Santarella – Lee, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura


Stay at this storybook estate, featuring Sir Henry Hudson Kitson's masterpiece "Gingerbread House." 


In the Berkshires in Massachusetts, a smattering of eclectic buildings at the Santarella Estate creates a quaint fairytale setting brought to life. A small cottage known as the Tyringham Gingerbread House is the property’s whimsical jewel.

The Gingerbread House looks as though it’s been plucked directly from the pages of a storybook and plopped in the small New England town. It’s the final masterpiece of Sir Henry Hudson Kitson, an English-born sculptor known for his detailed depictions of American military heroes and generals.

Kitson spent the last 25 years of his life crafting the exquisite cottage, which he achieved by transforming an old barn into his own personal studio and home (which, unfortunately, plunged him into debt).

The house features stained glass windows settled beneath a steeply sloping roof. The 80-ton shingled roof that crowns the charming cottage took more than a decade to construct and was designed to mimic the thatched roofs found atop old British houses. Kitson even asked local farmers to grow rye to craft an authentic thatched roof, but this plan ultimately failed. Instead, hand-cut tiles were layered upon each other to create his desired effect. Piles of stones stacked against the front walls and a freestanding chimney add to the building’s fantasy appeal.

In addition to the Gingerbread House, the Santarella Estate contains a small cluster of other fairytale buildings nestled within a lush garden bursting with both flora and fauna, with a few brooks and ponds thrown into the mix as well. An old silo Kitson converted into an additional studio has since been transformed into a cozy cottage, which is now available for people to rent as part of a bed and breakfast.

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