Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Little Red Schoolhouse, Storrowton Village, West Springfield, Mass.

Little Red Schoolhouse (c1940)
 Built by John and Salmon White around 1810 from bricks produced at Thomas Craft's local brickyard, the Little Red Schoolhouse served as one of  the town of Whately's centers of learning for more than a century.

In 1930, the structure, dismantled and moved to the Exposition Fairgrounds in West Springfield, was reconstructed as part of Mrs. Helen Storrow's idyllic vision of a typical New England hamlet embodied in her philanthropic project known as Storrowton Village.

Today, Storrowton Village is a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike, and is a perennial favorite for visitors to the annual Eastern States Exposition, held in late September/early October.

"Plans and elevations"

While one can imagine the belfry bell's peal for the attention of Whately children come the autumn of the year, the tower was actually added to the structure during its 1930 rebuild. The change was ordered to effect a closer resemblance to a schoolhouse in the Vermont town of Vergennes, said to be the model Mrs. Storrow strived to replicate in her Storrowton Village.

"Exterior and main entrance details"

The 20' x 24' Little Red Schoolhouse, also known as the North Center School after the district of Whately it served, had a capacity of a dozen pupils with a small teacher's room on the second floor.

Early on in the town's education history, a few decades before the Little Red Schoolhouse was built, classes were held in the summer, presumably to negate the expense of providing fuel for warmth in the winter. Indeed, the first schoolhouses in town were built sans fireplaces.

"Interior elevations and details"

As well as boasting a centrally-placed stove for warmth, the cutting edge technology of the North Center School included wrap-around blackboards and chalk rails.

A visit to the school at Storrowton Village brings one face-to-face with the original plaster-on-wood slates five generations of scholars took their lessons from. Carvings in the wooden seats and desktops attest to the human penchant for marking the fact of their existence for the successive waves sure to follow in their footsteps.

In the Little Red Schoolhouse, it is plausible that the same seats vacated by the last class to graduate were once occupied by those same students' great-great grandparents.

To plan a visit to Storrowton Village in West Springfield, head over to:

For dates, hours and information on the annual fall fair at the Eastern States Exposition (the Big E) visit:

And here are links to a couple of previous EWM posts on the Exposition and Storrowton Village:

The Captain John Potter House, Storrowton Village, West Springfield, Massachusetts

Photos: The Eastern States Exposition, West Springfield, Mass., September, 1936

More fairs and festivals in Western Massachusetts.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Image source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, Call Number: HABS MASS,7-SPRIFW,8;

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No Rest for Rust: Images of Becket's Hudson-Chester Quarry

Abandoned in the 1960s, the rusting remains of machines and materials dot the Hudson-Chester Quarry in Becket, on rescued land maintained for public use by the Becket Land Trust.

For more photos and information on this valuable and historic regional resource, visit the EWM post, The Historic Hudson-Chester Granite Quarry in Becket, Massachusetts.

Cylindrical Tank ~ Hudson-Chester Quarry

Top of Stiff-armed Derrick ~ Hudson-Chester Quarry

Truck Cooling Fan ~ Hudson-Chester Quarry (Nathaniel Hemingway Photo)

Steel Cable ~ Hudson-Chester Quarry

The Becket Land Trust welcomes volunteers and donations. To learn how you can help, visit

For more about Becket, Chester and mining in the Berkshires, check out the EWM posts, 'The Keystone Arch Bridges Trail: Magic in the Berkshire Mountains' and 'Map: Bird's-eye View of Chester, Mass., 1885.'

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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Amherst Ballet Interprets the Magical World of Lisbeth Zwerger with the Original Ballet, Hansel And Gretel

(Amherst, MA - PRESS RELEASE) Audiences of all ages will delight in Amherst Ballet's Hansel and Gretel, based upon the Grimm Brothers' tale as illustrated by artist Lizbeth Zwerger. The story comes to life with the grace and attention to detail so characteristic of this artist as part of the exhibit, An Exquisite Vision: The Art of Lisbeth Zwerger, June 29 - September 26, 2010, at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

This original ballet was commissioned by the Museum and features imaginative choreography by Amherst Ballet's Director, Catherine Fair, paired with original sets and costumes designed to recreate Zwerger's stunning illustrations. The ballet tells the tale of two young children who lived during a time of great famine and were abandoned in the woods by their malevolent step-mother. Although the two children are resourceful and manage to find their way back home, they eventually find themselves abandoned in the woods again. Without hope and driven by hunger, the pair find themselves at the mercy of a deliciously evil witch who traps children by luring them with food and mouth watering candies. This version of the story includes a cast of characters, both good and evil, who in turn appear to come to the aid of the children, or to further their demise. Eventually, good triumphs over evil and the witch is tricked into meeting her end in a hot oven. The ballet ends on a triumphant note as the many children who have been under the witch's enchantment find themselves freed and join Hansel and Gretel in joyful celebration.

Twenty-four dancers between the ages of 7 - 17 years old are featured in the ballet, set to the music of a variety of composers including Rimsky Korsakov, Richard Wagner,Engelbert Humperdinck and Camille Saens-Sans. Sets are by Leigh Dunlap. Costumes are created under the direction of Heidi Stemple.

Lisbeth Zwerger is one of the foremost illustrators working today and has received the Hans Christian Andersen medal—the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for children’s literature. Her range of subject is remarkable, encompassing the Brothers Grimm, O. Henry, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, and L. Frank Baum to name a few. Her artistic vision is informed by watercolors executed with a deftness and delicacy that nevertheless possess an assurance and substance.

Amherst Ballet, founded in 1971, is a non-profit, pre-professional ballet school located in Amherst Massachusetts that trains local young dancers and reaches audiences through high quality performances and collaborations with local arts and educational organizations. For more information about Amherst Ballet, please visit

Together with his wife Barbara, Eric Carle, the renowned author and illustrator of more than 70 books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar, founded The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art as the first full-scale museum in this country devoted to national and international picture book art, conceived and built with the aim of celebrating the art we are first exposed to as children.

For more information about The Carle, please visit,

Event Details:

August 28 - August 29, 2010
Saturday 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm, and Sunday 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
125 West Bay Road
Amherst, Massachusetts 01002
(413) 658-1100
Free with Museum Admission!

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Fairs and Festivals in Western Massachusetts

Updated: July 7, 2012


Adams Agricultural Fair
August 2 - 5, 2012

Bowe Field
Columbia St. (Route 8)
Adams, MA


Ashfield Fall Festival

Main St.
Ashfield, MA


Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival
June - August 2012

358 George Carter Rd.
Becket, MA 01223
(413) 243-0745


Belchertown Fair

Belchertown Town Common
Main St.
Belchertown, MA
(413) 323-7201


The Blandford Fair
August 31 - September 3, 2012

Blandford Fairgrounds
10 North Street
Blandford, MA 01008
(413) 848-0995


The Brimfield Antique Show
2011 Schedule:
May 8 - 13, 2012
July 10 - 15, 2012
Sept. 4 - 9, 2012

Route 20
Brimfield, MA 01010


Borrowed Talents Craft Fair and Art Show
July 28 & 29, 2012

The Moose Lodge and Family Center
244 Fuller Road
Chicopee, MA
(413) 827-8748


Cummington Fair
August 23 - 26, 2012

Cummington Fairgrounds
97 Fairgrounds Rd.
Cummington, MA 01026


Granville Harvest Fair
October 6 - 8, 2012

Town Center
Main Rd. (Route 57)
Granville, MA


The Green River Festival
July 14 & 15, 2012

Greenfield Community College
College Drive
Greenfield, MA
(413) 773-5463

Franklin County Fair
September 6 - 9, 2012

Franklin County Fairgrounds
89 Wisdom Way
Greenfield, MA 01302
(413) 774-4282

Brick + Mortar International Video Art Festival
October, 2012

Various Downtown Buildings
Greenfield, MA
Walking maps available on Town Common


Country Fair
September 29 & 30, 2012

Hancock Shaker Village
34 Lebanon Mountain Rd.
Hancock, MA 01237
(413) 443-0188
(800) 817-1137


Heath Fair
August 17 - 19, 2012

Heath Agricultural Society, Inc.
9 Hosmer Rd.
Heath, MA 01346


Middlefield Fair
August 10 - 12, 2012

Middlefield Fairgrounds
7 Bell Road
Middlefield, MA
(413) 623-6027

North Adams

Fall Foliage Festival Parade
September 30, 2012

Main St.
North Adams, MA 01247


Three County Fair
August 31 - September 3, 2012

Three County Fairgrounds
54 Fair St.
Northampton, MA 01060
(413) 584-2237

Paradise City Arts Festival
October 6 - 8, 2012

Three County Fairgrounds
54 Fair St.
Northampton, MA 01060
(800) 511-9725

Old Deerfield

Old Deerfield Craft Fairs
June 16 & 17, 2012
September 15 & 16, 2012
November 16 - 18, 2012

Village of Old Deerfield
Deerfield, MA 01342
(413) 774-7476, ext. 18


Caribbean Festival

Springfield Carnival Association
Parade: Catherine St. to Blunt Park
Springfield, MA
(413) 726-9006

Glendi Greek Festival
September 7 - 9, 2012

Greek Cultural Center
St. George Cathedral
22 St. George Road
Springfield, MA 01104
(413) 737-1496

Mattoon Street Arts Festival
September 8 & 9, 2012

Mattoon Street
Springfield, MA


Stockbridge Summer Arts and Crafts Show
August 18 & 19, 2012

Berkshire Botanical Gardens
Routes 102 & 183
Stockbridge, MA

Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas
November 30 - December 1 & 2, 2012

Above two events hosted by:

Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce
50 Main Street
Stockbridge, MA 01262
(413) 298-5200

West Springfield

The Big E
September 14 - 30, 2012

Eastern States Exposition
1305 Memorial Avenue (Rte. 147)
West Springfield, MA 01089
(413) 205-5115


Westfield Fair
August 17 - 19, 2012

Westfield Fairgrounds
Russellville Rd.
Westfield, MA 01085

For more local activities and events check out EWM's Things To Do In Western Massachusetts and Museums of Western Massachusetts.

Your suggestions for additions to this list are welcome. Please leave a comment below or email: Thanks!

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Westfield Air Show This Weekend

The Blue Angels in diamond formation.
The Westfield International Air Show takes place this coming weekend, Saturday, August 21, and Sunday, August 22. Gates open at 8:30 a.m. with aerial acrobatics set to take off at 9:30 a.m. The skies will be streaked with aviation excitement until 4:30 p.m. both days. Entry is free, parking $10.

Some of the groups performing include, The Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, Snow Birds and the always-awesome U. S. Army parachute team, The Golden Knights.

In addition to the more than thirty aircraft that will actively perform, there will be sixty display aircraft for air show attendees to explore at ground-level. The 104th Fighter Wing will also be hosting an open-house: A great opportunity to thank our local troops!

For more information, visit the WIAS website:

2010 Westfield International Air Show

Barnes Air National Guard Base
(Off) Southampton Rd. (Rtes 10 & 202)
Westfield, Mass.
August 21 - 22, 2010, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Admission Free, Parking $10

For a look at a couple of panoramic photos of the Barnes Airport area when it was used as a staging ground for troops leaving for Europe and World War I, take a look at the previous EWM post, Camp Bartlett, Westfield, Mass. (1917)

Photo source: This image from PD has been released into the public domain by its author and copyright holder, Jon Sullivan.

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NY Times Samples Berkshires Farm Fare

In the Berkshires, Dinner’s Not Far Away
Published: August 18, 2010

What Hawthorne and Melville found out in 1850, tourists know today: the region is very farm friendly.

Read the article:

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Photochrom Prints of Northfield Seminary and Mount Hermon School, Massachusetts

Pastoral scenes frozen in Photochrom like the images below are just one of the many offerings that can be found online in the voluminous digitized collections of the Library of Congress (LOC). On the LOC website, vintage audio, moving pictures, documents, images and other historical ephemera tell the story of our nation and beyond.

Here is the link to the LOC website:

And to the Photochrom Prints Collecton:

"Northfield Seminary, East Northfield, Massachusetts" (c1901)
The Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies was founded in 1879 by evangelist and publisher Dwight L. Moody. By 1889, 855 students had attended the seminary, including 18 Native American girls.

"Mount Hermon School, Mount Hermon, Massachusetts" (c1901)
The Mount Hermon School for Young Men in Gill, Mass., opened its doors on the opposite (west) side of the Connecticut River from the Northfield Seminary in 1881. Also founded by Dwight L. Moody, the two campuses merged into the current Northfield Mount Hermon School in 1971. The Northfield campus is presently for sale.

"Round top, East Northfield, Massachusetts" (c1902)
Dwight L. Moody is buried on Round Top with his wife, Emma, resting eternally beside him. Round Top is located behind the house at 32 Moody Street in Northfield, where the evangelist was born.

For a handy list of online archives offering a variety of digitized materials, visit EWM's, 'Digitized History: Online Archives':

Here is the link to Northfield Mount Hermon School's website:

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Image sources: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA; (Top); (Middle); (Bottom); Photo captions from LOC image pages.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Artist's Reception And Wine Tasting This Saturday At The Wit Gallery In Lenox

The Wit Gallery, located at 27 Church St., Lenox, is pleased to announce that an Artist's Reception and Wine Tasting will be held at the Gallery on Saturday, August 21st, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

(Lenox, MA - PRESS RELEASE) The Wit Gallery of Art and Wine presents a reception for three artists: painter Suzanne Howes-Stevens, mixed media artist Carol Staub and sculptor Barbara Scavotto-Earley. During this event, the gallery will also be holding a wine tasting of select wines from it’s inventory of organic, artisan wines. Adam English, of CafĂ© Europa distributors will be pouring a tastes of new South American wines that we think are perfect for the upcoming fall season.

Portal #12 - Suzanne Howes-Stevens

Suzanne Howes-Stevens paints scenes of waterways in oil paint onto maps. Her paintings are subtle, filled with natural light and the atmosphere of the season during which she is working. Her paintings show us the beauty of these waterways and emphasize the importance of wetlands conservation; so much so that she has received a grant from the George Segal Foundation in the past.

Oriental Influence #6 - Carol Staub

Carol Staub’s multi media collage and paintings have garnered over 70 National and International awards and have been featured or published in several magazines and newspapers around the country. Her work is earthy and warm, often with an Asian influence. In addition to teaching workshops in Mixed Media and Collage, she serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Women Artists (the Florida Chapter) and is a member of several artistic clubs and societies.

Earley Choice of Freedom - Barbara Scavotto-Earley

Barbara Scavotto-Earley depicts stories of the human experience with her ceramic and mixed media sculptural work. Throughout her art career, she has modeled, assembled, painted, carved and welded virtues, intemperance, social concerns, spirituality, humor and other pieces in the epic puzzle of human conduct.  A sprinkling of wit is common, even in her most reflective sculptures.

Event Date:

August 21, 2010 ~ 3 p.m. - 6 p.m.

Event Location:

The Wit Gallery of Art And Wine
27 Church St..
Lenox, Mass.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Quabbin Views

On August 14, 1939, the flooding of the Swift River Valley in Central Massachusetts commenced. Quabbin Reservoir was born.

View south from Soapstone Mountain - Petersham
The four towns of Dana, Greenwich, Enfield and Prescott were dismantled and their residents displaced to build Quabbin Reservoir, an expansion of greater Boston's water supply.

Monson Turnpike - Old North Dana
Miles of roads were abandoned, railroad lines torn up and train stations removed. Bridges were blasted away with explosives.

Shoreline - North Dana
On June 22, 1946, Quabbin Reservoir reached full capacity for the first time: 412 billion gallons cupped within 181 miles of shoreline.

View near Doubleday Village
The flooding of the valley resulted in sixty islands dotting the 24,529 surface acres of the reservoir.

Swampland in Petersham
Wetlands make up 2,272 acres of the 79,215 total acres of the state-managed Quabbin watershed area.

Remnants of old Route 21
Quabbin Park opened in 1945. There are 22 miles of hiking trails within the park's boundaries, many following the route of formerly settled roads.

Wild columbine
Several of the numbered gates found along the perimeter of its eighteen mile length provide public access to the Quabbin watershed. One of the most popular gates to hike is Gate 40, which leads to Dana town center.

Mount Zion and Mount L
Shore fishing was first allowed at Quabbin on July 5, 1946. On May 27, 1952, the Quabbin reservoir was opened to anglers in boats.

View east from New Salem
For loads of information on the Quabbin Reservoir and the Swift River Valley area, including more than fifty links to maps, history, photographs and directions, visit EWM's, The Quabbin Page.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Other links of interest on EWM:

The Quabbin Chronology: A Timeline of the Swift River Valley

Quabbin Gate 40: The Dana-Greenwich Road

Quabbin Gate 40: Dana Town Common

Map: Hampshire County, Massachusetts, 1854

Quabbin Fishing/Boating Regulations 2010:

Quabbin Visitor Center:

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Williams College Tops Forbes List of Best Colleges in the U.S.A.

A View of Williams College* (c1884)
Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., has been ranked the top college in the country by Forbes in the publication's annual pick of "America's Best Colleges," with Amherst College placing third on the list.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University ranked fifth and eighth, respectively. Wellesley College ranked twelfth.

Of course a list is hardly necessary: The fine quality of higher-education has long been recognized here in the Bay State - especially in Western Massachusetts - but it's still nice to see five of the top twelve of Forbes' ranking of over six-hundred colleges and universities are from the home team. Kudos.

Here's a link to the article at Forbes:

*Image from the book, Williamstown and Willliams College; author, Nathaniel H. Egleston; published 1884. Original caption: "The Old College Chapel, Griffin Hall, and Soldiers' Monument." Digitized version of the book available at the Internet Archive:

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Free Fun Fridays Courtesy of the Highland Street Foundation

Since 1989, the McGrath family and the Highland Street Foundation have been ardent champions of children and families in Massachusetts.  According to the foundation's mission statement:

"The Highland Street Foundation is committed to addressing the needs of children and families primarily within the states of Massachusetts and California. We direct our efforts to provide access and opportunities in the areas of education, housing, mentorship, healthcare, environment and the arts."

The Highland Street Foundation doesn't skimp in its "efforts to provide access" either, sponsoring 'Free Fun Fridays,' a series of cultural events happening around the Bay State on Fridays (and Saturday during the Grand Finale Weekend) throughout the summer, with every attendee's admission fee to each venue paid in full by the foundation.

A few of the fun events that have already taken place this summer include a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, a day at the Franklin Park Zoo and a look back at Pilgrim life at the Plimoth Plantation.  Just these three happenings alone resulted in the Highland Street Foundation paying the way of nearly 40,000 people into some of the finest offerings of the cultural buffet that is Massachusetts!

So far, taking advantage of the foundation's generosity has entailed a bit of traveling for folks out here in the wild west, with this summer's Free Fun Fridays events calendar pointing to venues in Beantown or beyond in the early part of the season.

This Friday, August 13th, though, the fun happens a little closer to home, with free foundation-paid admission to Old Sturbridge Village, all day and for everyone. Just show up and you're in!

Other upcoming free events in or close to Western Massachusetts include, a day at the EcoTarium in Worcester (Friday, Sept. 3), the Worcester Art Museum, the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield and the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield (Saturday, Sept. 4), all courtesy of the McGrath family and the Highland Street Foundation, fine and admirable folks, indeed, and well-deserving of our support.

To learn more about the Highland Street Foundation and the many good things it does for kids and families (and how you can help the foundation continue to provide those services), head over to their website at:

The foundation is also on Facebook:

For a calendar of Free Fun Friday Summer 2010 events, visit the foundation's webpage devoted to the details at:

Links and dates of some of the upcoming foundation-sponsored, admission-free events:

For a handy and frequently updated list of over 80 local activities indexed for usability, check out the EWM page 'Things To Do In Western Massachusetts!'

EWM also has the most comprehensive list of regional museums on the web: 'Museums of Western Massachusetts.'

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When Nature Hands You Sumac, Make Sumac Lemonade!

Crane's Pond, Westfield, Mass.
Christine Alger over at the Plastic Revolution blog has an excellent post on the many culinary possibilities of red (or staghorn) sumac, a prolific plant here in Western Massachusetts.

Sumac lemonade, sumac meringue pie, and mulled sumac are a few of the recipes Christine shares, as well as fare made with other natural ingredients, like dandelion coffee and black birch tea.

Although we've known here at EWM about the benefits of locally grown natural edibles for years, we haven't tried red sumac yet. With Christine's recipes in hand, maybe this is the year!

Here's a link to the post:

For a listing of more local authors, check out the EWM page, 'Western Massachusetts Blogs.'

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Historic Hudson-Chester Granite Quarry in Becket, Massachusetts

Becket Quarry Trail Map

You don't have to walk far up the trail into the historic Becket granite quarry to come face to face with yesterday. Less than half a mile from the ample parking lot, two abandoned trucks, a dilapidated electrical generator shed, the remnants of a stiff-arm derrick and other rusted ghosts of the granite harvesting trade greet visitors, at the area known as the quarry junction.

Electrical Generator Shed
The setting aside of more than 300 acres of Berkshire forest off Quarry Road in Becket, Mass. - including the old Hudson-Chester quarry - was made possible through the commendable generosity of town residents, whose financial contributions allowed the Becket Land Trust to acquire the plot for public recreation and historic preservation.

Hastening the process and lending urgency to the fund-drive was talk of the possible re-opening of the land for modern quarrying, a development Becket citizens preferred not see come to fruition lest the quiet, small-town character of the peaceful burg be changed.

Electrical Generator Shed (Nathaniel Hemingway Photo)
The Becket Land Trust will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. According to the Trust's website: "The Becket Land Trust was founded in 1991 by a group of concerned citizens who were interested in maintaining the rural nature of the Town of Becket and of preserving its natural resources."

Perusing (and printing) the detailed area maps and history on the Trust's website is sure to add depth to your experience visiting the Hudson-Chester quarry. A kiosk in the parking area - maintained by the Trust - also provides printed resources to quarry explorers. To learn more about this valuable and necessary organization, and ways you can donate or get involved, head over to:

Quarry Truck #1
Parked in forest pristine but for the vestiges of man, who was the last to walk away from the just-stilled engine, warm, beginning to tick its cooling contractions?

Quarry Truck #1
The Hudson-Chester Quarry was prolific in its produce, rail cars rolling blocks of granite to Hudson, NY and Chester, Mass. to be worked into monuments and tombstones, memorials carved to withstand the ages, cruel eraser of soft recollection. From the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the next, the Becket granite quarry cut stone prized for the quality of its grain.

Quarry Truck #2
Door swung open in invitation: Take her for a spin in your imagination. "Tis a drive into simpler times of hard-won, muscled reward, hearty hot meals and nights at home on porches under Berkshire stars. Unwinding, the Universe: Always unwinding.

Quarry Truck #2
No matter how many turns we make along the way, or how hard we crank the wheel, there is only one direction we are steering: Into the future.

Remnant of Stiff-Armed Derrick
The last slab of granite rolled down the track generations ago, a toppled loading hoist rests on the south side of the quarry junction, a splintered appendage once integral to mining operations. Stiff-armed derricks are also known as stiff-leg derricks, a type of crane used in quarries internationally.

Remnant of Stiff-Armed Derrick
Wood and iron and steel-braided cable return to the earth drippingly slow, layers of leaves and passed forest flora speeding to decomposition in comparison. Chronology intertwined but snowflake different: Not every moment spans the same length of time.

Mobile Power Source
Where once activity whirred and roared, creaked and grumbled with stones heavy as hearts storing wishes unfulfilled, the breathing now are greeted with a silence that even the lazy-stirring August leaves can't break. They wait, these machines, broken and twisted. They wait for the quarrymen, arms strong and tan in the afternoon sun, gone these five long decades past and not likely to return.

Granite Blocks
And the garden of granite surrounds us. In the magical Berkshire hills. In the bustling cities of America. We build our caverns where we don't find them and find them where they lay. Waiting. Cold canvases ready for the chisel. Ready for a human hand to set the names, to tell the dates, to memorialize our being.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

For more information about Becket, railroad development and granite quarrying in the area, visit previous EWM posts, 'The Keystone Arch Bridges Trail: Magic in the Berkshire Mountains' and 'Map: Bird's-eye View of Chester, Mass., 1885.'

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Call for Public Art to be Exhibited in Downtown Pittsfield

North St., Pittsfield, Mass. (c1906)
(Pittsfield, MA - PRESS RELEASE) The City of Pittsfield’s Artscape committee invites artists to submit proposals for public art work to be considered for the eleventh annual Artscape public art exhibition in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Located in the center of culturally rich Berkshire County, the exhibition runs from May 2011 – April 2012. The deadline for receipt of submissions is October 31st, 2010.

The Artscape committee is pleased to announce guest review panelist, Suzanne Ramljak, writer, art historian, curator, and former editor of Sculpture magazine. Suzanne is currently editor of Metalsmith magazine. She was past editor for Glass Quarterly, as well as associate editor of American Ceramics. Ramljak has contributed to several books and catalogues, and has lectured widely on contemporary art and craft and served as guest curator for several exhibitions, among them Seductive Matter at Rice University, Houston TX, and Playtime: Toys for Adults at Brookfield Craft Center, Brookfield, CT.

In addition, this year’s review panel is comprised of Artscape committee members, artist Kathy Fleming; Leslie Ferrin, founder and owner of the Ferrin Gallery; Maria Mingalone, Director of Interpretation at Berkshire Museum, chair of Artscape and the Storefront Artist Project; Mary Rentz, President of the Berkshire Art Association; and Megan Whilden, Director of the Office of Cultural Development for the City of Pittsfield.

A city of 45,000, Pittsfield is home to the Berkshire Museum, Hancock Shaker Village, Barrington Stage Company, Colonial Theatre, Storefront Artist Project, the Berkshire Athenaeum, and a variety of other cultural attractions. Pittsfield is the largest city in Berkshire County in western Massachusetts, and is a three hour drive from both Boston and New York City. For more information on Pittsfield, please visit the city’s website at Pittsfield is celebrating the City’s 250th anniversary in 2011 with a year long series of events. Applicant may be interested in submitting works that link to the City’s long history. More information can be found at

Artists proposing a work for public display are encouraged to visit before submitting proposals. Applicants must take into account that the site is an urban outdoor environment. Please be aware that sculptures and installations must meet safety requirements and be able to withstand the effects of weather and public use. Outdoor sculptures juried into the exhibition are placed in downtown Pittsfield for a period of one year, and can be made available for purchase while on display. Artists receive an honorarium of $1,000. One or more proposals for new and/or site-specific work may receive, as determined at the discretion of the review panel, a $2,500 honorarium.

Submissions should include the artist’s resume, a proposal of work being submitted, as well as 10 images of past work on CD, or printed images no larger than 8.5 x 11. All work must be labeled with dimensions, materials, and a date, or a separate script with the same information. To have material returned, please include a self addressed stamped envelope. Artwork will be on exhibit for a period of one year. Installations will take place between mid-March through May 2011. Deadline for receipt of proposals is October 31st, 2010 for consideration. Full guidelines and an application form are available online at or by calling (413) 499-9348.

Materials should be sent to Megan Whilden, Director of Cultural Development, Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, 28 Renne Avenue, Pittsfield, MA 01201.

The mission of the city of Pittsfield’s Artscape program is to enhance the downtown’s character and attract visitors by installing and promoting works of art in various outdoor locations accessible to the public throughout the downtown area. For more information, please call 413-499-9348.

Visit the EWM post 'Photographs: The Spokes of Park Square, Pittsfield, Massachusetts (c 1900-1920),' for images of Pittsfield past.

For a bird's-eye view look at Pittsfield in 1899, head over to the post 'Map: Bird's-eye View of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 1899.'

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Massachusetts Mountain Lions and Quabbin Gray Wolves: Putting the "Fur" in Furtive

Grave's Landing, Quabbin
(This is a copy and paste of a comment I left back in 2008 on the Outdoors Forum on With recent talk of restoring the gray wolf population in New England, I thought it worth reviving.)

Mountain lion evidence was found in Pelham, Mass., in the spring of 1997 by professional tracker John McCarter. DNA testing of  droppings left behind proved conclusively that a mountain lion had been in the area.

Mass Wildlife had a press release from around that time confirming the McCarter find, but speculating that the mountain lion had been a captive released into the wild and not a native. With the reworking of the Mass Wildlife web site, the press release is now unavailable from the bookmark I had saved. I tried a search of the site, but so far have come up empty. From now on, I copy and paste stuff I don't want to lose to cyberspace!

Along with the McCarter find, I have heard firsthand two reliable accounts of mountain lion sightings in the same area of the west side of the Quabbin Reservoir. These sightings were not related to me by city folks out for a weekend jaunt, but by loggers who have spent their lives in the forests of New England. What struck both of these men was the way the animal they saw moved, unlike any animal they had seen before. In one of the accounts, the lion cleared the forest road with one leap from snowbank to snowbank.

According to the logger who witnessed the leaping animal, the next time he ran into an environmental officer while he was out logging his plot at Quabbin, he told him about the cat. The officer supposedly confided in the logger (who he had known for quite awhile through their Quabbin connection) that mountain lions had indeed made the area home, at least temporarily, if not permanently.

Apparently, in the winter, to help the resident eagle population out, the good folks at the Quabbin (and they do an awesome job) will sometimes put a fresh-killed deer on the ice for the birds' dining enjoyment. This particular officer claimed to have witnessed mountain lions feeding on these carcasses, as well.

I relate this second-hand, so it is subject to scrutiny and certainly unofficial in every sense of the word, to be sure. I've been interested in the question of whether mountain lions are among us here in Western Massachusetts for quite awhile now, but for now, history records 1858 as the year the last Massachusetts mountain lion was killed. Officially, there are no resident mountain lions in Massachusetts.

Of course, that's what the experts said about the gray wolf, too. And they were wrong:

With the presence of the gray wolf in Western Massachusetts confirmed, I feel less wacky sharing this experience my wife and I had almost ten years ago now.

We were hiking Quabbin's Gate 40, passing Dana Common and heading the two miles further out along Skinner Hill Rd. to the spot on the eastern shoreline known as Grave's Landing. Making our way around dead man's curve and down the slippery and steep hill beyond, we shed the walls of the forest for the wide-open expanse of the reservoir. It was a cold day in late winter, and the Quabbin was still plenty iced-in, with no hint of spring's approach.

Our attention was quickly drawn to the circling eagles above a deer carcass on the ice. Blood trails on the ice told the story of the young deer's final minutes. This was no ranger-kill, but a natural death. A death by predator.

My wife, Roma, and I hunkered down to watch the bald eagle buffet from the vantage point of the little peninsula just at the end of the road. We were about 100 yards away from the carcass, hoping to see our first Quabbin bear. I know, bears are dangerous, but remember, you only have to outrun the person you're with.

What we did see was even more amazing as far as we were concerned, although we've told very few people about our experience, for reasons pretty obvious to any skeptical Western Massachusetts outdoors-person.

Creeping slowly and warily out of the woods, a canine about one-and-a-half to one-and-three quarters the size of a large German Shepherd made its way down the snowy bank and onto the ice, stopping about ten feet from the deer, scouting for danger. Moments later, a second canine emerged from the woods, walking slowly past the first and to the carcass. After a glance around, the second animal began to feed, while the first waited patiently surveying the area, undoubtedly standing - or sitting in this case - guard. The markings, shapes and sizes of these two Quabbin creatures left no doubt in my mind of what we were looking at. Even more compelling was the instinctive, primordial sense that flooded my cranium, causing my adrenalin to surge and my hair to stand on end. My immediate and involuntary reaction upon the initial sighting was to whisper to my wife with a mixture of fear and awe, "Wolf!"

Indeed, it is possible to be both very pleased and scared silly at the same time.

The animals relaxed, the wind blowing in our favor. For about twenty minutes they took advantage of the free meal. Then again, maybe it was their kill. Looking at the healthy, strong and formidable creatures through binoculars, it didn't take a far stretch of the imagination picturing the scene.

By placing ourselves on a somewhat barren point of raised land jutting out into the frozen water, we had no choice but to lay low and wait for the animals to finish dining, hoping that they didn't head our way when they were done. Any attempt to remove ourselves from the tricky situation at that point involved the good possibility of drawing the (unwanted) attention of the two canines. I'm not so smart sometimes. With two sharp-toothed predators in play, outrunning my partner probably wouldn't cut it.

Okay, where are the photographs you ask? I must have taken pictures. Well, yes. I did. But unfortunately, being poor back then - funny how some things never change - my camera at the time was a cheap 110, and the photo quality is very poor. I also have photos of Scotland's Nessie. Just kidding.

I'll dig the photos up and scan them into my computer and post a link here when I get the chance.

When the two animals (notice I am still reluctant to call them wolves) had eaten their fill, they trotted off across the ice, heading southwest towards the ghosts of Greenwich. We feel privileged to this day to have spent part of that chilly morning with two such beautiful and regal creatures. Their shared bond was evident. Watching out for each other. Taking turns at the feast. Continuing their journey through the cold wilderness together when they are finished.

Some memories are worth dragging out for a look-see every once in awhile.

Mountain lions? Maybe. Gray wolves. Yep.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

For more on Quabbin, check out 'The Quabbin Page' or 'The Quabbin Chronology: A Timeline of the Swift River Valley,' both found exclusively at EWM!

Update - June 13, 2011: A 140-pound mountain lion was hit and killed by a vehicle in Milford, Ct. on Saturday, June 11, 2011. Here is a link to the Reuters article:

Update - July 27, 2011: Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty says the Milford, CT, mountain lion hailed from South Dakota, traversing upwards of 1,500 miles over a period of years as tracked by its DNA. Here is a link to the amazing story at the Middletown Press:

The New York Times also has an article on the far-flung feline:

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Aurora Borealis May Illuminate Midnight Skies Over Western Mass.

Tuesday and Wednesday nights may see rare displays of the Northern Lights dancing over Western Massachusetts.

The phenomena is well-explained in an article by S. P. Sullivan at

A burst of plasma sent forth from the sun during Sunday's eruption will hit the upper levels of the Earth's atmosphere. The effect, known as aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, will be "curtains of light shimmering in the sky" as particles in the air, mainly oxygen and nitrogen, are ionized, according to Stephen E. Schneider, head of the astronomy department at the University of Massachusetts.

"Take a look for the glowing, rippling pink or green colors," Schneider said. The lights are expected to first appear sometime late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, though estimating an arrival time for solar plasma can be difficult.

Here's a link to Sullivan's article about this uncommon cosmic event, with tips for photographers:

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