American Icons and More in the Berkshires
By Laura Wolf
Busy schedules and budget constraints often translate into shorter, more condensed group itineraries. In the culturally rich Berkshires, this doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice content! The Berkshires are big, it’s true, and offer plenty of reasons to visit again and again, taking advantage of seasonal opportunities and special limited-time festivals. But if you’ve got 3-4 days between Memorial Day and Columbus Day this year, be sure to consider this classic Berkshires itinerary.
American Icons is a group of four Berkshire County museums (Chesterwood, Hancock Shaker Village, The Mount and Norman Rockwell Museum) that joined together in 2008 to offer combination ticket packages. Visitors can choose two, three, or all four sites and receive substantial discounts on admission. The best value is yours when you visit all four, and indeed, the Pick Four American Icons Pass offers a better bottom line than contracting for group rates at the individual sites on your own.
The sites are situated closely together in the central Berkshires (the two furthest from each other are less than 14 miles apart) and offer excellent visitor amenities including gift shops, guided tour upgrades, and luncheon cafés at three of the participating sites. Performing arts centers, concert halls and gardens are just as plentiful in the region, and this itinerary offers a sampling of those as well.
Lodging and group dining are available nearby in Lenox, Stockbridge, or Pittsfield. Depending on the size of your group, you may opt for one of the many Bed & Breakfasts listed on the Berkshire Visitors Bureau website. Highlights for group meals include The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Gateways Inn in Lenox, and the Dakota Restaurant in Pittsfield.
Day 1, Morning: Visit the Norman Rockwell Museum, and enjoy a semi-private or private catered lunch on their covered patio.
Norman Rockwell Museum
9 Glendale Road, Route 183,
Stockbridge, MA 01262
The Norman Rockwell Museum houses the world’s largest and most significant collection of Rockwell’s work, including 574 original paintings and drawings. Rockwell’s Stockbridge studio, moved to the Museum site, is open to the public from May through October, and features original art materials, his library, furnishings, and personal items. The Museum also houses the Norman Rockwell Archives, a collection of more than 100,000 items, including working photographs, letters, personal calendars, fan mail, and business documents. Changing exhibitions celebrate illustrators of all types, including graphic artists, cartoonists and children’s book illustrators.
Day 1, Afternoon: Visit Chesterwood
4 Williamsville Road, Stockbridge, MA 01262
Chesterwood, a National Trust Historic Site, is the country home, studio and gardens of America’s foremost sculptor of public monuments, Daniel Chester French (1850-1931), creator of the Minute Man and Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial. Situated on 122 acres in the idyllic hamlet of Glendale near Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the property and its buildings were donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation by French’s only child, Margaret French Cresson (1889-1973). Inspired by the natural beauty of the Berkshire Hills, French purchased the former Marshall Warner farm in 1896. Each year, during the month of May, he left his permanent home and studio in New York for six months and moved with his family to Chesterwood, where he worked on over 200 public and private commissions. Many of French’s plaster sketches, including models of his Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial, are on view today in his Studio as well as in the permanent exhibit, Daniel Chester French: Sculpting an American Vision, in Barn Gallery.
Day 1, Evening: Catch a show at Barrington Stage
30 Union St., Pittsfield, MA 01201
Barrington Stage Company has become the fastest growing arts venue in Berkshire County, attracting some 45,000 patrons each year, and gaining national recognition for its superior quality productions and comprehensive educational programming. Co-founded in 1995 by Artistic Director Julianne Boyd, Barrington Stage has produced several award-winning plays and musicals, beginning with winning the Elliot Norton/Boston Theatre Critics Award in its very first year for The Diary of Anne Frank. The 2012 summer season includes productions of Fiddler on the Roof and Lord of the Flies.
Day 2, Morning: Visit Hancock Shaker Village and enjoy a Shaker-inspired lunch in their private dining room.
Hancock Shaker Village
Route 20 & 41, Pittsfield, MA 01202
Hancock Shaker Village brings the Shaker story to life and preserves it for future generations. The 20 buildings of the historic Village draw visitors from around the world. From April through October, visitors may roam the Village at their own pace, talking with interpreters and choosing from a variety of craft demonstrations and programs. In the Visitors Center, exhibitions look deeper into specific aspects of Shaker life and place the Shakers into a broader American context. Guided tours are also available through advance arrangements. Throughout the Village, artisans demonstrate Shaker crafts, gardeners tend herb and heirloom vegetable gardens, farmers talk about livestock on the Shaker farm, and guides teach about Shaker worship and work. The Visitors Center houses a changing exhibitions gallery, which in 2012 will feature1930’s WPA photographs of Shaker sites.
Day 2, Afternoon: Herman Melville’s Arrowhead
Berkshire Historical Society at Arrowhead
780 Holmes Rd.
Pittsfield, MA 01201
For 2012, the City of Pittsfield’s Office of Cultural Development has chosen the themes of Melville and Moby Dick for its’ outdoor art extravaganza. “Call Me Melville” will offer a large number and variety of art expressions in the downtown area of Pittsfield. At Arrowhead, under the umbrella of “The Power of Genius: Landscape and Inspiration”, we will be offering a multitude of artistic offering and possibilities. From plays of the Melville family, written by Sally Filkins and performed by the VOICES Theatre Company, a straw sculpture of Ahab and Moby-Dick by Michael Melle in our North Field, a poetry house, Art in the Barn, and painters in the field, we‘ll explore all the ways that location can inspire.
Day 2, Evening: The Berkshire Theatre Group
Berkshire Theatre Group
111 South St., Pittsfield, MA 01201
The Colonial Theatre & Berkshire Theatre Festival have merged and continue to present live music, comedy, dance, family programming and more! Choose from packed schedules of musicians, magicians, new works and classic theatre performances. 2012 musical performers on the Colonial stage include Bob Weir and Colin Hay, with A Chorus Line being presented by the Berkshire Theatre Festival in the summer of 2012.
Day 3, Morning: Edith Wharton’s Estate, The Mount
The Mount Estate and Gardens
2 Plunkett St., Lenox, MA 01240
The Mount is both an historic site and a center for culture inspired by the passions and achievements of Edith Wharton. Designed and built by Edith Wharton in 1902, the house embodies the principles outlined in her influential book, The Decoration of Houses (1897). The property includes three acres of formal gardens designed by Wharton, who was also an authority on European landscape design, surrounded by extensive woodlands. Programming at The Mount reflects Wharton’s core interests in the literary arts, interior design and decoration, garden and landscape design, and the art of living. Annual exhibits explore themes from Wharton’s life and work.
Day 3, Afternoon: Berkshire Botanical Garden
Berkshire Botanical Garden
5 West Stockbridge Rd., Stockbridge, MA 01262
Called “a glistening community gem” by Virginia Small, author of the book Great Gardens of the Berkshires, the Garden’s mission is to fulfill the community’s need for information, education and inspiration concerning the art and science of gardening and the preservation and improvement of our local environment. Public display gardens are open May through mid-October. Both functional and ornamental, they are among the oldest in the US and have been expanded over the years in breadth and variety through a series of bequests and major gifts. Collections emphasize plants that are indigenous to or thrive in the Berkshires; more than 3,000 species and varieties are represented.
Laura Wolf has led the Hancock Shaker Village Marketing Department since late 2006, and recently became their Director of Operations and Marketing. Laura volunteers with the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, serves on the Pittsfield Tourism Commission, and was elected to the Berkshire Visitors Bureau Board of Directors in 2011.