North Adams is a small, walkable city with the charm of a quaint New England college town infused with an arty vibe. Visitors will find vibrant, up-and-coming contemporary art and craft scenes, plentiful galleries, restaurants for every taste and price range, a “hi-lo” mix of boutique and five-and-dime shopping and, of course, the world renowned MASS MoCA. Williamstown, where visitors find Williams College along with the Clark Art Institute and Williamstown Theatre Festival, is just minutes away.
There are dozens of arts and recreational attractions in and near North Adams, including the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Clark Art Institute, Williams College 62 Center for the Arts, Mount Greylock State Reservation, Western Gateway Heritage State Park, Natural Bridge State Park, The Appalachian Trail, and Windsor Lake Park along with a variety of restaurants and shops. It is only a short drive to five ski areas, a dozen golf courses, the Green Mountains of Vermont, Upstate New York, as well as many swimming, fishing, boating and camping facilities.
Located in the heart of the northern Berkshires, Porches is 120 miles from Boston (approximate 2 ½ hour drive) and 175 miles (approximate 3 ½ hour drive) from New York.
Please go to the Mayor’s Office of Tourism webpage for information on year-round annual events in North Adams: northadams-ma.gov
Western Massachusetts’ Berkshire County is nestled between two small mountain ranges—the Hoosac to the east and the Taconic to the west—which create a natural ridgeline boundary from Vermont, New York and Connecticut. The Berkshires are home to both verdant meadows and valleys rippled with streams, along with the highest peak in Massachusetts: Mount Greylock. The beauty of the countryside combined with the area’s longtime cultural literacy have attracted writers (Hawthorne, Melville, Bryant and Thoreau); artists (Norman Rockwell and Daniel Chester French); and hundreds of other fine and performing artists and craftspeople—for generations.
During the Gilded Age, the southern Berkshires became the summer and fall playground of wealthy industrialists, who built the grand mansions they called "cottages." The original families who owned the “cottages” sold them off years ago, but many have been lovingly restored to their original grandeur and are open to the public as museums, spas, lodging or dining facilities, to name a few examples of re-use.
Today’s traveler will find a region filled with arts attractions with year-round programming. The area is rich with such outstanding arts venues as MASS MoCA (the US’s largest contemporary arts center), the Clark Art Institute, Tanglewood, the BSO’s summer home, the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Berkshire Museum, Chesterwood, Hancock Shaker Village, Jacob’s Pillow, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Williamstown Film Festival, and so much more.
For those who prefer to spend their time exploring the great outdoors, the Berkshires offer exceptional opportunities for outdoor recreation for all ages and abilities, including: hiking, biking, golfing, fishing, whitewater rafting, canoeing and kayaking. During the winter, visitors enjoy a fantastic array of wintertime sports, including alpine and cross country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Berkshire County is located, just 2 ½ hours from Boston and 3 ½ hours from New York City.
Shopping in the Berkshires ranges from independently-owned boutiques to designer outlet shopping. While exploring the many independent- and locally-owned boutiques, visitors will note a strong local artisan presence and the use of a US Constitution-sanctioned regional own currency, BerkShares.
Located in a valley created by the Hoosic River and named in honor of Samuel Adams, North Adams was first settled in 1737 and was officially incorporated in 1878 after separating from Adams. Since the Revolutionary War era, North Adams has been primarily a milltown or manufacturing center, home to a variety of industries during the 18th and 19th centuries: wholesale shoemakers, a saw mill, brick makers, cabinet-makers, marble works, sleighmakers, ironworks and textiles.
In 1860, the O. Arnold and Company was established and grew to a sizeable fabric printing firm that was one of the world’s leading manufacturers of printed cloth and the largest employer in North Adams. Unfortunately Arnold Print Works did not survive the lingering effects of the Great Depression and closed up shop in 1942. Later that year, the Sprague Electric Company bought the former print works site. Sprague was a major research and development center and its physicists, chemists, electrical engineers, and skilled technicians designed and manufactured weapons components, including some for the atomic bomb, and produced important studies on the nature of electricity and semi-conducting materials. By 1966, Sprague was the largest employer in North Adams, first participating in the space race then capitalizing on the booming consumer electronics market of the past few decades. However, competition from abroad led to Sprague’s demise in 1985.
The closure of Sprague Electric devastated the local economy. In 1986, the business and political leaders of North Adams came together to seek a creative re-use of the immense property. Thomas Krens, former Williams College Museum of Art Director and later the Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, had the idea that the space might work as a large-scale museum to exhibit the massive installations that had become an important part of the contemporary art world. Longtime Mayor John Barrett agreed and the critical connection between arts and the economy was forged. In 1993, MASS MoCA opened its doors to the public as the largest contemporary arts center in the United States.
Since its opening MASS MoCA has provided the catalyst and anchor for a larger economic transformation in the region centered on cultural, recreational, and educational offerings. North Adams is now home for a multitude of contemporary art galleries and cultural organization, a variety of restaurants and former mills reclaimed by artists as live/work lofts.