The Berkshires – 24 Hours On Culture Cloud 9
Read Jetsetters Magazine at www.jetsettersmagazine.com
To read this entire feature FREE with photos cut and paste this link: www.jetsettersmagazine.com/archive/jetezine/bandb/mass/berkshires/berkshires.html
The Berkshires is so chock full of cultural and historic attractions that a few years back official visitor’s bureau began billing these pastoral hills of western Massachusetts as “ America ’s Premier Cultural Resort.” It’s a moniker that appears to fit. Packed within this roughly 25 x 50 mile rectangular county (bordered by New York, Connecticut, and Vermont) are Tanglewood, summer home of Boston Symphony Orchestra, Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival, Williamstown Theatre, The Berkshire Theatre Festival, Clark Art Institute, and MASS MoCA.
Here you’ll find former homes of artists Norman Rockwell, and Daniel Chester French, writers Edith Wharton, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville. From mid-19th Century through Gilded Age, when some twenty five “summer cottages” for The Vanderbilt’s and other industrial barons were constructed, right up through Bohemian '50s and hip '60s to today, there is a tradition of artists, actors, writers and musicians living and working in these Green Mountain foothills.
Recently, we visited The Berkshires from Boston, an easy two-hour drive along Mass Turnpike, on a mission to discover how much of legendary cultural and historical region we could comfortably absorb in just 24 hours.
4:00 P.M, — Friday —The Red Lion is "King" of country inns.
We've driven ahead of rush-hour traffic and checked into The Red Lion Inn. Made famous by Norman Rockwell’s 1950s painting “ Main Street, Stockbridge,” Red Lion is a rambling, white clapboard structure that anchors corner of Main and Route 102 and it is a landmark for travelers. Originally built as a stagecoach stop in 1773 inn is a gracious gatekeeper of this southern entrance to The Berkshires. It’s here almost all travelers to area come, some for a stay in one of 108 guest rooms, others for a dressy dinner in elegant dining room, still others for a draft and song in one of taverns.
At this hour we are winding down in our top-floor, two-room suite aiming toward full-relaxation mode. Every room at inn is individually decorated and furnished with antiques, oriental carpets, period wall hangings, and luxurious linens. Many feature lace-draped canopy beds or classic four-posters. Our bath has an old claw foot tub; scented soaps and shower amenities are neatly placed in woven baskets. The long hallways connecting inn’s several wings are filled with old paintings, colonial-era maps, and framed embroidery.
In 1968 Stockbridge residents Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick purchased The Red Lion, and Fitzpatrick family continues to operate inn today, with daughter Nancy Fitzpatrick as President. The Fitzpatrick family also owns The Porches Inn in North Adams and Blantyre in Lenox, and has become something akin to First Family of The Berkshires through its patronage and support of myriad cultural, historic, and artistic projects.
5:00 P.M. — Rock an’ roll on Red Lion porch. (View video.)
We’re sitting on expansive front porch of inn rocking away in soft light of a Stockbridge summer sunset. Streaming in from points south, mostly New York City and its environs, are weekenders: SUVs with all manner of floating craft mounted on top, coupes with bike racks, sports cars with tops down, and trunks strapped on, motorcycles with leather-clad couples astride. Slowly they approach corner stop sign on Rte. 102, turn right on Main Street, and parade past us in a steady flow. The Red Lion porch is ideal setting to meditate on blissful feelings we’re having right in this moment; even better, it’s a grand vantage point for people watching.
Just next door to Red Lion you can find original Alice’s Restaurant, one celebrated in Arlo Guthrie’s Thanksgiving saga of same name. A block in other direction is Austen Riggs Center where former client James Taylor penned song Fire and Rain, commemorating a sad chapter in his young life. And just past Riggs is Stockbridge cemetery where Edie Sedgwick, formerly of Andy Warhol’s Factory, rests among several Sedgwick headstones that face inward in a large circle. As legend goes, family is buried in this circle so when they rise up on Judgment Day, they don’t have to look at anyone else but Sedgwicks!