First named in 1761 by Sir Francis Bernard, colonial governor of Massachusetts, the Berkshire region is rich in history and heritage. The region’s historic homes, gardens, and museums—open to groups and offering dedicated itineraries and pricing—tell the tale of its cultural, industrial, and agricultural roots. Here’s a look at what’s happening at literary, artistic, and historic sites throughout the Berkshires, be sure to add one or more of these to your next Berkshire itinerary.
Few places have attracted so many artists and writers, past and present, as the scenic countryside of western Massachusetts. Edith Wharton (The Mount), Herman Melville (Arrowhead), Norman Rockwell (Norman Rockwell Museum), and Daniel Chester French (Chesterwood) discovered it charms, and visitors to their homes, studios, and gardens are invited to explore, learn, and revel in the environments where they found inspiration.
In Stockbridge, be sure to take time to tour the Norman Rockwell Museum. View not only Rockwell’s work, but also peruse their ever-changing exhibitions of American illustration art. Just down the road you will find Chesterwood, a site recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Here you can tour the studio and home of sculptor, Daniel Chester French.
Take a trip through centuries of Berkshire history. Glimpse Berkshire life in the eighteenth century on The Heritage Trail, with tours of eight historic homes scattered throughout the region. Experience the opulence of the Gilded Age at Naumkeag and Ventfort Hall. See fantastic examples of Bauhaus style at Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio or Field Farm. Learn more about civil rights activist and Great Barrington’s native son, W.E.B. DuBois, with a visit to the site of his childhood home. Step back in time with costumed reenactors at Historic Deerfield and Hancock Shaker Village.
No visit to the Berkshires is complete without taking time to experience the natural beauty here. So hop of the bus and enjoy a walk or trailside concert at Mass Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. Stroll the topiary collection at Berkshire Botanical Garden. Visit properties stewarded by The Trustees of Reservations for guided nature hikes, spectacular gardens, and stunning views of the forests, pastures, lakes, and streams that have shaped the Berkshires, and its people, for centuries.
Culture, history, and the lush landscape are inextricably linked in the Berkshires. Come see all that makes this place extraordinary!
Nancy Macy is a freelance writer and editor based in the Berkshires.