Shaker Tree of Life

It's difficult to buy cabinetry or furniture without seeing a reference to Shaker style, yet few of us know who the Shakers were, and why their artistic legacy remains so vibrant. Make time to visit at least one of this area's Shaker Museums to understand the lasting legacy of this radical 19th religious movement:

According to a Ken Burns PBS special on the Shakers, "They called themselves the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, but because of their ecstatic dancing the world called them the Shakers. The Shakers were celibate, they did not marry or bear children, yet theirs is the most enduring religious experiment in American history. Seventy-five years before the emancipation of the slaves and 150 years before women began voting in America, the Shakers were practicing social, sexual, economic, and spiritual equality for all members.

"…Shakerism was founded by an illiterate English factory worker named Ann Lee. Guided by divine visions and signs, she and eight pilgrims came to America in 1774 to spread her gospel in the New World. At their height in 1840 more than 6,000 believers lived in 19 communal villages from New England to Ohio and Kentucky. […]

"Work was the currency of their service. If the world was to be redeemed and restored to God, the Shakers would accomplish it by the dedicated labor of their hands. They believed that God dwelt in the details of their work and in the quality of their craftsmanship. All their devotion, which no longer went to family or home, was put into what they made. Their villages were meticulously constructed and maintained, their workshops were world renowned for reliable goods, and their gardens provided amply for their own needs, with plenty to spare for the poor."

The Berkshire Mountains of MA & NY

Photo credit: Bartholomew's Cobble
Ashley Falls, Sheffield, MA; The Trustees of Reservations
Getting Around

The Berkshires cover the western part of Massachusetts, with Vermont in the north, Connecticut in the south, and New York state in the west, as can be seen on this map. While rural, the area has so many places to stay and things to do that this issue focuses on the central section, including the Massachusetts towns of Lenox, Lee, Stockbridge, plus neighboring Columbia County, New York. Depending on traffic, the region is about a 2˝ hour drive west of Boston, and about 3 hours north of New York City.

When to Go

The Berkshires are a delightful destination virtually year-round. Even deep off-season weeks in early spring and late fall offer reduced rates and minimal traffic. Weekends are extremely busy in summer and fall foliage; during the height of the summer season, when the Boston Symphony Orchestra is playing at Tanglewood (July through early September), many inns charge top rates, plus require a three-night weekend minimum; midweek minimums also apply for special events. Some museums are open year-round, with limited hours in winter; others are open in summer only, so be sure to check in advance.

Sights & Activities

Performance arts: From mid-June to early September, first-rate music, dance, and theater experiences are offered nightly. Highlights include Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival for modern dance enthusiasts; and the Williamstown and Berkshire Theatre Festivals for drama fans. Less well-known, but no less appealing are New York's Spencertown Academy concerts and those at Tannery Hall, Mount Lebanon Shaker Village (1-888-820-1696). More music info... More theater info...

Museums: This area offers an amazing wealth of cultural richness, including 200-year-old Shaker settlements, the homes of famous Victorian authors and sculptors, and a wide spectrum of great art, from the Impressionists of the Clark Art Institute, to the Norman Rockwell Museum, to the avant-garde contemporary works at Mass MoCA. More museum info...

Sports: These gentle mountains and hills offer ample opportunity for golf, tennis, biking, hiking, skiing, and all water sports. Bash Bish Falls in NY's Taconic State Park and hikes up Bartholomew's Cobble, Monument Mountain, and Mt. Greylock are traditional favorites.

Shopping: In addition to a bazillion shops and galleries, consider a side trip to Hudson, NY, with over 65 antiques dealers, and/or a stop at the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, the largest sheep dairy in the country. In the summer, a free trolley will take you to Lee's Prime Outlets from downtown Stockbridge or Lee.

Restaurants: New York favorites include Aubergine, in Hillsdale, for fine dining; Radio Mexico, Hudson, for tasty casual food; and the Blue Plate, Chatham, an inviting bistro. In Massachusetts, we were pleased with From Ketchup to Caviar, in Lee, with excellent French food and lovely dining rooms; the contemporary-style Bistro Zinc, in Lenox; Once upon a Table, in Stockbridge; and the Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington for good beer and wurst. More restaurant info...

B&Bs and Inns

Sedgewick Room, Devonfield, Lee, MA

Lee

A beautiful Georgian-style Colonial home decorated with antiques and Oriental rugs, Applegate B&B offers spacious common areas and grounds, with romantic guest rooms; the steam shower in room one is a favorite.

Just a block off Lee's main street, the Crabtree Cottage is a cozy 1862 home where innkeeper Jeffrey grew up. He and his wife Janis now invite you to visit their delightful B&B, with two guest suites and a small apartment for longer stays.

An English-style country home, Devonfield has a swimming pool and tennis court overlooking meadows and mountains beyond. Innkeepers Pam and James Loring pamper their guests with generous breakfasts and an always-available stocked guest pantry.
More Lee, MA B&B inns...

Lenox

The B&Bs listed here for Lenox are located in town, an easy walk to shops and restaurants; some are also within walking distance of Tanglewood.

The Birchwood Inn sits at the top of a hill overlooking Main Street. Innkeeper Ellen Gutman Chenaux has fully renovated and updated her B&B with beautiful décor and modern amenities. Southwest Corn Griddle Cakes with tomato salsa were a breakfast favorite.

New innkeepers Linda and Phil Halpern have continued the long-standing tradition of poetry readings at the Brook Farm Inn, while adding a Victorian-style carriage house with three beautiful suites. Free Wi-Fi Internet service is an added benefit.

The Cornell Inn has 30 guest rooms in three buildings; the Alexandra suite is especially striking, although some guests are no less impressed by the 21 different kinds of beer offered at the inn's guests-only Duffy's Pub.

Also newly renovated and expanded is the appealing 1897 Hampton Terrace, a gambrel-roofed "cottage" owned by Stan and Susan Rosen.

A striking Queen Anne Victorian mansion, the Rookwood Inn has accommodations for romantic getaways as well as for families. Innkeeper Amy Lindner-Lesser keeps guests well-nourished with afternoon tea and heart-healthy breakfasts.
More Lenox, MA B&B inns...

South Lee

Federal House, a Greek revival B&B, has attractive, comfortable rooms; the first-floor Tack Room with wood beams and porch access is a favorite.

The Historic Merrell Inn is a restored stagecoach inn with period décor and wonderful river views. The Riverview suite offers the ultimate in privacy as well as its own porch with wonderful vistas.
More South Lee, MA B&B inns...

Stockbridge

The Inn at Stockbridge is a 1906 Georgian-style mansion, with gracious guest rooms in three adjacent buildings. The newly built Shakespeare Suite in the barn was a delight. Ample common areas, generous breakfast and afternoon treats, inviting grounds with a pool, and attentive, helpful innkeepers, Alice and Len Schiller.
More Stockbridge, MA B&B Inns

Columbia County, NY

The inns of Columbia County are convenient to all Berkshire attractions in both New York and Massachusetts.

Deborah Bowen and official inn-dog Jasper welcome you to the Inn At Green River in Hillsdale, a lovely 19th century farmhouse, decorated with Colonial and Shaker antiques; handsome rugs accent hard wood floors, and some guest rooms have fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. Tasty breakfast of fresh fruit, warm scones and lemon ricotta pancakes.

Highlights of the Inn At Sugar Maple Farm in Canaan include the wonderful views of mountains and meadows, the dramatic great room in the converted, post-and-beam barn, the comfortable guest rooms, excellent food, and cordial innkeepers, Nancy and Ross Audino.
More Hudson Valley and Columbia County, NY B&B inns







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