Did Nat King Cole ever live in Tyringham?
photo // William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty
Stories of famed singer Nat King Cole entertaining at his Tyringham home are urban legends. When widow Maria Cole moved her family from California to the Berkshires in 1970, Nat had been dead for five years, his mellow voice silenced at age 46 by lung cancer. She remained in her Tyringham home for 26 years.
Maria, herself a jazz singer who sang with the Count Basie Band and Duke Ellington Orchestra, bought South House, a sprawling colonial built 60 years earlier by the Jerusalem Shakers. Eldest daughter Natalie Cole, who was studying at UMass Amherst and embarking on a singing career, visited Tyringham occasionally. The spectacularly landscaped 114-acre estate was a playground for four younger children and their friends in the Fernside neighborhood. Locals remember kids swarming around, especially at the pool and tennis courts.
“Maria was the kind of person who would insist on helping with the dinner dishes,” says an old friend. The move back to her native Massachusetts brought the Coles closer to other loves—the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Red Sox, where they enjoyed season tickets.
Maria also became owner and operator of the Morgan House Inn in Lee. But her main focus was always on family times at South House, which she sold in 1996 and which is now under contract again, according to listing agent Gladys Montgomery with William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty. Sadly, Nat was not there to entertain, but at least one big star, Cab Calloway, once sang for a “Sweet Sixteen” party in bucolic Tyringham.