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CHARMING MASSACHUSETTS VILLAGES
PERHAPS Williamstown is the most attractive village in the state if we consider its surroundings, its college atmosphere with beautiful edifices and its general attractions. While among the hills it is not low except as related to the mountains. One looks up from it, indeed, to the loftiest peak of Massachusetts, Greylock. When one leaves North Adams and swings north toward Pownal, Vermont, the view of the valley is one of the most superb in our experience. Not so much has been said of this as of the Deerfield valley but perhaps it is because that valley is an historic region.
A LEAF STREWN BROOK - UXBRIDGE
THE WAY THRO' THE ORCHARD - GRAFTON
AUTUMN KNOLL - CHARLES RIVER
Williamstown is just near enough to North Adams, a considerable center, to be agreeable and accessible; near to the Hudson, to Vermont and to the valley of the Berkshires lying to the south, and it is on the Mohawk trail. It is a region of delight from which one can easily depart toward every point of the compass. The grouping of the college edifices which dominate the village is well done. Asked what was the most desirable residential village in Massachusetts the author replied, "Williamstown."
We find it is true that in every town there is something meritorious that no other town has and Massachusetts is so rich in beautiful old villages that the last one we are in is always the best.
Greenfield is a peculiarly delightful center. Though in the Connecticut valley it is not immediately on that river but on the Deerfield. It has, of late, taken on more importance and there is no more charming location for a small market town. It is on the main motor routes north, south, east and west and has the power of holding tourists.
Northfield for quiet and simplicity and moral tone is probably not surpassed. It lacks the magnificence of country places in the Berkshires, has a less rugged setting and is very accessible. Yet its very lack of mountains near at hand makes its scenery somewhat less striking and one contents one's self there with the features of rural life and with the religious atmosphere. It is a town ever memorable as a monument to one of the greatest and best of men, Dwight L. Moody. It wins many people who do not care for the luxurious entertainment of more fashionable resorts, but love the plainness and democracy of a New England village of the earlier time.
Deerfield is really a suburb of Greenfield although its people would perhaps prefer not to have the matter put in that way. Deerfield is the most famous small village so far as old houses is concerned.
Pittsfield has outgrown the village stage. It is, of course, the central point in the Berkshires, being on the Jacob's Ladder trail and on the main Berkshire route north and south.
Whether this region is always to be fashionable or not, the visitor who judges a country by what it is, must ever grant, and that with gladness, the remarkably winning features of this great county.
The run over to Lebanon is through a region of rolling hills with fine outlooks. The routes south to the finest residential sections of the Berkshires appeal to every lover of a fair landscape. To the east Dalton is a trim high village; and Hinsdale, higher still, lies in a fine setting of hills.
The birches of the Berkshires vie with the elms, A little south of Pittsfield there is a wonderfully fine avenue of these trees on a little field road by the river. Their massive size is a surprise to all not reared in the New England hills.
Lenox might have been, before it became so thoroughly taken up with fine country seats, a rural village of surpassing attraction. Even now one loves its situation, but men have done so much here that their work often calls our eyes away from nature.
Stockbridge still has a village atmosphere that is thoroughly good. Many of its summer guests have entered into the life of the town in such a way as to benefit rather than to kill the local spirit. As the seat of a very early mission to the Indians and as the home of Jonathan Edwards, the town, looked down upon from Monument Mountain, is the very acme of an old New England center at its best. The marvelous elms of the main street are still mostly in good condition. One who skirts the golf course here will perhaps obtain finer compositions than in any other similar range that we know.
While Echo Lake has its charm and Stockbridge Bowl its own beauty we would say that the river followed through the town affords more contours of loveliness than any other water border. Stockbridge as the home of one of our greatest sculptors and as forever fragrant with the memory of Joseph Choate, men who brought down the traditions of an earlier culture and a fine character, is a town which, when its history and its inhabitants, its setting, its present welcoming and attractive features are considered, certainly has a strong pull upon the author.
THE GREAT HINGHAM ELM
KING HOOPER HOUSE - DANVERS
Lenox, Stockbridge and Lee are often considered together as a social unit. Their lines run into each other so harmoniously and the nature of the summer places is so generally similar that one thinks of the district as a single neighborhood. It is the western outlet of the Jacob's Ladder route, lately greatly improved. Tyringham is a side valley as yet out of the stream of fashion but deserving as much attention as its better known neighbors.
Lee is rich in admirable river views. The orcharding of all this region is being carried on with active competition for the favors of the local fairs and in blossom time all the lower slopes are a mass of delicate color.
Great Barrington, the southernmost of the better known Berkshire communities, being at a considerable distance from Stockbridge, has a separate demand on our attention. The drives through the Egremonts present views of very extensive nature, and if one loves great elevations certainly it is on the slopes of Egremont that he would quite naturally make his home.
The mountain towns surrounding those Berkshire villages which we have mentioned invite us to excursions where the simpler country life continues. Some of the roads are not as wide but most of them are negotiable. The southwestern corner of Massachusetts is a region of extensive highlands so far not taken up by city residents as generally as the valleys. There is a calm and aloofness of physical atmosphere, a sense of being at the top of the world, in these neighborhoods. We cannot and would not deny that the little house on the hill is a more powerful magnet to us than the great house in the valley.
New Marlboro on the other side of the Housatonic and the little seen remoter districts east of it will probably in the course of time afford summer homes for the great mass of Americans who need an opportunity to think and an air to breathe neither of which is available in the summer in our great cities.
Sheffield is a small and somewhat less sought yet attractive valley town. Berkshire county, being large and extending from Vermont to Connecticut and bordered by New York on the west, is strategically located to catch the eye of most Americans. It contains many small villages whose names even would make a large index, but almost all of them with certain features that single them out in our minds with pleasing recollection. In one there is a fine old spire; in another dignified early houses; in another little cottages of alluring coziness; in another a little landscape of exquisite contour; in another some historic name has left its aroma. In all of them there is health, a considerable elevation above the sea, a population of character and culture. Many of these villages are now being made accessible for the first time by improved roads. A little lake as entrancing as old world waters of which poets have sung; or a winding way about a hill crest opening a miniature empire of fertility below; a wood with the fine trunks of primeval trees standing in their silence and dignity through the generations, — all these call us on from turn to turn until we profanely wish for more lives that we might spend one in each of these little centers of delight.
PUTTING IN ANCHOR ROPE - GLOUCESTER
A LITTLE MAID OF FALMOUTH
A BROOKFIELD DOOR
THE BIRCH STAND - ASHFIELD
How far the Berkshires will develop and in what direction is one of the questions that this generation must try to answer. The ideal society is not to be had in a region exclusively given up to great estates, neither is it to be had in a region where small hill farms and meager provision for education are altogether predominant. There is an opportunity and a hope that the Berkshires may develop along the lines of the best English rural communities having their more beautiful estates owned by people who love to be gracious and have a powerful sense of their obligation to the community; to make it a real center of strength in the best elements of American character.
We may hope that the owners of the fine estates will at least be so assured of their positions through their personal merits that they will not be afraid to mingle with our humbler brethren lest their distinction be obliterated. Always the noblest and wisest are the simplest. Always whoever holds himself aloof obviously fears that he cannot bear comparison with the average man. If a person cannot establish his preeminence by his inherent worth, his insight, his sympathy, his native ability, then he deserves no preëminence and ought not to desire it. To be loved is the most important thing in life and comes before the possession of a fine place in the country.
The gentleman of the perfect simplicity which marks a distinguished sculptor never cares for his position in the world, because he holds it by too secure a tenure to fear the touch of common men.
One can understand the objection of owners of great estates to having a gaping crowd running over their grounds and peeking in at their windows. Their country homes are for quiet and not for caravans of the uncouth. And, happily, in this fair region, it is not necessary and not even desirable to enter private grounds to see horizon outlines that thrill one with their material splendors, to take in wide valleys fair with placid reaches of river reflections. No one can wall in nature. The open road is pure socialism so far as it goes and it goes far. A disposition is quite noticeable in some sections of the Berkshires on the part of the summer resident to give the best of himself, which is his heart, to the neighborhood in which he dwells. A country that is good enough to live in is a country good enough to diffuse our interest over. We are, if we are rotund beings, present with all our faculties at every spot we visit. We cannot, and we dare not if we could, leave graciousness and culture and ability behind us. To do so or to attempt to do so would be an evidence either that we wore these marks merely as a veneer and were lapsing to a baser manhood or that we thought the best things in character should be confined to a few. If there is good in any man, if there is power, if there is brilliance, he holds these things to diffuse over or to work through his neighborhood and the man who is not good at home is good nowhere. He will not be good in Heaven, and he will not be good when he travels, and he will not be good in his office.
It is a fallacious assumption that we do not carry our characters with us and that we can be one thing in one place and another thing in another place. Mark Hopkins, Emerson, Bryant and all others who had something for humanity diffused it where they were, all the time, just as a rose is as fragrant in one hand as in another. Unfortunately there is a class of persons who try to edge into society lacking that which is valued by society and who, therefore, become bitter and inclined to misrepresent. For our part, we have generally found distinguished people worthy of the positions they occupy. From this category we would exclude those who are distinguished for wealth alone. Even wealth in the hands of a man who has little else is scattered often in beneficent directions. The new rich man must get something for his money and he must needs have advisers. That he so often expends in beneficent public works his gains, however obtained, is a matter for congratulation. The second generation may attain to all those features of the aristocracy of mind and heart which make the aristocracy of wealth bearable. If they fail of their opportunity they are, after all, the principal losers, for there is no man so pitiable as he who, with wealth, lacks taste and heart. He is in the world but not of it, having failed to absorb its finer beauties and to enter into its nobler achievements. He is a shining mark but not worth the powder, because he meets a punishment here and now that is the worst of all punishments. In a world splendid with opportunity he makes no essential place for himself. In a world groaning with travail he fails to enjoy the thrill of cooperation.
THE PASTURE IN THE DELL - WARE
AFTERNOON IN NANTUCKET - SIASCONSET
A FRANKLIN COUNTY BYROAD
A TUNNEL OF BLOOM - BUCKLAND
There is a vast deal of literature wasted, from Thackeray downward, by the attack of empty heads and full pockets. Given a generation or two the situation is reversed or at least equalized. It is often forgotten that there is a hatred and an unreason amongst people of small means thoroughly pernicious and blighting. For every man, whatever his material condition, there is a vast storehouse of beauty, of moral appeal, of historic and prophetic knowledge, to overflow his mind and soul.
Socrates would not be miserable beside a Dives. Enmity of wealth is the mark of a mind which itself could never deserve wealth.
The Berkshires are a fine arena in which to work out the blending of all sorts and conditions of men in a rural atmosphere. Such a blending is possible to the mutual benefit of all conditions concerned. Such a blending has here and there occurred bringing mutual respect and benefit to all. To those poor in spirit there has come an association with men who have shown by their power in dealing in large concerns, and with their generalizing faculty and their sense of broad issues, a great benefit. To the city denizen and the possessor of broad income there has come the viewpoint of the fine soul that dares not neglect culture for business; that loves fellowship more than directorates; that would rather be neighborly than be a lord of lands. It must have been recognized at least by some captains of industry that there are those who have gained what they have lost; who have deliberately chosen scholarship or art or science as a more delightful and possibly more profitable human occupation than the accumulation of dollars.
The villager who has delved into the motives of men and scanned the movements of history and adapted himself to the needs of his community and contributed by his hand or his thought some permanent good to leave behind him is a sane and serene person without envy or malice. There are Lincolns who never dwelt in the White House to whom humanity means as much and in whom pity is as great as in that martyred President. There are in most rural communities men of heart and soul, of appreciation for the best things of the world, of capacity for giving and receiving, such that their Eves are flooded with the wealth of all that is worth while.