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 for public tours and special events—tell the tale of its cultural, industrial, and agricultural roots. Here’s a look at what’s happening now at literary, artistic, and historic sites throughout the Berkshires.
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.
This summer, in addition to house and ghost tours (yes, the place is haunted), The Mount in Lenox offers an outdoor staging of The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare and Company (July 9-August 17). Arrowhead in Pittsfield, the farm where Melville lived from 1850 to 1863 and wrote Moby Dick, will commemorate his 200th birthday with a daylong event August 1 in association with the Berkshire Athenaeum.
In Stockbridge, the Norman Rockwell Museum celebrates its 50th anniversary with Woodstock to the Moon: 1969 Illustrated, Norman Rockwell: Private Moments for the Masses, and Inspired: Rockwell and Erikson (all through October 27). Chesterwood, marking 50 years as a site recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, offers extended hours on Thursday nights for open tours of the house and studio, woodland walks, and the 41st annual outdoor sculpture exhibition. A talk by Harold Holzer, author of Monument Man: The Life and Art of Daniel Chester French, a work commissioned by Chesterwood, will be given on August 8 at The Mount.
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. 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.
Photos (top to bottom):
- The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home, Lenox, MA
- Chesterwood, the estate and studio of American sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931). Photo: Carol Highsmith
- Naumkeag, Stockbridge, MA. Photo: Ogden Gigli