Williamstown, the home of Williams College, is the starting place for a tour which can cover most of the outstanding features of the northern section of Berkshire County. Located on the Williams College Campus is the Chapin Library of Rare Books in Stetson Hall. On permanent display at the Chapin Library are original copies of the Four Founding Documents of the United States. Across Main Street from the Chapin Library, is the Williams College Museum of Art, noted for its permanent collection and changing exhibitions that emphasize American art, modern and contemporary art, and non-western art. The college’s Thompson Memorial Chapel, a Gothic structure built in 1904, is on the north side of Main Street in Williamstown. A series of stained glass windows merit particular attention, especially when viewed from within the chapel.
Continuing west on Main Street is the picturesque First Congregational Church. Further along Main Street is the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance, which is the summer home of the Williamstown Theatre Festival, professional theatre under the direction of Roger Rees (July through August on the Main Stage, Nikos Stage, staged readings, and a Free Theater). Going west on Main Street, the road leads into Field Park, where a faithful reproduction of a 1753 house was built in 1953 for the town’s bicentennial. At 1095 Main Street in the Milne Memorial Library is the Williamstown House of Local History, which includes a collection of artifacts, photographs, and documents from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. On the west side of South Street is the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, known for its Impressionist collection, old masters, English silver, prints, and drawings.
Proceeding east on Route 2, one comes to a vast historic mill complex in downtown North Adams. It is the site of MASS MoCA which presents art exhibitions, music, dance, theater, and multimedia events. North Adams is also home to the Fall Foliage Festival and Parade.
Natural Bridge State Park is located east of North Adams off Route 2 and 8. This natural bridge of white marble was created by the waters of Hudson Brook. Next to the Natural Bridge State Park is The Contemporary Artists Center and Gallery, offering a unique environment for the creation of contemporary art and its exhibition. The Gallery is open only in the summer.
Route 2 east from North Adams leads to the Mohawk Trail, one of the most famous scenic drives in the Berkshires. The road follows the old trail Native Americans of the Five Nations used to pass between the Connecticut and Hudson Valleys. First point of interest on the trail is the Hairpin Turn, where the trail rises sharply to the Western Summit (called Spirit Mountain by Native Americans). There is an observation point from which excellent views of mountainous portions of southern Vermont and northwestern Massachusetts can be seen including Mount Greylock, Mount Prospect and Mount Williams.
Continuing up the trail, the next stop is Whitcomb Summit, the top of the trail. From this elevation, 2,173 feet, one can see far into southern Vermont and New Hampshire. Further along, the trail crosses a bridge and turns sharply to the left. Another road leads to the right. Here the visitor has a choice of three routes; 1. To continue along the trail to Charlemont, Shelburne Falls, and Greenfield; 2. To retrace the route back to North Adams; 3. To turn right away into Savoy Mountain State Forest for a visit to Tannery Falls.
The road out of the Tannery Falls area on the return leg of this Circle Tour leads just northwest of Savoy Center and onto East Road in the town of Adams. East Road paralleling Route 8 to the North leads back to North Adams, and gives a commanding view of Greylock Mountain, towering over Adams, a charming Victorian town with an elegantly restored Main Street.
A must-see is the Western Gateway Heritage State Park, located on Route 8 in the center of North Adams. The freight yard district of North Adams has been restored and now houses a variety of contemporary and historical attractions, including an excellent exhibit on the building of the Hoosac Tunnel. To complete the tour, turn left on Route 2 and return to Williamstown.