After a cold, sleepy winter, the Berkshires are warming back up. The beautiful cultural cottages and estates are busy airing their new programs in hopes of catching visitors in this gorgeous and culturally bountiful area.
One noteworthy property in the Berkshires is Naumkeag, located in Stockbridge. Perched on the upper edge of 46 acres of pasture, woodlands, and gardens, this former private country estate is now a Trustees of Reservations nonprofit museum property whose centerpiece is a 44 room, shingle style country house designed and constructed between 1886 and 1887.
The estate is also noted for its large, well-manicured gardens, which were designed in the mid-20th century and are also in the process of undergoing a multi-year renovation. The finely crafted gardens have aged and held up well in the harsh New England winter weather. Careful plans and lots of love are restoring the landscape as it was originally conceived. Naumkeag is open on weekends from early April through Memorial Day, and daily from Memorial Day through October 31st.
Another property that shines in the spring is Chesterwood. It was once the summer home of Daniel Chester French, one of the most prolific and acclaimed American sculptors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is best known for his design of the monumental work, the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. The estate is now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which operates the property as a museum and sculpture garden. The property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965 in recognition of French’s importance in American sculpture.
You can be the first to see French’s newly rehabilitated studio, tour the nine-bedroom residence, and explore the formal and woodland walks throughout this 122-acre estate. Discover how contemporary artists continue to be inspired by French. There is also a new artist-in-residence for 2016 and both her work, the estate, and ground can be explored through individual visits or group tours.
The Mount is another treasure in the Berkshires where Spring is vibrant and alive with color! The gardens are feasts for your eyes and you’ll love the historic details inside the former home of Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist Edith Wharton. They offer several tours like the Backstairs Tour, have an outdoor sculpture show, and many trails for your enjoyment. This Berkshire Cottage was built by Wharton in 1902 and embodied her spirit, ideas, and passion for houses. Fall in love with all the details inside and out.
If historic properties formerly owned by artists suit your fancy, you should also visit Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio, located in Lenox. This property was once just a studio (the house was added in 1941) owned by and aptly named after the American Abstract Artists George L.K. Morris and Suzy Frelinghuysen. The studio was built in a modern German style called Bauhaus in 1930 by Morris and his friend George Sanderson.
Upon her death in 1988, Suzy Frelinghuysen left instructions that the House & Studio and art collection be used for an educational purpose. After receiving approval from the two towns of Stockbridge and Lenox, on which the 46-acre estate lies, the House & Studio opened for visitation in 1998.
Visitors can walk through the House, which contains furnishings and decorations unchanged since the couple’s lifetime. You not only get to view the works of Morris and Frelinghuysen on the walls, but you can walk right up to the works of some of their most famous colleagues and contemporaries including Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Georges Braque, Joan Miro, and Henri Matisse.
There are more Berkshire Cottages than this post can hold! So, another important stop during your visit to the Berkshires should be at Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum. Built by Sarah Morgan, the sister of J.P. Morgan, it’s going through a full restoration and the first floor is completely open to the public along with many rooms on the second floor. Check out their Events calendar for lectures, performances, exhibits, and more.
These historically significant properties and more await you. With breathtaking natural beauty indoors and out, classic architecture, and are rich in the history of their former occupants and their creative works.
Darcie Sosa is a Berkshire marketing/PR professional who went isn’t working loves being outside hiking with her dogs, going to live music and theatre shows, networking, trying new restaurants and volunteering for local nonprofits. She is an alumni of Berkshire Community College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and University of Massachusetts, Amherst.