New England is awash with history and the Berkshires is home to a large concentration of its’ historical treasures. The beauty of the area has drawn famous writers, artists, and musicians that have been immortalized by interactive museums available to explore year-round. Each of these venues will create customized tours tailored to your group that will provide unique and memorable experiences.
Arrowhead, also known as the Herman Melville House, is a historic farmhouse museum in Pittsfield. This was where author Herman Melville lived during what literary scholars consider his most prolific years as a writer. It was here, inspired by the surrounding landscapes, that Melville penned some of his major works, including Moby-Dick, Pierre, Israel Potter, The Confidence-Man, and The Piazza Tales.
The house was built in the 1780s as both a farmhouse and an inn. It remained in private hands until 1975 when the Berkshire County Historical Society acquired the house and a portion of the original property. The Society restored the home back to how it would look in Melville’s time and today it operates as a museum paying homage to the author and his writing.
Another historic property is the Bidwell House Museum. Located in Monterey, the house was built in the 1760s by Reverend Adonijah Bidwell as the demographic center of the township. It is located on the route of the Boston-Albany Post Road, a mail route that was turned into a series of highways. Reverend Bidwell was a patriot, instrumental in organizing the Monterey Militia during the Revolutionary War. Henry Knox, famous for his leadership of the expedition that carried crucial cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to Dorchester Heights passed through Monterey on his way to George Washington in Boston. Historical evidence suggests that Knox may have passed through the Reverend Bidwell’s property on that famous journey.
A favorite interactive historic museum in the Berkshires is the Hancock Shaker Village. Established in 1791, the Village is a popular group destination. One of the most notable buildings on the property is the Round Stone Barn. It was built to hold large numbers of cows and wagons and because the barn is round, carriages could enter and exit without the need to dangerously back up with livestock. It was progressive for its’ time and is considered to be a one of a kind architectural icon.
Another building on the property is the large red-brick dwelling, which served as dormitory housing to more than one hundred of the Shaker brothers and sisters. The dwelling was used as an incentive to recruit new Shaker members, as it showcased the comforts the society provided to its members. Today it holds the largest portion of the museum’s popular Shaker furniture collection.
Touring the museum you experience the Shakers’ appreciation for the benefits of space, ventilation, and labor-saving modern conveniences. The village has 20 historic buildings with over 22,000 artifacts, extensive gardens, a working farm, hiking trails, and demonstrations. Several special celebrations take place throughout the season, including Baby Animals on the Shaker Farm in the spring and a Country Fair in the fall.
History and Historic preservation have had a large influence in shaping the feel and look of our area. A visit to these landmarks allows your group to have a glimpse of the past and is a quintessential part of a visit to the Berkshires.