Historic Structures

Chalet Schell (Northfield Chateau), Northfield Massachusetts

Date added: January 7, 2010 Categories: Massachusetts House Mansion

Francis Robert Schell, a New York capitalist drawn to Northfield by an interest in its religious work, acquired 125 acres of land in the heart of town where he built his "castle." Completed in 1903 while the Schells were in Europe, the chateau contained 99 rooms and stood on a knoll at the highest elevation of the grounds overlooking the colonial village of Northfield. Apparently his wife was horrified when they returned and saw the mansion: She had always wanted a "rose-covered cottage in the country." Local residents who worked at the Northfield Inn, where Mrs. Schell lived, remember Mrs. Schell being asked about the castle. Her response was "I don't like it, and I never go near it." She insisted also that her room in the inn face away from the chateau.

After the death of Mr. Schell, the mansion became a burden upon his estate, fell into disrepair, and finally fell into the hands of the Northfield Hotel Company, which bought it for the land value and used it as an adjunct to its inn. It remained more ornamental than practicable, with its great rooms, its vast mirrors, its costly crystal chandeliers, it ramps, and its stairways objects of curiosity rather than utility. It was torn down in 1963.

An historical footnote: At one time the basement of the chateau was used as America's first Youth Hostel.