Adapting New Technology to Historic Properties

Project: Modular Mountain Retreat, Episode 11, Part 3

Bob makes his first visit to Elm Court, a historic home in Lenox, MA, that was abandoned for 50 years before being reclaimed and restored.

Sonya and Bob Berle, whose ancestors originally built the massive home in 1886, bought Elm Court to save it from continuing decay. Bob joins Bob Berle outside to take a tour of the exterior.

Elm Court is the largest Shingle Style home in the country. Berle points out what has been done so far, as well as what is still under construction.

Inside, Bob meets Sonya Berle for a tour of the magnificent foyer, learning how the house looked when the couple originally began the project. Next, the pair head to the basement to learn more about what had to be done to the infrastructure of the home before work could even begin upstairs.

The mansion's structured wiring and mechanical systems have a definite 21st-century feel. Back upstairs, Vila and Berle rejoin Sonya for a look at the library and the adjoining conservatory.
Part 1: Shingle Style Architecture at Elm Court
Part 2: Elm Court Foyer and Fireplace
Part 3: Adapting New Technology to Historic Properties
Bob Berle shows Bob Vila the bowels of the home, including the decay that was prevalent but currently under repair. The 35,000 square foot basement was open to the elements prior to the Berles' arrival.

Deep in the past, a small town atmosphere existed in the basement, since there was a launderer, a butcher, and a baker to serve the Vanderbilts and their guests. At one point in time, over 120 people were seasonally employed by the house to maintain the grounds and serve the guests.

Due to years of neglect and changing expectations, the entire communications and electrical systems in the house have needed to be replaced using suspended channels for low voltage, and commercial pipes for high voltage, wiring.

Even with the home's immense size, residential heating systems will be employed using nine boilers, which allow for the heating of specific zones. To prevent fire, the boiler room is practically airtight and the boilers' heating elements are vented directly outdoors.
Part 4: Elm Court's Library and Architectural Detailing
Beautifully sited on wooded acreage with breathtaking views of some of the most beautiful countryside in New England, this Arts and Crafts style bungalow certainly doesn't look factory-built. You'd never know it was a modular home unless Bob took you to the Pennsylvania factory where it was built, almost from start to finish.

The house goes down the assembly line from framing, through wiring and plumbing, all the way to the installation of flooring and priming for paint.

The house is trucked to its pre-fabricated foundations on the lot, and start all the finishing touches that will prove that a modular house doesn't have to be a cookie-cutter affair.