Mission House // c.1739

The Mission House, erected by the Reverend John Sergeant in 1739 on Prospect Hill in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is an excellent and little-altered example of Georgian architecture as constructed on the New
England frontier. The home is a lasting remnant of early missionary efforts toward the local Mohican tribe. Reverend John Sergeant, the first missionary to the Housatonic Indians, moved to Stockbridge and preached to the native people here and at the Congregational Church. Sergeant and his wife Abigail moved to town, but she had made it clear that she wished to live on the hill, away from the village and the native people. Sergeant then built this home, a spacious and distinguished house for its frontier location. Though covered in part by a grant from the General Court, the cost of constructing such a house must have been a severe strain on Sergeant’s slender financial resources, as his salary at that time was 100 pounds per year. The home remained in the family until the 19th century. In 1928, long unoccupied and badly in need of repair, the house was purchased by Miss Mabel Choate, daughter of noted lawyer and former Ambassador to Great Britain, Joseph H. Choate. The house was taken down piece by piece, moved and reconstructed, on Main Street, in its current location. The Mission House was furnished with pieces appropriate to Sergeant’s economic status and his wife’s taste, many of them dating from the 1750’s or earlier. Since 1948, the home has been owned by the Trustees of Reservations.

Stockbridge Casino // 1887

The Stockbridge Casino was built in 1887-1888 according to the design of Stanford White, a principal architect of the firm McKim, Mead & White. The building was not what we think of casinos today, it was a ‘casino’ in the older sense of the term, having been established as a place for a reading-room, library, and social meetings, for the richest in town to hang out. For forty years, it offered its members tennis, billiards, dances, theatricals, and lectures throughout the summer seasons. After a period of decline after WWI, the group sold the property to Mabel Choate, who wished to move the Mission House (home of the first missionary to the Stockbridge Indians) from up on Prospect Hill to Main Street. There was reluctance to see the casino torn down, so a group of local citizens — led by Walter Leighton Clark, President of the Grand Central Art Galleries of New York; Austen Fox Riggs, psychiatrist; and Daniel Chester French, sculptor — acquired land at the end of Main Street and moved the Casino to its present site, saving it from the wrecking ball. The building was renovated and reopened in 1928 as the Berkshire Playhouse, and was later renamed the Fitzpatrick Main Stage, a theater run by the Berkshire Theatre Group.

Red Lion Inn // 1897

The largest building on Main Street in Stockbridge has to be the Red Lion Inn, a regional institution and one of the best places to rest your head in New England. The inn got its start just before the Revolutionary War. According to tradition, Silas Pepoon established a small tavern on the corner of Main Street in 1773, under the sign of a red lion. A year later, angry citizens gathered at the tavern to boycott English goods and to pass resolutions protesting the oppressive Acts of Intolerance levied against the colonies. Since its earliest days, the inn was a vital gathering place for locals and has continued to play an important role in the life of the community ever since. In 1862, the inn was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Plumb, avid collectors of rare and fine items, who became renowned for their impressive compilation of colonial antiques. A fire in 1896 destroyed the building but its remarkable array of collectibles was saved and the inn was rebuilt within a year by designs from Harry E. Weeks, a Pittsfield-based architect.

Merwin House // 1825

In about 1825, Francis and Clarissa Dresser built this charming brick Federal house in the rural town of Stockbridge, MA. Just 25 years later, the railroad arrived to town, connecting it to Connecticut and New York to the south, opening the town up as a leisure destination for wealthy city dwellers looking to escape the noise and congestion of the city. The period following the Civil War through World War I saw the Gilded Age reach the Berkshires. With artists, writers, financiers, and industrialists flocking to the rural hills of western Massachusetts for seasonal escapes. In 1875, William and Elizabeth Doane, wealthy New Yorkers, purchased Merwin House from the Dresser family to use as a summer retreat. As the Doane family grew to include two young daughters, Vipont and Elizabeth, they added a Shingle Style side addition to the original brick structure. The home became known as “Tranquility”, even after the home was willed to daughter Vipont. After a couple marriages, Vipont married Edward Payson Merwin, a New York stockbroker. Historic New England acquired Merwin House in 1966, shortly after the death of Marie Vipont deRiviere Doane Merwin, known as Vipont. It was her desire to leave Merwin House as a museum, as her will states, “as an example of an American culture which is fast becoming extinct.” The space is occasionally open for tours and is partially occupied by the Housatonic Valley Association.

Stockbridge Town Offices // 1884

Built in 1884, the Town Office Building on Main Street in Stockbridge, housed more conveniently located government offices and came equipped with a basement jail. The building was constructed of brick to protect town records from fire and the adjacent buildings. The architecture is Flemish Revival with its stepped gables, a tower, and terra cotta and stained glass ornaments, a distinctive and different type of architecture on Main Street. The building was occupied after the Town Hall, further down Main Street, was deemed inadequate. The building displays the words “Town Offices” with the date 1884 A.D. as the town was sure to label the building as town offices over ‘town hall’ so they could retain the former town hall building after a deal with the First Congregational Church. The town sold the building to private owners in 1960 and has since been used as commercial space.

First Stockbridge Town Hall // 1840

The Town of Stockbridge, MA was incorporated on June 22, 1739. After that time the town held meetings and conducted business in the First Congregational Meeting House until 1840 when this Greek Revival town hall building was erected on the church’s property as a gift. A stipulation was made that if the Town government constructed or moved to a new town hall building, the property ownership would revert to the Church. The town outgrew the building and constructed a new building toward the center of town, but named it Town Offices, a cheeky way to retain ownership of this building. Eventually, that building too was outgrown, and the town hired Pittsfield-based architect Harry E. Weeks to modify and enlarge the building in 1903, in the Neo-Classical style to compliment the original Greek detailing. As expected, the town moved again in the 2000s to a former school, on Main Street, but again retained the building.