begins in 1888 when Wirt Dexter Walker, a prominent Chicago lawyer, acquired a 450 acre plot of land on the shores of Onota Lake in Pittsfield, MA. Born on September 1, 1860, in Chicago, Wirt Dexter Walker was the son of the successful attorney James M. Walker and Eliza M. Walker. He was named after Wirt Dexter, a junior partner in his father's law firm, Walter VanArman & Dexter.

Biography of Wirt Dexter Walker

Wirt Dexter Walker's life was marked by early success and many personal challenges. After graduating from Yale University, he inherited a substantial fortune following his father's death. He established his own law practice in 1883 and became the secretary of the University Club of Chicago in 1887. Unfortunately, health problems, including blindness, forced him to retire from office work and he set out to Pittsfield, MA in the hopes of recovering from his ailments. 

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Blythewood Farms Summer Cottage

In 1888, while seeking a healthful retreat, Walker purchased the 450 acre land in Berkshire County. He commissioned local architect H. Neill Wilson in 1890 to design a grand summer cottage, Blythewood, with hopes that the serene environment would help benefit his health. 

In 1894, Walker married Marie Winston. Despite his health issues, he continued to be active in his profession and social circles until his untimely death. Walker passed away at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City on April 24, 1899, and was laid to rest at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.

Wilson, the architect, went on to design several other notable mansions in the area, including Shadowbrook, establishing the region as a popular destination for affluent summer retreats.

After Walker's Death

Following Walker's death, his wife Marie inherited a $15,000 annual allowance along with the Blythewood estate, under the established will of Walker that his wife would never remarry. Newspapers speculated whether she would retain this income when she planned to marry another lawyer, Victor Elting. Ultimately, she kept her inheritance, but the property was transferred to the Wirt D. Dexter Art Gallery in Chicago. The gallery trustees sold it in 1905 to John Alden Spoor, a Chicago tycoon and chairman of the Union Stockyards and Transit Company. Spoor held the property until two years before his death in 1926, when it was sold to a group of local investors who turned it into a dairy farm.

Cottage Farm of the Berkshires, once Blythewood Farms, now stands as a testament to the legacy of Wirt Dexter Walker and the historical transformations of this picturesque estate.

[Wikipedia, article]

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The Life of Wirt Dexter Walker

Wirt Dexter Walker, owner of Blythewood Farms Summer Cottage  (Born 1860- Died 1899)

H. Neill Wilson, local architect built the grand summer cottage that later burned down. (Born 1855- Died 1926)

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Cormorant Garamond is a classic font with a modern twist. It's easy to read on screens of every shape and size, and perfect for long blocks of text.

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