Coaching Weekend Relives the Gilded Age


At Home with Harvey and Mary Waller
(Originally published Jan 2015)

As soon as you turn into the drive between the stone walls and flower pots, you have a feeling of going back in time. The Massachusetts Berkshires were the place to come and be seen driving your horse and carriage during the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, and large estates and elegant carriage houses provided the perfect setting. Summer residents would be met at the Stockbridge train station and be transported by the family horse and carriage to their “cottages.”

See video of last Fall’s Berkshire Coaching Weekend:

Orleton Farm has been a part of that tradition for over 100 years, but there is nothing gilded or ornate about the farm. New England simplicity and beauty surround you. Majestic old trees, manicured fields, and the Berkshire Mountains are a perfect background.

Mary and Harvey met while riding with Norfield Farm’s trainers for the Florida Hunter Jumper Circuit in the mid ‘80s. Harvey built their house and uses his building talents and construction company to recondition the farm for their driving needs.

After a proper introduction to the personalities of each of the 11 horses and 5 ponies, all of whom are groomed impeccably, Mary can’t wait to begin the tour of the antique coach, carriage, harness, and appointments collection.

The coaches and carriages are magnificently displayed in the multiple barns that have been specially restored to house them. Among the many vehicles is a Bugatti coach originally made for Ettore Bugatti. A unique harness adorned with Bugatti’s initials and brow bands in black and yellow, which were his racing colors, hangs in a custom-built cabinet. The hardware, hames, and turrets are all silver clad, and the bits and bridoons are stamped Hermès, Paris.

Nearby is the well-known Old Times Coach that is famous for having set a record in 1888 for making the round trip between London and Brighton in under eight hours. The 52-mile trip generally required about 14 hours.

Although the many beautifully restored and maintained carriages are displayed in museum fashion, they are driven by Mary and Harvey Waller. The stable of carefully chosen and trained horses proudly pull the vehicles around the farm’s 200 acres of carriage roads and fields or work in one of the two oversized arenas to prepare for events and competitions.
Orleton Farm in Stockbridge is also the home of the Colonial Carriage and Driving Society, which sponsors annual pleasure driving shows, sleigh rallies, coaching days, and the “Horse Power meets Horsepower Days” gathering of vintage automobiles. Mary and Harvey are principals in the Colonial Carriage endeavor, passionate about preserving the area’s history and promoting the traditions and fine art of driving horse drawn carriages.

Perhaps the reason Mary is so passionate about the history and traditions of the area is because she grew up as part of it. The carriage collection is particularly special because it contains many carriages that have been in Mary’s family for generations, from both the Stokes and the Proctor sides of her family. Mary’s great-grandfather, Harley T. Proctor (of Proctor & Gamble) bought the farm in 1901. In 1893, Anson Phelps Stokes, Mary’s grandfather, a banker with interests in mining and railroads, built one of the largest estates in America. Sadly, it burned to the ground in 1956.

The walls of the Waller home are covered with antique oil portraits of ancestors. Like the farm itself, they are a blend of historic elegance and New England simplicity.

See the full story and more photos here.