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Chautauqua House Tour: Murder, fire and hidden gardens

May 25, 2016
Westfield Republican

All old houses have a story to tell, but some of the tales related to the 12 houses on the 2016 Bird, Tree and Garden Club House Tour may surprise our guests.

The murder in the Sunday School Cottage was investigated by Pinkerton Guards in the 1940s, but never proven. A woman rumored to be angry with her philandering husband served him birthday cake with arsenic in the icing which proved to be fatal.

The house gutted by fire during the winter of 2012 was rebuilt by reshaping the interior spaces within the original "bones of the structure" and adding a large gourmet kitchen. Guests will walk onto a welcoming wrap-around porch overlooking the Visual Arts Center Sculpture Garden.

Just a short block from the center of activity in Bestor Plaza, there is a three-story waterfront cottage tucked back away from the street to create a secluded feeling including hidden native-only perennial gardens. This one was owned for several years by an executive of the Buster Brown Shoe Company.

One of the first three houses built on the far north shore beyond University Park opened up the "gold coast" for development in the 1950s. It was designed by nationally renowned architect Paul Revere Williams, architect of the stars in Beverly Hills. ( Entering the formal two-story foyer brings the feel of the Los Angeles Hills to this spacious lakeside home.

Built in 1984, the President's Cottage is described by architect Scott Lawson as the "last old house of Chautauqua." The hillside across from the cottage has recently been converted from grassed lawn to a diverse habitat of native trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials as a part of Chautauqua's storm water management plan.

What is special about the 2016 tour: This is a wonderful opportunity to see two brand-new houses, many recently renovated cottages, and five large lakefront homes on Chautauqua's north shore.

The self-guided walking tour will be held from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12, on the grounds of the historic Chautauqua Institution. Refreshments will be served throughout the afternoon at Norton Hall, home of the Chautauqua Opera Company. Ticket order forms can be found at A slide show of the 12 tour houses can also be viewed on the web site.



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