In April 1952, a fire broke out in the fields near the home of Katharine and John S. McLennan Jr. due to strong winds blowing sparks from Mrs. McLennan’s incinerator. The fire quickly spread to their milk barn and the surrounding forest, eventually consuming 600 acres of woodland in Massachusetts. The fire also destroyed Ashintully, a 35-room mansion built by Robb de Peyster Tytus and his wife, Grace Seeley Henop Tytus. The Tytuses were New York intellectuals who fell in love with the area during their honeymoon and created a 1,500-acre estate.
The History Behind Ashintully
Robb Tytus, a Yale graduate with an interest in archeology, joined prominent archeologists in Egypt, where he helped uncover the palace of King Amenhotep III. After marrying Grace, they settled in Tyringham and engaged in farming and community activities. Tytus was elected to the state Legislature and played a role in local politics. Construction of Ashintully, also known as The Marble Palace, began in 1910 and took two years to complete. Despite being called a marble palace, most of the structure was made of stucco mixed with white sand, giving it the appearance of marble.
The mansion featured a two-story library and music room, a dining room, a drawing room, and a terrace overlooking the valley. The second floor housed bedrooms and bathrooms, while the basement contained the kitchen, dining areas, and storage. The Tytuses adorned the house with artifacts and treasures they collected during their travels, including Egyptian artifacts, a Jacobite cup supposedly used by Bonnie Prince Charlie, a large collection of Irish amethyst glass and Waterford crystal.
Robb Tytus passed away in 1913, leaving Grace with two daughters – Mildred and Victoria. She remarried in 1915 but divorced in 1927. Grace then rented Ashintully to author Henry Adams, who was the great-grandson of President John Adams and grandson of President John Quincy Adams. Interestingly, he had an eerie encounter with a painting in the home that seemed to talk to him. The portrait is of an Italian woman of noble birth and Miss Tytus believed it was stolen from a Roman palace and smuggled into this country. She thought this because it was found hidden in a crate of furniture that the Tytus’ purchased.
Over the next few years, the family would experience a string of unfavorable incidents. During her stay at Ashintully in October 1928, Grace Tytus would stumble and break her hip. Before going home and passing away from a heart attack, she spent nine days in the hospital. Mildred would doze off behind the wheel while traveling from Ashintully back to Springfield five years later, in 1933. She would fall victim to her wounds.
The estate eventually passed to Victoria Tytus Coolidge, who sold it in 1937, removing the furnishings and donating or selling the remaining artifacts. John S. McLennan Jr., Grace’s half-brother and a classical composer, later purchased the estate but didn’t reside there for long. Katharine, John’s wife, was using an incinerator near the home and she ended up starting a fire which burned down the home and hundreds of surrounding areas. The fire consumed the mansion, leaving only the foundation and four Doric columns.
John and Katharine McLennan continued to live in the farmhouse on the property and created gardens that were later donated to the Trustees of Reservations. The gardens, including the ruins of Ashintully, are open to the public.
Trail Webpage: wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/ashintully-mansion-ruins-135572600
- Trail Length: 0.7 miles
- Trail Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 148 feet
- Route Type: Loop
- Dog Policy: Dogs are not allowed on the trail or the property
- Year Established: 1912
- Year Abandoned: 1952
- Original Function: Mansion for Robb de Peyster Tytus and his wife, Grace Seeley Henop Tytus