When balladeer James Taylor crooned, “Though the Berkshires seemed dreamlike on account of that frosting,” in his song “Sweet Baby James,” he was describing the wintertime vista of this majestic mountain range in western Massachusetts. Sheltered beneath its snow-capped shoulders are dozens of quintessentially New England towns.
Snow is falling on Main Street in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, with delicate flakes drifting onto the six inches of powder already covering the ground. In the gray stone vestibule of St. Paul’s Church, a recasting of Daniel Chester French’s winged sculpture The Spirit of Life lifts outstretched arms toward the silvered sky, while ice crystals etch lacy patterns on the multi-paned windows of the welcoming Red Lion Inn. Pedestrians, bundled up in smart wool coats, go about their business, unfazed by the weather, as children excitedly dash home to tote their sleds to the nearest hill, engaging in good-natured snowball fights along the way.
This idyllic picture may seem like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting—and indeed, it is. The beloved portrayer of everyday American life captured this very scene in his painting titled Home for Christmas, which is displayed in the town’s Norman Rockwell Museum. The artist spent his last twenty-five years in this neighborly village, drawing inspiration from the community and its residents to create the iconic images that spoke to the heart of people everywhere. His art appeared on more than three hundred covers of The Saturday Evening Post magazine, introducing “the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed” and cementing his legacy in the process.
The chance to walk in the footsteps of this revered artist is just one of many compelling reasons to visit the Berkshires—especially if the snowflakes are fluttering and the mountaintops are iced in white.
Originally established as a small tavern on this corner spot, The Red Lion Inn has grown through the years to include the spacious main house, as well as several cottages located within the surrounding block.
Its acclaimed collection of Colonial-era antiques was begun by a previous owner, Mrs. Charles Plumb, and lends historical charm to the premises. Many a guest have been warmed by the staff’s welcoming hospitality—and a bowl of the inn’s steaming New England clam chowder.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton’s talents reached far beyond the written word. When she purchased a 113-acre property in the town of Lenox, she drew upon her interests in architecture, interior decorating, and landscape design to create a beautiful and gracious estate she christened The Mount. The main residence was based on Belton House, a stately seventeenth-century English country manor located in Lincolnshire.
Even under its snowy veneer, the garden’s formal contours are pleasing to the eye, with stone walls, alcoves and porticos, and a walkway lined with pleached linden trees.
Text Karen Callaway
Photography John O’Hagan