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Great Barrington, Massachusetts
—  Town  —
South Main Street in 1904
Location in Berkshire County in Massachusetts
Coordinates: 42°11′45″N 73°21′45″W / 42.19583°N 73.3625°W / 42.19583; -73.3625
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Berkshire
Settled 1726
Incorporated 1761
 - Type Open town meeting
 - Total 45.7 sq mi (118.4 km2)
 - Land 45.2 sq mi (117.0 km2)
 - Water 0.5 sq mi (1.3 km2)
Elevation 721 ft (220 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 7,527
 - Density 166.6/sq mi (64.3/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 01230
Area code(s) 413
FIPS code 25-26815
GNIS feature ID 0619420
Airport Walter J. Koladza Airport(Great Barrington Airport) - GBR (Municipal)

Great Barrington is a town in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States. It is part of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 7,527 at the 2000 census. Both a summer resort and home to Ski Butternut, Great Barrington includes the villages of Van Deusenville and Housatonic. It is also the birthplace of W. E. B. Du Bois.



The Mahican Indians called the area Mahaiwe, meaning "the place downstream." It lay on the New England Path, which connected Fort Orange near Albany, New York with Springfield and then Massachusetts Bay. The village was first settled in 1726, and from 1742-1761 was the north parish of Sheffield. In 1761, it was officially incorporated as Great Barrington, named after the village of Great Barrington in Gloucestershire, England.

In the summer of 1774, 1,500 men shut down the Berkshire County Court in response to British oppression.

In the winter of 1776 Henry Knox passed through Great Barrington while transporting the cannon from Fort Ticonderoga to the Siege of Boston which established an agricultural interest in the area of Great Barrington.

With the arrival of the railroad, Great Barrington developed into a Gilded Age resort community for those seeking relief from the heat and pollution of cities, although it is now considered a small city in itself. Wealthy families built grand homes called Berkshire Cottages here, as others would in Lenox and Stockbridge. Through the years, Great Barrington has downgraded in its prestige and it's crime rate has increased with the popularity of The Memorial Field Skate-park. Among the earliest estates was that built by New York City banker, industrialist and art patron David Leavitt, who built an elaborate 300-acre estate, and was soon followed by those of his sons nearby.[1][2] Leavitt was instrumental in the development of the local Housatonic Railroad, serving as its president.

Other later estates included Searles Castle, commissioned in 1888 by the widow of Mark Hopkins together with her second husband, Edward Francis Searles, and Brookside, built for William Hall Walker. In 1895, Colonel William L. Brown, part owner of the New York Daily News, presented Great Barrington with a statue of a newsboy, now a landmark on the western edge of town.

In March 1886, the water mill at Great Barrington was the site of an experiment that first used water to drive an alternating current generator. A transformer was used to increase the voltage and the current was transmitted over a mile away to the nearest town to power street lights. It was the first time electrical power had been transmitted a considerable distance away from its generating station.

The town was the site of an F4 tornado around 7:00 PM on Memorial Day, May 29, 1995. The tornado killed four people and caused damage in the area.[3]

Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant," which runs for 18 1/2 minutes, is based on true-life events that occurred in Great Barrington and the adjoining towns of Stockbridge and Lee. The Guthrie Center, which is at the Old Trinity Church and was the home of Ray and Alice Brock at the time of the incidents related in the song, is at 4 Van Deusenville Road in Great Barrington.[4]

Great Barrington offers the use of its own currency, called BerkShare notes. There are about 844,000 BerkShare notes in circulation worth about $759,600 at the current exchange rate of one BerkShare to 90 U.S. cents, according to program organizers. The paper money is available in denominations of one, five, ten, twenty, and fifty.[5]


Three Mile Hill in c. 1915

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 45.7 square miles (118.4 km²), of which, 45.2 square miles (117.0 km²) of it is land and 0.5 square miles (1.3 km²) of it (1.12%) is water. Great Barrington is bordered by West Stockbridge, Stockbridge and Lee to the north, Tyringham to the northeast, Monterey to the east, New Marlborough to the southeast, Sheffield to the south, Egremont to the southwest, and Alford to the northwest. The town is located 20 miles south of Pittsfield, 46 miles west of Springfield, and 135 miles west of Boston.

Great Barrington is located within the valley of the Housatonic River, and is also served by the Williams River, Green River and several brooks. To the east of the river, several mountains of the Berkshires rise, including East Mountain (site of Butternut Basin and a state forest), Beartown Mountain (and the majority of Beartown State Forest) and Monument Mountain. The Appalachian Trail crosses through East Mountain State Forest in the southwest corner of town. The southwest corner of town is also the site of several country clubs and a fairgrounds.

U.S. Route 7 passes through the center of town, and was once part of New England Interstate Route 4 (also known as the New York-Berkshire-Burlington Way). Route 23 also passes from west to east through town, combining with Route 41 and Route 7 in the western part of town and Route 183 in the eastern part of town, which also follows part of the path of Route 7 northward from Route 23 before splitting towards the village of Housatonic. Great Barrington is located approximately twelve miles south of Exit 2 of Interstate 90 (also known as the Massachusetts Turnpike), the nearest interstate highway.

Great Barrington lies along the Housatonic Railroad line, which roughly follows Route 7 and the river through southern New England. The town also has local bus service through the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority (BRTA) as well as regional service. Great Barrington is home to Walter J. Koladza Airport, a small local airport. The nearest airport with national service is Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.


See also: Great Barrington (CDP), Massachusetts

Brookside in c. 1915, the estate of William Hall Walker

As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 7,527 people, 3,008 households, and 1,825 families residing in the town. By population, the town ranks fifth out of the 32 cities and towns in Berkshire County, and 202nd out of 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts. The population density was 166.6 people per square mile (64.3/km²), ranking it eighth in the county and 268th in the Commonwealth. There were 3,352 housing units at an average density of 74.2/sq mi (28.6/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 94.74% White, 2.09% Black or African American, 0.16% Native American, 1.25% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.70% from other races, and 1.04% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.07% of the population.

There were 3,008 households out of which 27.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.8% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.3% were non-families. 32.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.28 and the average family size was 2.89.

Mason Library in c. 1915

In the town the population was spread out with 22.6% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 23.5% from 25 to 44, 26.2% from 45 to 64, and 18.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 87.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.8 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $45,490, and the median income for a family was $53,135. Males had a median income of $38,163 versus $29,474 for females. The per capita income for the town was $22,655. About 3.4% of families and 7.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.6% of those under age 18 and 4.5% of those age 65 or over.


Great Barrington employs the open town meeting form of government, and is led by a board of selectmen and a town manager. Great Barrington has its own public services, including police, fire and public works departments. The town has two libraries, with the main branch, Mason Library, located in in the town center, and a branch library, Ramsdell Library, located in the village of Housatonic. Both are part of the regional library network. The town is also home to two county courthouses (as it is the main town in the southern third of the county), as well as Fairview Hospital, the main hospital in the southern end of the county.

On the state level, Great Barrington is represented in the Massachusetts House of Representatives by the Fourth Berkshire district, which covers southern Berkshire County, as well as the westernmost towns in Hampden County. In the Massachusetts Senate, the town is represented by the Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin district, which includes all of Berkshire County and western Hampshire and Franklin Counties.[7] The town is patrolled by the First (Lee) Station of Barracks "B" of the Massachusetts State Police.[8]

On the national level, Great Barrington is represented in the United States House of Representatives as part of Massachusetts's 1st congressional district, and has been represented by John Olver of Amherst since June 1991. Massachusetts is currently represented in the United States Senate by senior Senator John Kerry and interim junior senator Paul Kirk.[9] A special election is scheduled to be held on January 19, 2010 to fill the Class 1 seat currently held by Kirk.[10]


Local currency

The local currency of the region, including Great Barrington, is the BerkShares; proponents say that the currency gets residents to shop at local stores. Local areas may have their own currencies as long as they do not resemble the United States dollar and are in paper only.[11]


Great Barrington is the central town of the Berkshire Hills Regional School District, which includes the towns of Stockbridge and West Stockbridge. All three school levels are located in Great Barrington. Muddy Brook Regional Elementary School serves students through fourth grade, and is located off of Route 7 in the northern part of town. Monument Valley Regional Middle School serves through eighth grade, and Monument Mountain Regional High School serves the high school students of the district. The school's athletic teams are called the Spartans, and their colors are maroon and white. Students from Otis and Sandisfield also attend the school as part of a tuition agreement for high schools. The town also is home to several private schools, including the Rudolf Steiner School, the Great Barrington Waldorf High School, and the John Dewey Academy.

Great Barrington is home to Bard College at Simon's Rock, a private college, and the South County Center of the Berkshire Community College. The nearest state college is Westfield State College, and the nearest state university is the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Great Barrington also plays host to the American Institute for Economic Research. AIER was founded in 1933 as non-profit scientific and educational organization. Originally located at MIT, it relocated to the southern shore of Great Barrington's Long Pond in 1946.


Great Barrington is served by a local weekly newspaper, The Berkshire Record, and a weekly shopper, The Shoppers Guide. The town also gets newspaper delivery from The Berkshire Eagle. There used to be a second newspaper, The Berkshire Courier, which has since gone out of print but the masthead of the Berkshire Courier was incorporated by the Berkshire Record in 1995.

Great Barrington has a few local radio stations.

  • WSBS 860 kHz (Full Service)
  • W231AK 94.1 MHz (//WUPE Oldies)
  • WBCR-LP 97.7 MHz (Local Variety)
  • W254AU 98.7 MHz (//WFCR NPR Amherst)
  • WAMQ 105.1 MHz (//WAMC [[[NPR]]] Albany)

Great Barrington is in the Albany, New York television market with three Springfield TV stations appearing on the cable lineup, WWLP(NBC 22), WGBY (PBS 57), WSHM-LP (CBS 67). The town is served by Time Warner cable out of Lee.

Sites of interest


External links


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