Home Sweet Home
The rich tapestry of life in Western Massachusetts as experienced over more than two centuries will be on view when the Trustees of Reservations celebrates its 125th anniversary with Home Sweet Home, its free Open House Day Saturday, May 21, from 10AM to 5PM.
Admission is usually charged at the historic sites and some are only open to the public a few times each year.
Two of the houses date to the earliest settlement of Berkshire County. The Ashley House in Sheffield is the oldest house still extant in the county. It is here that Col John Ashley and fellow patriots penned the Sheffield Resolves in 1773—a precursor to the Declaration of Independence—and this is where his slave, Elizabeth Freeman, began her quest for freedom and ultimately helped end slavery in Massachusetts.
In Stockbridge, the Mission House, built circa 1740, was home to the Rev. John Sargent, who spent his life converting the Stockbridge Mohican tribe to Christianity. Eighteenth-century period furnishings and decorative arts, as well as a small Native American museum, can be viewed. Outside is a Colonial Revival garden designed by Fletcher Steele, the father of modern American landscape design, as well as a kitchen garden containing herbs, perennials and annuals of culinary or medicinal value to colonists.
Moving forward in history, visitors can view Naumkeag, also in Stockbridge, which provides a stylish glimpse of life in a “Berkshire Cottage.” Self-guided house tours introduce visitors to the world of the Choate family, including 19th- and 20th-century furniture, art and the personal and household items of daily life. The grounds contain many garden “rooms” and outdoor landscape features designed by Steel, including his famous Blue Steps.
Children and families can go on a story walk, build a fairy house, play lawn games and more. At 11:30AM there will be a Naumkeag Garden Tour with horticulturalist Eric Ruquist and at 1:30 a Tree Peony Talk with Cultural Resources Curator Mark Wilson and Request.
New England’s youngest historic house museum is the Folly at Field Farm in Williamstown. A whimsical structure designed in 1965 by post-modernist architect Ulrich Franzen, its three bedrooms form a pinwheel-shaped guest cottage that still contains its original, contemporary furnishings. Visitors can tour this unique home that is usually only open to the public on Saturdays in July and August.