Stockbridge: a slice of Americana

stockbridge

Evening settles in along Main Street in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Photo by Steve Daly.

Not far from the bustle of the westernmost stretch of the Massachusetts Turnpike lies the tiny hamlet of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Nestled in the Berkshire Mountains, Stockbridge embodies a beautiful slice of Americana. Its Main Street is as picturesque an avenue as you’ll find, replete with galleries, gift shops and specialty stores offering the wares of local artisans.

Across the street, under the shade of towering pines and maples, lies Stockbridge Cemetery, the final resting place of such pillars of American history as renowned painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell and civil rights activist Elizabeth Freeman.

After the development of railroads in the 1950s, Stockbridge and neighboring Lenox became home to “Berkshire Cottages,” large summer homes constructed by some of America’s wealthiest individuals during the Gilded Age, a time of economic and industrial prosperity between 1865 and 1901. According to the Museum of the Gilded Age at Ventfort Hall, approximately 75 of these “cottages” were built, with its summer residents including Emily Thorn Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie and Sarah Morgan, the sister of banker J. P. Morgan. Similar cottages were erected in exclusive enclaves in Newport, Rhode Island, and Bar Harbor, Maine.

About two and a half miles outside of the town center, the Norman Rockwell Museum represents the jewel in Stockbridge’s thriving arts community. Rockwell spent the final 25 years of his life in Stockbridge and the museum houses the world’s largest collection of original Rockwell works. The last of Rockwell’s 20 studios is also located on site, having been moved in 1986 from its original location in the backyard of his former South Street home.

The rich and famous may have long since departed this sleepy western Massachusetts town, but their influence remains indelible.

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