The Road Less Traveled

The last activity for our group was a guided tour at Hancock Shaker Village this morning at 11am. We had a leisurely breakfast, with plenty of time to pack and to charge the car to 100% before following the bus to the village. I’d never been to a Shaker Village before, and it was fascinating.

There are no Shakers left at Hancock Shaker Village any more, but our guide was well-versed in their history and some of their religion. We walked past the garden tool shed on our way to the Brick Dwelling (their names are accurate, if not poetic) where the members of the community lived.

I was taken by the clean lines and functionality of everything we saw; it was modern, minimalist, and functional, and beautiful.

Our next stop was the Round Stone Barn. Hay was brought into the barn on the top level; animals were on the bottom level; gravity brought the two together. The hay was put into the chute in the second photo to dry; our guide said that the volume of water vapor coming out of the chute was enough to let someone wash their hands in it!

They still raise animals at the Village, but now interns take care of them instead of initiates. :-)

The Meeting House was across Route 20; we admired it from a distance.

The guide took us into the Laundry and Machine Shop and showed us the water-driven machines; he even used the power saw to cut a piece of wood.

The Sisters did the laundry (of course) using water power to agitate and tumble the clothes. When it came time to iron, they heated the irons in this oven and used old grave markers as ironing boards!

We said goodbye to our group and headed for the Sheraton at Bradley International Airport. I had thought about visiting ARRL Headquarters, but Diane wasn’t thrilled, so I suggested a trip to the Berkshire Botanical Garden instead. We did get to see some ham radio gear and antennas anyway – we found ourselves behind this car on the way to the gardens.

The gardens were beautiful and restful; not everything was in bloom, but there was enough to make the detour well worthwhile.

I didn’t want to take the Mass Pike (mostly because Hertz would have charged us $7 in “convenience fees” atop the $2 in tolls), so we took back roads (mostly Massachusetts 57). It was pretty and very lightly trafficked. There weren’t many places to stop along the way, but we found Gran-Val Scoop, complete with petting zoo (we just looked at the animals, including the llama at the top of the page). The ice cream was good, too!

The rest of the drive to the airport was easy; I was pleasantly surprised to find that I’d only used 22% of the battery, even though I’d driven 82 miles today, which is a third of the range the car claimed to have when I left the hotel. That meant I didn’t have to pay $35 to have Hertz refill the car – I guess it paid to take the back way!

Flowers and Sculpture

Our day started with a drive to Bunny Williams‘s home in Falls Village, Connecticut.

I’d never heard of Bunny Williams before this trip, but several of the people were almost in awe of her reputation as a designer and really valued the chance to visit her estate. Ms. Williams wasn’t available, but her head gardener, Robert, gave us a tour of the guest barn, the gardens, and the studio. Flowers were everywhere!

We also wandered through the meadow, complete with eccentric bird houses (Robert said that very few birds actually used them).

The pool house was very interesting.

We had lunch at the White Hart, an old farmhouse which has been converted into a restaurant and inn. It was one of the best meals I’d had on this trip.

After lunch, we returned to Massachusetts to visit Daniel Chester French‘s home and studio at Chesterwood.

We saw many of his sculptures (or at least models and moquettes).

We had our farewell dinner at Alta Restaurant and Wine Bar in Lenox and returned to the hotel.

Museum Day in Williamstown

We visited two museums today, Mass MOCA and the Clark, both in Williamstown, about an hour from our hotel.

Mass MOCA is in an old factory complex (originally Arnold Printing, then Sprague Electric) which they’ve converted into a museum; the Clark is in a building specifically built for them in 1955 and then expanded in the 21st Century. Our Study Leader described it as “contemporary art in an old building vs. classical art in a new building”, and that seemed pretty accurate.

At Mass MOCA, we took a whirlwind guided tour through several of their buildings. Here are a few photos.

Cosmic Latte – the lights are supposed to represent the color of the Milky Way
This is where the North and South Forks of the Hoosick River merge; the river flows onward to Troy where it joins the Hudson.
Mass MOCA doesn’t own any works, but they have three floors of one building devoted to Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings, on long-term loan until at least 2040.

I could have spent much longer at Mass MOCA, but we had a luncheon and tour appointment at the Clark. Again, I only have a few photos to share – both of these are from their American gallery.

The Undertow – Winslow Homer
Dismounted: Frederic Remington

Both museums were worth visiting, but I have to say that Mass MOCA seemed more alive than the Clark.

Houses and Gardens

Today, we visited three historic homes (two of which are technically “cottages”). We began the day at Herman Melville’s Arrowhead with a private tour led by our Study Leader, John Dickson. We got to explore the home in some depth; unfortunately, the smoke from the Canadian fires kept us from enjoying Melville’s view of Mt. Greylock, which is supposed to resemble a whale.

Our next stop was Edith Wharton’s cottage, The Mount, where we learned about Edith Wharton’s life, finances, lovers, and more.

After lunch, we explored the gardens and enjoyed some of the seasonal sculptures from this year’s SculptureNow program.

Möbius – Philip Marshall

Windwave Arbor in context

Bouganvilla – Pedro S. de Movellán

Old Warrior – Robin Tost

I Have Been Dreaming to be a Tree – Byeongdoo Moon

Our final stop was Naumkeag, designed by Stanford White and built for the Choate family. We spent most of our time in the garden, though the inside was pretty impressive, too.

We got back to the hotel in time to take a short walk to the site of Alice’s Restaurant.

The weather had been threatening all day, and the promised thunderstorms arrived just as we returned from our walk; we decided to have dinner in the hotel’s tavern!

A day in Lenox

We started the main part of our tour today with a tour of the Norman Rockwell Museum.

We had a short guided tour through the main Rockwell exhibition featuring some of his most significant covers, including the Four Freedoms series, “The Problem We All Live With“, and my favorite, “Golden Rule“.

We then walked to Rockwell’s studio (moved from its original location), which was set up as it was while he was painting “Golden Rule”. The museum’s Chief Audience Officer (I don’t make up the titles, I just report them) gave us a 20-minute tour of the studio and explained a lot about the various objects there.

We had about 30 minutes to explore the rest of the museum on our own; I spent most of my time looking at the complete set of his Saturday Evening Post covers and listening to the introductory video about Rockwell’s career. I wouldn’t have minded having a few more minutes to look around, but I didn’t feel like I missed anything, and I enjoyed the visit.

We had lunch at Gateways Inn, which had been built as the family home of Harley Procter of Procter and Gamble; now it’s a B&B and restaurant. Lunch was delicious and too generous. :-)

We got a chance to work off a little of what we’d eaten on a walking tour of Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home. They’re still getting ready for the 2023 season, so there wasn’t any music to be heard and the gift shop wasn’t open, but we did get to see the famous Music Shed, the Bernstein Statue in Highwood Manor, and Ozawa Hall.

Our final stop for the day was Ventfort Hall, originally built for JP Morgan’s sister Sarah as a summer cottage; later it became a ballet school, a hotel, and a cult headquarters – it was then sold to a developer who wanted to demolish it and build a nursing home on the property, but the Venfort Hall Association was able to save it. They are slowly restoring it; we got a tour of the first and second floors and enjoyed a delicious afternoon tea.

Dinner was unnecessary.