Beloved by hikers and those who love the outdoors, Massachusetts’ Mount Greylock has inspired everyone from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Herman Melville.
A magical spot for many, for others it was just another mountaintop along the Taconic Mountain Range – until a handful of folks were motivated to create the state park that we can all enjoy today.
Executive Producer Tony Dunne climbed the state’s highest peak to uncover its history.
Read the full transcript:
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: Beloved by hikers and those who love the outdoors, Massachusetts’ Mt. Greylock has inspired everyone from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Herman Melville.
A magical spot for many, for others, it was just another mountaintop along the Taconic Mountain Range until a handful of folks were motivated to create the state park that we can all enjoy today.
Executive producer Tony Dunne climbed the state’s highest peak to uncover its history.
Mike Whalen, Mount Greylock State Reservation: Here at Mt. Greylock, the history really runs so deep. Jeremiah Wilbur arrived in 1767 from a farm in Rhode Island. And settling in what we call the Bellow’s Pipe or the Notch at the north end of what is now Mt. Greylock State Reservation.
And in that time, it would have been more or less very wild and still somewhat primeval. And Jeremiah cobbled together a 1,600-acre farm comprising most of the northern end of the mountain range, including the summit. In fact, to this day, we call one area along Notch Road, Wilbur’s Clearing.
Four hundred acres of the summit that originally had been part of Jeremiah’s large farm holdings were sold to a group of northern Berkshire businessmen, who went under the name the Greylock Park Association. From those 400 acres, they essentially created infrastructure that supported tourism, a viewing tower, an open metal frame, tourist tower; a summit house; and a coach from North Adams; and a roadway system. And that roadway system was actually a toll road, the final mile from below the summit to the top. And you had — each visitor had to pay a fee, much as we continue to charge a fee in order to pay the costs. And so, in that sense, Mt. Greylock played a very important, a very key role in the development of the tourist industry in Berkshire County and the region, really.
The three founding fathers of Mount Greylock, John Bascom, being the most prominent to many today because Bascom Lodge was named in his honor. And he was the very first gentleman to be appointed to the Greylock Commission. And Francis Rockwell, for whom Rockwell Road, the road going south from the summit to Lanesborough, was named, followed by Sperry Road, named in honor of William Sperry, one of the original Greylock commissioners that operated this park, that leads through our campground out to a scenic overlook called Stony Ledge.
Because of the unique natural setting and elevation and latitude of the summit of Mount Greylock, it really retains rare elements of plant life, wildlife, and just a physical setting that is unlike any other in this part of New England.
Henry David Thoreau, without a doubt, is the most famous literary connection to Mount Greylock. He arrived here in July of 1844, and the transformative experience that Henry Thoreau had here on Mount Greylock, I believe, is something that continues to inspire visitors today.
James MacArthur Vance is another fascinating personality that, really has left his mark in many ways all over the summit of Mount Greylock. He was involved with the construction of the War Memorial Tower in 1931, and the Memorial committee were so impressed with his work, that they hired him to be the architect designing the Bascom Lodge addition, when the time came to construct it. And many years prior to this, he had actually left his mark in Pittsfield as the architect of what is now the famous Colonial Theater.
Mount Greylock has achieved such a high profile as a recreational destination and as a natural setting because of its visual beauty and the unique ecology that it is generally considered among the top five tourist destinations in the northeastern United States.
And in fact, William Brewster, who was a noted ornithologist in the 19th century, described Greylock as a Canadian island floating above an Alleghenian Sea.